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Video Tape Recorder Unveiled 50 Years Ago

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the my-betamax-thanks-you dept.

121

Argyle writes "50 years ago Ampex unveiled the first video tape recorder. TV Technology has an excellent story about the surprise launch of the video tape recorder, impacting almost every aspect of business, entertainment, and family life as we know it today. The enabler of the entire modern entertainment industry, the video tape recorder was was designed by only six men, Charles Ginsburg, Charles Anderson, Ray Dolby, Shelby Henderson, Alex Maxey, and Fred Pfost."

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121 comments

Oh boy, first Pfost! (5, Funny)

DurendalMac (736637) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134555)

Sorry, I couldn't resist that one.

Re:Oh boy, first Pfost! (1)

shreevatsa (845645) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134848)

Is this Fred Pfost the brother of the famous "First Pfost" who usually gets the third post in every Slashdot article?

And seriously, we know news on Slashdot is often late by several days or even weeks... but fifty years? This is a new low for Slashdot.
;)

not at all (1)

artifex2004 (766107) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135154)

And seriously, we know news on Slashdot is often late by several days or even weeks... but fifty years? This is a new low for Slashdot. ;)

Don't forget that whenever we hear about new galactic phenomenon, the news is always millions of years old.

And we're still waiting (1)

blueZ3 (744446) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135228)

for the dupe!

and now (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15134564)

we have TiVo....

This is untrue (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15134577)

Everyone knows that Apple invented video tape recording. Just like they invented transistors, monitors, GUIs, mice, USB, scsi, firewire, hard drives, touchpads, keyboards, remote controls and java. Anyone else who says otherwise is a liar, which means they hate Apple, so mod them down, please.

Re:This is untrue (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135119)

No no, the russians invented everything. Heard of popoff's law?

Well okay... (-1, Troll)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134578)

"The enabler of the entire modern entertainment industry, the video tape recorder was was designed by only six men..."

The video recorder is neat and all, but 'only six men'... So? Yes, it was a huge challenge. But it was also a fairly simple concept. Simple concept with a huge barrier to overcome, but still a simple concept. Put signal on tape, play signal back out. If the video recorded required a good deal more steps than that, then yes, it would have been amazing that they had only done it with six men.

Okay, I'm just feeling nitpicky tonight. Sorry.

Re:Well okay... (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134598)

Simple concept, complex implementation. If you RTFA you know that other companies were working on the same problem and didn't manage to pull it off. These six guys did the job and won the day for Ampex, which I only previously knew as the company that made the best vt220 clone I've ever used (ignorance abounds.)

Re:Well okay... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134606)

"If you RTFA you know that other companies were working on the same problem and didn't manage to pull it off."

I did RTFA, did you GMFP? It wasn't a "put more people on it" kind of problem. Try to imagine putting 100 software developers to write a new version of Notepad, and you'll start to see what I mean.

Re:Well okay... (1)

Wikipedia (928774) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135912)

