1960s/1970s video/audio/film formats

During the 1960s and 1970s there has been numourous different formats of videotape recorder/player systems made from the B&W Sony CV-2000 open 1/2" reel-reel videotape recorder in 1965 to the colour JVC VHS videocassette recorder in 1976 which hit the Aussie markets in 1978. During those 2 decades they were extremely expensive and rare to find in a domestic environment and were often used in the education/business field but those who could afford them recorded their favourite shows and those tapes that are still floating around out there in Australia hold hidden gems of Australian television programming that has since been erased. Anyhow this page illustrates the variety of videotape formats that I personally know was available in Australia during the 60s and 70s.

Disclaimer: The majority of the images used are from various other sites and I am only using them to visually depict the video formats that were around in the 60s and 70s

Back in the day before camcorders, families did home movies with B&W and colour film cameras. Film cameras and film would of been more within the affordable range for domestic use as many people owned one. The film formats that were around were the 8mm, Super 8mm and 16mm, B&W and colour and with or withour audio. Most common was the Super 8 colour film. Anyhow people have been known to point their film cameras to their television sets and record whatever's off the telly onto film and as a result some footage of erased programs has surfaced as a result. Even back in the late 30s when B&W television was kicking off in UK some people have pointed their film cameras to the telly and recorded some live TV action, an example is a telefilm recording of some footage of the 1937 Coronation King George VI in UK and this was long before the birth of 16mm B&W kinescope film recording of live TV shows in the late 40s. Anyways some great off the TV film recordings have been recovered, an excellent example is Dr Who, an Aussie fan took some short 8mm film recordings of various episodes off the telly in the 60s, they can be viewed on YouTube: William Hartnell episodes, Patrick Troughton episodes. Anyhow home movies are a good source to look at to find lost TV show footage filmed straight off the TV screen.
Audio Tape

Back in the day audio tape recording was readily available to the public as audio recorders were cheap enough for the consumer market and were abundant in many households. Audio recorders came in a variety of formats and tape sizes from 1/8 inch to 2 inch and you had your reel-reel audiotapes or audio cassettes. It has been a well known fact that people recorded TV shows onto audiotape either from pointing the microphone to the TV speaker or recording the FM simulcast off the radio and this has resulted in a lot of lost shows being recovered in audio. An excellent example is a lost Countdown episode from 29th June 1975 recorded on audio cassette from the FM simulcast of the show on radio by one of my contacts who kindly dubbed me a CD copy of this episode, the details of this episode can be viewed here. Anyhow there should be numourous TV show audio recordings from the pre-80s out there in peoples collections of audio cassettes or reels which are waiting to be unearthed.
1/4 inch reel-reel videotape

During the 1970s AKAI have been producing 1/4 inch reel-reel videotape recorders and videotapes, these were as portable as a videotape recorder got back then and were neat little units. I would say they were extremely rare to come across in Australia opposed to the 1/2" Sony and National VTRs but we did have them. They usually were a all in one portable VTR/TV/camera system eg AKAI VT-100 and tuners were available as an accessory to record off the air. AKAI also made a reel-reel machine called the VT-700 which took massive size reels that can hold up to 90 minutes of recording time.
1/2 inch reel-reel videotape

1/2" reel-reel videotape recorders emerged in the mid 60s starting with the Sony CV-2000 in 1965 and were produced right up to the mid-late 70s. They were popular on the education and business market but rare in the domestic environment due to the obvious expensive price tag. During the mid/late 60s there was no standard format format for the 1/2" reel-reel videotape recorders as each brand of VTR had their own format and there were quite a few brands of 1/2" VTRs. So a recording on a say Sony CV-2100 will not play on say a Shibaden SV-700 and visa versa. This all changed in 1969 when the EIAJ standard was introduced in which most 1/2" reel-reel VTRs over a range of brands were made to the EIAJ format, so video reels were interchangeable and playable between different brands of VTRs. Anyhow these VTRs were available in both B&W and colour and are usually used for vidicon camera recordings but optional TV tuners were made as an accessory for them and it's known that some early TV shows have been recorded on these machines. I've even acquired some missing Countdown footage from 1975 which has originally been recorded on a B&W 1/2" reel-reel VTR. So this is a good format to look to for rare TV footage.
1 inch reel-reel videotape

1" reel-reel videotape recorders are a much rarer specie of videotape recorder than the 1/2" ones and are made more specifically for more professional use. They come in a variety of formats which differ from brand to brand (there were some standardized formats such as Type A, Type B and Type C) and were around from the mid 60s to the late 70s, and that's excluding the broadcast 1" VTRs used in the 1980s. They were the higher end VTRs used in the education and business field, so they would be more so seen in universities in the 70s. In 1976 Sony and Ampex introduced the Type C  a 1" videotape format was introduced to the broadcast field to replace the larger 2" Quad format and it was used during the 80s and possibly early 90s before they upgraded to Digital Betacam.
2 inch QUAD reel-reel videotape

2" QUAD reel-reel format was made purely for the broadcast industry. That was because it was the first practical video format made as there was a demand in the 50s in USA by broadcast industries for a cheap and quick way to timeshift programs from coast to coast in best possible quality (opposed to 16mm kinescope B&W film recording) and in 1956 AMPEX gave them the answer, the VR-1000 2 inch QUAD scan VTR. This VTR went into use in late 1956 in B&W and in 1958 RCA put in production the RCA TRT-1AC 2 inch QUAD colour VTR. The B&W 2 inch QUAD VTRs were first put in use in Australia in 1958 at ATN-7. Anyways this format was used for over 30 years from 1956 to the mid/late 80s and the recordings can literally last on these tapes for well over 50 years and be successfully restored. Anyhow it has been known that these 2 inch tapes do get tossed from TV stations and have ended up in the hands of collectors or at recycle centres, so they are worth getting your hands on for rare TV station programming if you're lucky enough to find them.
1/2" Philips VCR cassette

