Monday, August 06, 2007

My museum of content related artefacts (23)

1978: Video discs

I have in my collection a few video discs. I never worked with them, but they have a special place in the collection. It is the beginning of the optical disc series of video discs, CD-ROM and DVD. But they were also part of a media carrier war between discs and video recording tapes. Besides the medium was intended for the consumer market, but ended up in a niche market.

The video disc was developed by MCA, a technology and amusement holding, in 1969. The disc was under development by several consumer electronics manufacturers. Within Philips Mr Klaas Compaan was involved in the development. By 1978 the disc was out of the laboratory and the first copy of the movie Jaws marketed. MCA had an extensive movie library and was ready to start the manufacturing of the amusement discs.

But at that time the video tape technology was also being developed. The video disc had sharp image, but the video tapes (JVC, Video2000 and Betamax) did not. But on the other hand video disc were only playable, while video tapes were payable and recordable. Besides the video discs were heavy and sluggish with 30 centimetre diameter. By 2000 the video disc, named laserdisc by that time, was taken off the market, mostly due to the heavy costs of marketing and the rise of the new DVD technology.

The discs I have are professional information discs. They are basically photograph albums with by-lines. The photographs could be retrieved and located through searching the texts of the by-lines. And the disc could be set in a loop for exhibitions.

I only have a few video discs in my collection. The one I like most is the Royal Dutch Library disc which contains 7000 illustrations, all from the mediaeval books in the possession of the Dutch Royal Library. Th disc is complete with a box and booklet. I have never seen the miniatures as I do not have a video disc player. But I saw fabulous illustrations on internet later on. They can be looked up with English language by-lines and classified with ICONCLASS.

I worked from 1970 till 1973 for the Great Spectum Encyclopaedia. This was a revolutionary encyclopaedia in as far as many illistrations and artwork were used. When the encyclopaedia was completed in 1979, the database held no less than 45.000 illustrations. They were put on a video disc for fast retrieval and rights matters. I have seen the system work in Paris during an exhibition in 1985.

The VNU New Media Group explored the opportunities of the video disc and got into contact with the company CAT. Together they developed an interactive medical disc with 30.000 slides for diagnosis and training. Some more medical videodiscs were produced by CAT and the VNU New Media Group, amongst others with the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. But the VNU New Media Group never got a convincing market share.

Blog Posting Number: 832


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