Ampex From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia AMPEX is an acronym, created by its founder, Alexander M. Poniatoff. It actually stands for (A)lexander (M). (P)oniatoff (Ex)cellence. Poniatoff's company was established in San Carlos, California in 1944 as the Ampex Electric and Manufacturing Company. In 1948, ABC used an Ampex Model 200 audio recorder for the first-ever U.S. tape delay radio broadcast of The Bing Crosby Show. In 1950, Ampex introduced the first "dedicated" instrumentation recorder, Model 500, built for the U.S. Navy. Ampex became a leader in magnetic sound and video recording technology. Ampex was not a recording format, but a company that developed the Quadruplex format that dominated the broadcast industry for decades. The format was licensed to RCA for use in their "television tape recorders." Ampex's invention revolutionized the television industry by eliminating the kinescope process of archiving television programs on motion picture film (at least in the U.S.; in Britain, the BBC and most of the ITV companies continued to use kinescoping alongside videotape until the late 1960s; in most developing countries, many television broadcasters continued to use kinescoping alongside videotape until the mid-1970s). The Ampex broadcast video tape recorder also facilitated time-zone broadcast delay so that networks could air programming at the same hour in various time zones. One of the key engineers in the development of the Quadruplex video recorder for Ampex was Ray Dolby, who worked under Charlie Ginsburg and went on to form Dolby Laboratories, a pioneer in audio noise reduction systems. The first magnetically-recorded time-delayed network television program using the new Ampex Quadruplex recording system was CBS's "Douglas Edwards and the News" on November 30, 1956. Since the early 1950s, Bing Crosby and others tried to record video on very fast-moving magnetic tape. One semi-successful attempt was the BBC's VERA. Ampex pursued recording methods in which recording heads were rotated at high speed and the tape movement was kept slow. The "Quad" head assembly has 4 heads that rotate at 14,400 rpm. They write the video vertically across the width of a tape that is 2 inches (5 cm) wide and runs at 15" (38cm) per second. This allows programs of one hour to be recorded on one reel of tape. (In 1956, one reel of tape cost $300, equivalent to $2000 in 2000 and the recorders cost about $75-100,000, about a half a million dollars today). Today, a majority of the early videotaped content still existing are network programs, since the typical television station could not afford an Ampex VTR. Ampex had trademarked the name "Video Tape", so competitor RCA called the medium "TV Tape" or "Television Tape". The terms eventually became genericized, and "videotape" is commonly used today. In 1967, ABC used the Ampex HS-100 disk recorder for playback of slow-motion downhill skiing on World Series of Skiing in Vail, Colorado. This was the first use of slow motion instant replay in sporting events. Later that year, Ampex introduced the Ampex VR-3000 portable broadcast video recorder, which revolutionized the recording of high-quality television in the field without the need for long cables and large support vehicles. Broadcast quality images could now be shot anywhere, including from airplanes, helicopters and boats. In 1970, Ampex introduced the ACR-25, the first automated robotic library system for the recording and playback of television commercials. Each commercial was recorded on an individual cartridge. These cartridges were then loaded into large rotating carousels. Using sophisticated mechanics and compressed air, the "carts" were loaded into and extracted from the machine at extremely high speed. This allowed TV stations to re-sequence commercial breaks at a moments notice, adding, deleting and rearranging commercials at will. The TV newsroom also began to use the ACR-25 to run news stories because of its random access capability. The Ampex video system is now obsolete. Those machines which still survive have been pressed into service to transfer recordings onto modern digital video formats. Notably, however, the Nixon-Khrushchev Kitchen Debate was recorded on Ampex tape. Ampex Corporation is the parent company of Ampex Data Systems which manufactures digital archiving systems, principally for the broadcast industry. See also * Ampex Records * The Edsel Show -- the first major television program to be preserved on videotape * An Evening With Fred Astaire -- the first television program to be prerecorded on color videotape * Kitchen Debate * 2" Quadruplex videotape External links * Ampex Corporation website * Ampex Data Systems website * Alexander M. Poniatoff * a more precise origin of the recording of Bing Crosby shows * The History of Magnetic Recording * Recording Technology History * Der Bingle Technology * Total Rewind - The Virtual Museum of Vintage VCRs Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ampex"

Re:Well okay... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134614)

So? Yes, it was a huge challenge. But it was also a fairly simple concept.

Bulk storage of data is so pervasive these days. Perhaps none of us really appreciate what a challenge this was.

I remember when I was 13 or so. My computer had a 300 baud modem to store data on casette. My uncle had a reel to reel audio recorder and I used to fantasize about getting 9600 baud out of it. That would have been some incredible storage system.

Re:Well okay... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134636)

"Bulk storage of data is so pervasive these days. Perhaps none of us really appreciate what a challenge this was."

I understand that it was a challenge. Read the sentence immediately following the one you quoted. I wasn't saying it wasn't a big f'n deal. I wasn't saying that those guys didn't do incredible work. I wasn't even saying that their work was overrated. What I was saying that the significance of 'only six men' is virtually nil. 100 men wouldn't have made it go faster. It wasn't a 'throw more people' at it problem.

Honestly, guys.

Re:Well okay... (4, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134654)

Simple concept? No, it isn't. Transverse recording is a major jump in technology from longitudinal recording. It enables head to tape speeds far in excess of that possible with longitudinal recording. It requires a complex rotating head assembly and very close attention to tape handling. A friend of mine used to use one of these beasties, modified for improved performance, to record image data from the LANDSAT-1 satellite. It was the only tape machine that could do the job.