In 1972 Philips introduced the very first true video cassette recorder designed specifically for the domestic environment, the Philips N1500. The format is entitled the "VCR" format (Video Cassette Recording) though the word has became general for all video cassette recorders, so a standard modern VHS machine is referred to as simply a VCR. It was an unsual format, the reels inside the cassette are stacked on top of each other unlike most other video cassette formats. Anyhow the Philips N1500 is the first true home VCR because it has all the basic features of a modern VHS, such as recording in colour, a TV tuner to record TV programs, being able to record one channel and switch to another channel while recording on the other, and of course a clock timer which you can set so the VCR can automatically record a program at a certain time while you are not there. The N1500 started selling in Australia around 1974/75 and whilst aimed at the domestic environment, it was still too expensive for the average consumer selling at $1000 in 1975 and cassettes $40 each so they were more popular in the education and business field like other video recorders, but some people had the money to buy them. The VCR format lasted from 1972 to 1980, the N1500-N1502 series are standard play and record generally up to 60 minutes on a cassette, then came in 1977 the long play N1700 which can record up to 3 hours on a cassette, then in 1978 Grundig made the SVR-4004 which is a super long play machine that can record up to 5 hours on a single cassette. Towards the end of the 70s the VCR format gained some popularity in the household as they came down in price when VHS was introduced and so a fair few people owned a Philips N1700 around 1978-79. I specialise in this format and over the years have acquired a lot of VCR tapes in SP, LP and SVR and they have a lot of great material from 1975 to 1984, on the LP tapes I have found an abundance of recordings from 1978 to 1981 with a variety of shows, movies and lots of commercials and station IDs in between. The VCR format is an excellent source to find early TV programming!!!
3/4" U-Matic video cassette

In 1971 Sony released an excellent video format called U-Matic which was to dominate the professional and semi-professional field during the 70s, 80s and early 90s. This format used massive video cassettes about 1.5 times the size of a VHS cassette and housed tape that was 3/4" thick and can hold generally up to 60 minutes of recording. These VCRs were used in the broadcast industry and in the education and business field and those who were really rich had one in their household fitted with an optional TV tuner to record programs. Due to popularity they come in abundance and are not too hard to find. The U-Matic came in 3 general formats, low band, high band and SP. They also came in 2 sizes, the standard size for the bench models and mini size for the portable models used with a video camera and battery pack for on location shootings which record up to 20 minutes on them. Anyhow this format is an excellent source to look to for early TV recordings, many excellent shows have been unearthed off these video cassettes including some lost Countdown episodes of the 1970s, I personally have gotten through DVD trades DVD transfers from U-Matic recordings and there was a lot of excellent rarities on them from the late 70s.
1/2" EIAJ National/Panasonic colour Video Cartridge cassette

Around 1973/74 Panasonic/National introduced the NV-5110 EIAJ format Video Cartridge Recorder which was aimed for the domestic environment and also had the features of a modern VHS such as the tuner and clock timer. This format was of EIAJ standard, same as the 1/2" EIAJ reel-reel format and the recordings on these cartridges can be played back on an EIAJ standard reel-reel recorder. The cartridges housed a single spool of tape and the VCR has an internal spool which the tape laces onto when inserted. The tapes generally can hold up to 30 minutes of recordings but 60 minute tapes have been made as well. These VCRs are extremely rare, even harder to find than the Philips N1500 but we did have them and some real gems have been recovered off these tapes. I have some tapes of this format but am yet to get a hold of a machine.
1/2" Sony Betamax video cassette

In 1975 Sony released the Betamax format in Japan and USA and in Australia and Europe in 1978. This was a brilliant format that offered higher quality pictures than the standard VHS system. The cassettes are very similar to VHS but a bit smaller which made them compact, and they could hold generally 3 hours of recording time and were an ideal choice of VCR during the 1980s. Unfortunately because of Sony's strict marketing measures in only allowing rights to a few other electronics companies like Sanyo and Toshiba, the beta lost the video format war of the 80s and JVC's VHS won due to allowance of many companies to make VHSs. Anyhow the beta hit the Aussie market by 1978 and was pretty popular during the video boom of the 1980s. They are an excellent source to find TV show recordings from the late 70s and 1980s and I have quite a few hundred tapes, some recordings dating way back to 1979!!!
1/2" JVC VHS video cassette

In 1976 JVC introduced the VHS (Video Home System) video cassette recorder which would become the main standard in choice of VCRs on the consumer market and end up in pretty much nearly every single household by the 1990s. This is the video system that everyone knows and this video system has lasted over 3 decades. The VHS went on the Japanese market in 1976, USA 1977 and Australia and Europe in 1978. Whilst the VHS is inferior to Betamax due to line resolution being 240 lines opposed to beta's 270 lines, JVC marketed this system much better than Sony did with their beta, in which JVC allowed pretty much all electronic goods companies to produce VHS systems, and so they were more abundant on the consumer market and sold like hotcakes in the 80s to the average consumer, hence VHS won the 80s video format war and became the main video standard to last for decades!!! Since the DVD recorder has came on the market in the early 2000s and has became more affordable to the consumer, VHS is pretty much on its way out, but today 2010 VHS still sells as standalone or as a VHS/DVD player combo unit, so after 34 years VHS is still going!!! Anyhow it is very rare to find VHS recordings dating prior to say 1983 but some people have held onto their original VHS recordings from 1978 to early 80s so they are around and are worth looking out for.
(Vintage Video Home)