Below is a timeline for all the significant events of the home video era. It should be noted that this website uses the term, “Home Video,” in two different ways. Firstly, it uses it as an umbrella term for the viewing of movies in the home, physical or otherwise. Secondly, its also the label given to the era in time where movies are being released on physical video formats.
November 11th, 1951
Collaborating at the behest of Bing Crosby, Bing Crosby Enterprises and Ampex demonstrate the first video tape recorder. Although the results are poor on this early prototype, it’s proof of concept.
The first practical VTR is demonstrated and sold at the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters convention. Ampex received 75 orders for the VTR during the event, earning the company around $4 million, with each unit costing around $50,000.
David Paul Gregg invents an optical disk for recording video while working at the electronics engineering company, Westrex (a subsidiary of Western Electric). He patents his designs in 1961 and 1969.
June 24th, 1963
The Nottingham Electronic Valve Company (comprised of inventors Norman Rutherford and Michael Turner) demonstrates the first European consumer-use reel-to-reel video recorder, developed in the UK. Was launched to the public later that year.
Ampex demonstrates the Signature V at the High Fidelity Music Show. It is the first American consumer-use videotape recorder. It is offered to the public later that year in Nieman-Marcus’ annual Christmas Book at a cost of $30,000. It is a TV, reel-to-reel video and audio recorder, record player, radio and camera unit all in one.
Sony introduces the CV-2000, the first practical consumer use reel-to-reel video recorder. Priced at $695, it uses 1/2″ tape and helical scanning.
The EVR (Electronic Video Recording) system is launched with an $800 price tag. The device converts the frames of a specially made cartridge of film into electronic signals which could then be viewed on a television. Likely due to is inability to record and its high price tag, production ends in 1975.
Sony presents the very first videocassette prototype. Initially called “Videocassette,” it would later be given the name, U-matic due to the path the 3/4″ tape takes inside the machine.
At a Berlin conference, Teldec and Telefunken performed the first industry demonstration of a consumer videodisc. Similar to what RCA is developing, Teldec’s was a paper-thin foil disc that could hold only several minutes. Expected to launch in 1972, it doesn’t actually make it to market until 1975.
Launch of the first videocassette player. Originally intended for the consumer market, but are mainly used commercially because of its high cost. Because this first version did not have recording capabilities, it’s technically not a VCR.
Philips launches their VCR N1500 for $600, the first consumer-friendly VCR to make it to the market. It has the ability to not only playback, but also record. Subsequent models were later made up through the late 1970s but are eventually dominated by superior formats. Prereocords were made available towards the end of the formats life.
The Avco Cartrivision system is launched. Unlike previous video machines, this one is built directly into a television console, resulting in the hefty price tag of $1,895. This is the first system to legitimately offer studio films and adult content on videotape to the public.
The Cartridge Rental Network is established to supply prerecorded movies to Cartrivision owners. A selection of 200 titles were available for purchase and rent. Red cartridges, typically movies, were only available for rent while black ones, typically documentaries and instructional videos, could be purchased.
August 21st, 1972 (Billboard, 1972/09/02, p. 45)
At VidExpo ’72, Video Programs International LTD demonstrates their prerecorded adult videocassettes line (probably 3/4″). These are likely intended for commercial businesses such as motels. This same month, the Cartridge Rental Network also makes available adult titles. These are among the very first legitimate adult titles made available on videocassettes or cartridges.
Due to a variety of reasons, including high cost, faulty equipment, poor marketing and disintegrating cartridges, Cartrivision didn’t meet sales projections. As a result, Avco discontinues the system and Cartridge Television Inc’s assets are liquidated.
Sanyo introduces their own videocassette system, the Sanyo VTC-7100 (later referred to as V-Cord I). It’s an early 1/2″ black and white videocassette system which uses the inferior skipfield process. Designed as a portable machine with a camera.
March 17th, 1975 (Billboard, 1975/03/01, p. 1)
The Teldec TeD (Television Disc) becomes the first consumer videodisc to reach the market. It’s an 8 or 12-inch in diameter disc which at most contains 10 minutes of video. In its first three months, 6,000 units (each costing $600) and 50,000 discs are manufactured and distributed throughout Germany.
May 10th, 1975
Sony launches their new Betamax system in Japan, available in two distinct versions. The LV-1801, which is a television console unit, and the SL-6300, a standalone deck. The cassettes themselves are far smaller than anything else on the market, and at this time, only capable of recording a single hour.
Matsushita introduces their VX format and VCR in Japan. The system uses 1/2″ tape on two reels stack on top of each other inside a cassette. Launched in the U.S. two years later.
Sony introduces the LV-1901 (the same model as the LV-1801 in Japan) to the U.S. market with the pricetag of $2500. Its a TV / VCR combination unit. Like the Japanese model, the unit is only capable of recording 60 minutes per videocassette.