Re:Well okay... (1)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134723)

"Simple concept? No, it isn't. Transverse recording is a major jump in technology from longitudinal recording."

I think the point is widely being missed here. If only six men built the Great Wall of China, that would be worthy of a number of exclamation points. It isn't so easy to measure a leap of technology by the number of people who were or weren't involved in developing it. It's sort of like saying the only 3 cans of Mountain Dew were consumed while developing the MP3 algorithm.

Re:Well okay... (1)

appro (80466) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134688)

Simple concept with a huge barrier to overcome, but still a simple concept. ...says the marketing guy to the engineer. ;) If you are not in marketing, you should be.

Re:Well okay... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134705)

" ...says the marketing guy to the engineer. ;) If you are not in marketing, you should be."

Heh. Actually I'd rather be the PHB. "Video recording is a big complicated problem. If we hire 1,000 engineers, we'll have this problem licked by next week!"

mass media impact (0, Troll)

drDugan (219551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134599)

... impacting almost every aspect of business, entertainment, and family life as we know it today.

In my opinion, a negative impact. I am so glad I don't own a TV any more. I now think that the real effects of mass video propiganda can only been truly understood by living without TV for a few months. I tolerate it when I'm over at friends houses and in public places like bars, but not as the sole activity.

Anyone else out there kick the addiction?

Re:mass media impact (1)

minorproblem (891991) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134607)

I watched cartoons untill i was about 10, got a computer and have never watched tv since, thought im only 20 now so much easier to ditch tv when it can be replaced by something more interactive.

Re:mass media impact (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15134610)

Life imitates The Onion [theonion.com] .

Re:mass media impact (1)

y00tz (952744) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134630)

Yep, only once have I thought, "why not watch tv?" flipped on the tv, saw about 2 minutes of some outrageous reality show, and then went back to my Clancy novel

Re:mass media impact (2, Funny)

iroll (717924) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134758)

then went back to my Clancy novel

Isn't that what they call "out of the frying pan, into the fryer?"

Re:mass media impact (1)

baryon351 (626717) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134646)

Agreed. I dropped my usage down to zero when I moved into a small unit, and didn't have room for the large and rather old set I had, so it went to my sister. It's been almost 10 years without TV now.

What I find constantly amazing is seeing otherwise intelligent people I know watching the pure shit on television. Whether it's re-runs of the stuff I used to watch or new stuff, it's all really poor.

I too couldn't see how bad it was until going a few years without a tele.

Re:mass media impact (2, Interesting)

lmlloyd (867110) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134784)

And yet you post and read /.? So much for making good use of all that extra time!

Really though, at different point in my life I have gone without TV, and I just don't get the whole "TV sucks" thing. Just like anything else, there are good shows, and there are bad shows. There is stupid stuff, and there is really enlightening stuff. Besides, some people need to just unwind sometimes.

I mean, I have been 10 years now without a car, and I could certainly make comments like "What I find constantly amazing is seeing otherwise intelligent people I know throwing away tens of thousands of dollars just so they can be fat and lazy and not have to walk to the store." By the same token I haven't gotten drunk in years and I could say "What I find constantly amazing is seeing otherwise intelligent people I know pay money to kill off brain cells." However, I realize that it is a gross oversimplification to even think that way.

People do what pleases them. If reading on /. and posting your personal opinions is what does it for you, great! But don't look down your nose at other people just because they enjoy something you don't.

Re:mass media impact (1)

ex-geek (847495) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134948)

Really though, at different point in my life I have gone without TV, and I just don't get the whole "TV sucks" thing. Just like anything else, there are good shows, and there are bad shows. There is stupid stuff, and there is really enlightening stuff. Besides, some people need to just unwind sometimes.

Word up! That's what I'm talking about.

I haven't owned a TV for years for various reasons. But I am not one of these elitist TV ascets that everybody hates. Some folks believe that throwing out their TV instantaneously increases their IQ by 20 points. That isn't the case.

