HOME VIDEO HISTORY.org

Videodiscs Timeline

Below is a timeline for all notable events pertaining to videodisc technology (not including distribution, with the exception of firsts and lasts). 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.

1958

David Paul Gregg Invents the Optical Video Disk

David Paul Gregg Invents the Optical Video Disk

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.

1964

RCA Begins Development on a Videodisc

RCA Begins Development on a Videodisc

RCA begins research and development on a videodisc (later to become CED).

1968

MCA Begins Development On a Videodisc

MCA Begins Development On a Videodisc

After having purchased optical disc patents from David Paul Greg, MCA begins development on a videodisc format (later to become laserdisc).

June, 1970

Teldec Demonstrates the First Videodisc

Teldec Demonstrates the First Videodisc

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.

December 12th, 1972 (Variety, 1972/12/13, p. 1)

MCA First Demonstrates Laserdisc

MCA First Demonstrates Laserdisc

A Discovision prototype, as it’s called at this time, is finally unveiled before a crowd of over 300 industry professionals and journalists. MCA plays a disc containing a seven minute montage made from 22 of Universal’s greatest hits. Still several years from completion, executives refer to this event as a “progress report.”

1975 (Independent Film, 1975/04/02, p. 13)

Hollywood Studios Sign On to Discovision

At least three major studios, including Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox and Paramount, enter into agreements to have their films available for the upcoming Discovision (laserdisc) format. The studios preferred this disc format over videocassette, as their players didn’t have the ability to record.

March 17th, 1975 (Billboard, 1975/03/01, p. 1)

Teldec TeD

Teldec TeD

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.

November 15th - 17th, 1976

First Annual International Videodisc Programming Conference Is Held

First Annual International Videodisc Programming Conference Is Held

The first annual International Videodisc Programming Conference is held. Strangely, representatives from neither MCA nor RCA (the forerunners of the videodisc race) are present. 

December 15th, 1978

Magnavox Magnavision HR-8000 / Discovision (Laserdisc)

Magnavox Magnavision HR-8000 / Discovision (Laserdisc)

MCA and Philips do a soft launch of the Magnavox Magnavision HR-8000 Laserdisc (or laservision) player ($695). Its only made available at three authorized retailers in Atlanta, Georgia. Whereas Philips supplied the players (through their American subsidiary, Magnavox), MCA supplied the initial 72 Discovision discs.

June, 1979

MCA Dramatically Increases the Cost of their Laserdiscs

During the test roll out (with several more cities added), MCA realizes that it was actually costing a lot more to press the discs than initially thought. All the discs are given a 50% – 60% price hike. This move taints videodisc’s reputation, making the format even less competitive against videocassettes.

November, 1979 (Broadcast, 1979/11/05, p. 27)

RCA Licenses Paramount Titles For Their Upcoming Videodisc

Paramount agrees to have their films on RCA’s upcoming videodisc. Grease, The Godfather and Saturday Night Fever are among the titles licensed.

November, 1980 (Star Tribune, 1981/03/08, p. 9D)

Laserdisc Is Rolled Out Nationally

After having tested their laserdisc system in several U.S. cities for almost two years, MCA and Philips roll out their laserdisc system nationally. This comes just in time for Christmas, and several months before RCA’s own videodisc launch.

March 22nd, 1981 (Star Tribune, 1981/03/08, p. 9D)

RCA Selectavision SFT100W (CED)

RCA Selectavision SFT100W (CED)

RCA finally launches their videodisc system, a format called Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED). The player goes for $500 and the discs in the $20 range. The first title to roll off the presses is Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977).

April 21st, 1983

JVC HD-5500US (VHD)

JVC HD-5500US (VHD)

First demonstrated in 1978, JVC launches their videodisc system, VHD (Video High Density), to the Japanese market. Similar to to the CED in that it uses the same recording technology (capacitance) and a disc caddy, its actually superior to the RCA format. Its never sold outside Japan and discontinued in 1987.

April 4th, 1984 (Broadcasting, 1984/04/09, p. 39)

RCA Decides to Discontinue CED Players

RCA announces that it would be ending CED player manufacturing due to poor reception, while continuing with the pressing of more discs. It’s estimated that over $300 million was invested in the machine.

December, 1984 (Video Review, 1985/01)

The Very First Audio Commentary Track Is Released

The Very First Audio Commentary Track Is Released

The Criterion Collection’s laserdisc release of King Kong (1933) offers the very first audio commentary track for a feature film. It’s recorded by film historian and preservationist, Ronald Haver.

June, 1986 (Billboard, 1986/03/29, p. 53)

RCA Discontinues Manufacturing CED Discs

RCA Discontinues Manufacturing CED Discs

RCA begins the process of shutting down their only CED manufacturing plant on Rockville Road in Indianapolis, Indiana. Their final disc is an “experimental” souvenir disc for all plant employees called, Memories of Videodisc (1986).

June 1st, 1987 (Variety, 1987/05/20, p. 86)

Pioneer CLD-1010 (CD-Video)

Pioneer CLD-1010 (CD-Video)

The first laserdisc player compatible with the upcoming CD-Video (CDV) is launched by Pioneer with a price tag of $800. Later that year, the discs are released. They contain 20 minutes of digital audio, and 5 minutes of analog (laserdisc) video. These are the first 5″ discs to contain video.

October 16th, 1991 (Billboard, 1991/09/28, p. 10)

Philips CDI 910 (CD-i)

Philips CDI 910 (CD-i)

Philips launches their first CD-i system, the CDI 910 for $1000. At launch it has 30 titles titles available, which are interactive games and educational programs. Two years later, movies would be available on a sub-format specially made for digital video.

March, 1992 (Billboard, 1992/01/18, p. 54)

The Voyager Company Releases the First 3 Movies on CD-ROM

The Voyager Company Releases the First 3 Movies on CD-ROM

The Voyager Company, most notable at the time for their Criterion Collection line of laserdiscs, releases the first three feature-length movies on CD-ROM. They are the documentaries, “Poetry in Motion,” “To New Horizons: Ephemeral Films 1931-1945” and “You Can’t Get There From Here.” Later that year, they release the first Hollywood film, A Hard Day’s Night (1964), on the format. These are regarded as the first feature-length movies viewable on a PC.