April 6, 2018

1,001 LaserDiscs 1: In the beginning




     The LaserDisc came on the scene 40 years ago . . . .   

                                       Jaws LaserDisc      

I have a collection of LaserDiscs that I will be selling, so, I decided to start a series on the discs I have in my collection.           
The LaserDisc (abbreviated as LD) is a home video format and the first commercial optical disc storage medium, initially licensed, sold and marketed as MCA DiscoVision in North America in 1978.         
Although the format was capable of offering higher-quality video and audio than its consumer rivals, VHS and Betamax videotape, the LaserDisc never managed to gain widespread use in North America, largely due to high costs for the players and video titles themselves and the inability to record TV programs.

Optical video recording technology, using a transparent disc, was invented by David Paul Gregg and James Russell in 1958 (and patented in 1961 and 1990). The Gregg patents were purchased by MCA in 1968. By 1969, Philips had developed a videodisc in reflective mode, which has advantages over the transparent mode. MCA and Philips then decided to combine their efforts and first publicly demonstrated the video disc in 1972.      

The format was first available on the market, in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1978, two years after the introduction of the VHS VCR, and four years before the introduction of the CD (which is based on laser disc technology). Initially licensed, sold, and marketed as MCA DiscoVision (also known as simply "DiscoVision") in North America in 1978, the technology was previously referred to internally as Optical Videodisc System, Reflective Optical Videodisc, Laser Optical Videodisc, and Disco-Vision (with a dash), with the first players referring to the format as "Video Long Play". The first LaserDisc title marketed in North America was the MCA DiscoVision release of Jaws.      

Pioneer Electronics purchased the majority stake in the format and marketed it as both LaserVision (format name) and LaserDisc (brand name) in 1980, with some releases unofficially referring to the medium as "Laser Videodisc". Philips produced the players while MCA produced the discs.

Pioneer LaserDisc player    

The Philips-MCA cooperation was not successful, and discontinued after a few years. Several of the scientists responsible for the early research (Richard Wilkinson, Ray Dakin and John Winslow) founded Optical Disc Corporation (now ODC Nimbus).   

In 1984, Sony introduced a LaserDisc format that could store any form of digital data, as a data storage device similar to CD-ROM, with a large capacity 3.28 GiB, comparable to the later DVD-ROM format.   

The standard home video LaserDisc was 30 cm (12 in) in diameter and made up of two single-sided aluminum discs layered in plastic. Although appearing similar to compact discs or DVDs, LaserDisc used analog video stored in the composite domain (having a video bandwidth approximately equivalent to the 1-inch (25 mm) C-Type VTR format) with analog FM stereo sound and PCM digital audio. The LaserDisc at its most fundamental level was still recorded as a series of pits and lands much like CDs, DVDs, and even Blu-ray Discs are today. However, while the encoding is of a binary nature, the information is encoded as analog pulse-width modulation with a 50% duty cycle, where the information is contained in the lengths and spacing of the pits.

disk storage comparison

By the early 2000s, LaserDisc was completely replaced by the DVD in the North American retail marketplace, as neither players nor software were then produced. Players were still exported to North America from Japan until the end of 2001. The format has retained some popularity among American collectors, and to a greater degree in Japan, where the format was better supported and more prevalent during its life. In Europe, LaserDisc always remained an obscure format.       

Net links:         
LaserDisc formats   
LaserDisc sizes  
Styrous® ~ Friday, April 6, 2018          


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