In fact the TV provides certain informations that you can't or won't easily get otherwise. A lot of politics and news is boring, yet important. I can watch a newscast about a financial scandal or party politics, but I wouldn't read about it, if I could choose to read other stuff.
(Here in europe, the political landscape is changing over time. New parties form, some split, others join and some disappear, so you have to keep on top of these things)

TV is low effort. This is btw. why many in more stressfull jobs who don't have the luxury of unproblematic internet access during the day, like to watch TV. Hunting for information on the Internet, or reading a complicated newspaper is no fun after a long day of hard work.

Also, the TV gives its viewers a set of common and current references and stories that can be used to start small talk. That's very practical.

I mean, I have been 10 years now without a car, and I could certainly make comments like "What I find constantly amazing is seeing otherwise intelligent people I know throwing away tens of thousands of dollars just so they can be fat and lazy and not have to walk to the store."

Well this analogy is kind of flawed. It would be a good analogy, if car users admitted outright that they just like to drive cars and to possess them as status symbols and would always prefer them to cheaper, quicker and less stressful means of transportation. Instead they come up with all of these lame rationalizations for car driving. Over here in europe, this is totally ridiculous. We do have great bike lanes and cheap and realiable public transportaion 24/7 on one hand and traffic jam plus scarce parking space on the other. In my town, the majority doesn't own a car, yet everybody somehow manages to do everything from commuting to shopping to raising kids.
Yet the car drivers among my coworkers insist that all of this is absolutely impossible to do without a car.
These same folks complain about high gaz-prices every six months or so, whining that it is impossible live anymore and concocting wild conspiracy theories about which evil polititions and companies are allegedly ripping them off.
Also, car use has a huge environmental footprint. Oil can and should be put to better uses.

Re:mass media impact (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134993)

Here in europe, the political landscape is changing over time.
and
Over here in europe, this is totally ridiculous. We do have great bike lanes and cheap and realiable public transportaion 24/7

Not sure in what oparadise you live in, but Here in Europe, this is not the case. Just state your country and don't geberalize these things. Not all countries in Europe are the same and/or have identical problems or solutions.

Where I live (Belgium) there is no 24/7 public transport to speak of. Many busses drive till 20:00. No good bike lanes, so the asshole bikes think they own the road (and don't stop for pedestrians either)

The larger parties here have changed name, but nothing shocking happening. Nothing you would not notice in other meadia or just by talking with people about politics.

Re:mass media impact (1)

ex-geek (847495) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135051)

Not sure in what oparadise you live in, but Here in Europe, this is not the case.

Geez. Well if it makes you sleep better, let me proclaim the following: All uses of the phrase "here in europe" in my initial comment are supposed to refer only to the better parts of europe.

Re:mass media impact (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135199)

The "TV sucks" comments come probably for three major reasons:

1. It's a generational thing. Older people always remember some media when they grew up was different (TV, music, movies) and the new stuff is different and "not how it should be", so it tends to "suck" or just not tend to appeal to them. This also works in reverse with the younger generations watching older stuff.

2. With the advent of videogames and the internet, the younger generations are used to more interactive media. TV is passive, even though they try to make it more superficially interactive (Game shows where you can go online to win a small prize, etcetera), so it is probably aging without anybody really acknowledging the fact.

Actually, to counter this, I've noticed niche programming really get better (and more numerous) the last 10 years as they are catering to smaller and smaller audiences. Of course, the big 3 networks don't do this.

3. It really does suck - the catchall:)

I'm probably a mix of 1 and 2. When I was still watching TV, the only shows I considered worth watching were on comedy central and the discovery/history channels. The big 3 especially seemed like a big waste of time, as everything has either become a reality show, a game show, a psychic-type show, or a CIS-type show. All the great Sit-coms seem to have died with the 90's/early 00's.

Re:mass media impact (1)

Agent Green (231202) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134662)

Yup. My wife and myself have been TV-free since 10/10/2004. It's somewhat curious how I find myself outright offended at some of the stupidity and out-of-control consumerism that advertising promotes (lost another viewer to Ditech!). The most TV we catch is usually when we go over my parents' house to visit, but despite the 100+ channels they have, there seems to be nothing interesting on. Raising kids w/o television is going to be an interesting ride, though.

One thing I have found that I really enjoy is listening to the ballgame on the radio. It's an amazing experience if the commentators are good (WEEI Boston is the best in this arena, IIRC).

I've also been accused of gloating [theonion.com] as well. To each their own, however.

Re:mass media impact (1)

Scoutersaurus (411890) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135369)

Loved that Onion article!! Glad to see you've got a sense of humor about what, while an increasing trend, still seems a bit of an idiosyncrasy. As you mentioned, difficult with children -- probably not impossible, but Very difficult. For me, there is still enough quality stuff on, which if you truly are sans TV, you have shoved in your face every time you mention it. In a way, I am the other stereotype -- the TV snob who would do without a TV were it not for X, Y and Z... with X, Y and Z showing my astute taste in the finer things in life and oh, also not mentioning the other crap that sneaks into my TV diet as a result of the beast being in the room. The DVR has turned the TV into a new animal. For those of us who can't 'do without', it does allow us to minimize our time in front of the Glass Teat as Harlan called it...

Re:mass media impact (1)

paeanblack (191171) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135686)

Raising kids w/o television is going to be an interesting ride, though.

Its probably going to be easier than you expect. When you and I were growing up (assuming your age from wife/no kids/planning), everybody watched TV. Lunchroom chatter was about TV. Sometimes I watched stuff I didn't care about just to not be left out of the next day's conversation.

Nowadays, why would kids watch TV when they can sit at the computer after school and stay in constant contact? Now the responses to "Did you see (modern replacement for SNL)?" will be "Nah, I was busy", "I tivoed it", "I watched (something else from the 500 channel) instead", "Who cares".

The golden age of TV is defintely over. Our kids probably won't even care.

Re:mass media impact (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135909)

We have had no problem whatsoever raising three kids with no TV. We do purchase/rent movies of our choice, so our kids are not without media, but there's no broadcast TV of any kind and the media they are exposed to is of high quality (for example, Hayao Miyazaki movies, not saturday morning kidvid). The only real minus thus far has been the lack of live sports, but there are numerous pluses, like smart kids with attention spans who read, are fit, are creative, and are active (meaning that they get out there and do stuff and never just sit around being bored). A nice added bonus is that Christmas commercialism, and the attendant pestering for new toys, is an utter non-issue. I strongly recommend this approach.

Re:mass media impact (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15134670)

I honestly feel for people like you because you've probably never seen "Lost." It's the only show my wife and I watch and it's worth having a TV for.

But I guess you can catch it on DVD.

Re:mass media impact (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15134694)

Oh c'mon. It's a TV show, nothing more. Made primarily to attract viewers to watch commercial breaks in between. You make it sound like it saved your life or something. And if it did, I feel sorry for you...

Re:mass media impact (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15134807)

I think he is joking as it is the most retarded show on television. I watched the very first episode and was done with it forever.

Re:mass media impact (1)

pooh666 (624584) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135320)

A good show like that is BETTER on DVD. I don't have cable anymore, but I can't stand these people who go on about, "I don't own a TV" They are just trying to take on a cause, and a pretty weenie wimpy one as well.

Re:mass media impact (5, Funny)

judabuddhist (909092) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134692)

Yup, I stopped watching tv a few years ago, and now I'm utterly addicted to pointless internet activity. In fact, I'm indulging the addiction right now.

Re:mass media impact (1)

mlewan (747328) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134704)

"I am so glad I don't own a TV any more."

I'm not. I have been without a television for four years now, and I love switching it on when I'm staying at hotels. The great thing with a television is that it shows you things you didn't know you were looking for. You switch it on, and a story, some images or some facts you didn't know anything about come to you. The only reason I haven't bought one, is that I cannot see how I could make time to both watch television and do all the other things I do.

There are of course some areas of the world where the available programs are less inspiring than elsewhere, but on the whole, I think it is a great invention.

Re:mass media impact (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135431)

WTF? In another post you say you're 16 years old and didn't grow up with a VCR. Now you say you haven't had a TV for 4 years and that you only see them when you stay in hotels. Did your parents throw you out of the house when you were 12 or something? Make some sense when you make shit up.

Re:mass media impact (1)

mikeydb (880405) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134717)

Well almost, I have a PVR and I use it to record 'the sky at night'and other science based shows shown on the BBC here in the UK, I can't watch everything else that passes for entertainment these days.

Re:mass media impact (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15134745)

While I agree that the overall influence of the TV and entertainment industry has been negative, I also think they give us what we want, and that it's up to the viewer to make a good use of it. Because TV actually offers good shows, too. There are many interesting documentaries and reportage shows out there (I'm European, but I really don't believe it is so differently in the US), and from time to time I find it also fine to watch a dumb show just for my viewing pleasure. Important thing is that you reflect on your habits, and then make an educated and conscious decision. I'm sure yours is, but I'm also sure there are still enough people who make an conscious decision to watch tv, which can be right nevertheless.

Re:mass media impact (2, Insightful)

kaiwai (765866) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134762)

Babe, do what I do, choose not to watch it; thats
what an adult would do; you have the power right
there in your hands.

Yes, you made that choice to drop television, BUT
at the same time, what gives you the right to some how
unilaterally start imposing your values on those
who may not share them.

Re:mass media impact (1)

windowpain (211052) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134797)

How the hell do you interpret this guy's decision to give up TV and his asking if anyone else has as "unilaterally ... imposing your values on those who do not share them?"

Are you stupid or crazy or angry or what?

What if the guy sold his car and started walking to work? Or he finally bought a car and no longer had to take the bus? Or made any change in his life he was glad he did and wanted to know if anyone else had?

Yeah that prick would really be imposing his views on the rest of us.

Re:mass media impact (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134838)

Anyone else out there kick the addiction?
Nopes, but like my other addictions, I prefer moderation over abstinence. I have started to pay a bit more attention to what I'm watching, and I was surprised to find a few true gems. Maybe this sounds silly, but perhaps you simply don't know what you are missing, which isn't surprising since the "gems" are buried under tons and tons of crap. But they are there (I'm not naming anything since I'll just elicit a "How can you like that?" response).

Getting more or less back on topic: if you're sick of television, get a digital video recorder (DVR). That sounds like a contradiction, after all why would you want a recorder for the stuff you hate, but a DVR will help you skip the crap and find the gems. Especially if you record some stuff that you never heard of, stuff that the guys around the water cooler never discuss, and stuff that airs at 3am.

A DVR really is a lot more than just a VCR with a hard disk. I find myself watching less TV but seeing a lot more, quality-wise. No more channel surfing! Instead, you'll be program-surfing: picking and recording shows, and then watching whatever fits your current mood. No tapes to swap, no finding blank tapes to record new stuff, no difficult programming, easy selection of shows on the on-screen tv guide, skipping commercials: these may be relatively small improvements over tape-baced VCRs, but they add up to making this new way of watching TV possible. I can highly recommend a DVR to people who don't want to spend a lot of time in front of the TV, but aren't ready to throw it out.

Re:mass media impact (1)

Rod Beauvex (832040) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134963)

I haven't watched on a regular basis in about eight years. Whne I lost my net access, I tried watching, but there are just way too many commercials.

Re:mass media impact (1)

Agret (752467) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135175)

With the internet there is no reason to own a TV anymore, you can just download episodes of TV shows and watch them whenever the hell you want.

Waste of time... (4, Informative)

evilviper (135110) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134600)

In an age when video cameras and recording devices are virtually everywhere, it's difficult to believe that it wasn't always possible to walk into a Wal-Mart or Best Buy store with $50 and leave with a new video recorder.

Yes, difficult to believe... if you're 16 years old. Jesus, it was less than 20 years ago that VCRs became ubiquitous.

The science of magnetically recording video images is so mature today that it's taken completely for granted,

Tell that to someone without a DVR... I was just digitizing VHS tapes the other day, and the memories came flooding back, of eaten tapes, tons of visual glitches, tapes deteriorating from age or repeated recordings, etc. Magnetic tape recording seems very iffy, even today.

That whole article is a waste of time. Extremely verbose and filled with hyperbole, and yet very little to say.

I strongly recomend the (defacement-proof link) Wikipedia Ampex article [wikipedia.org] which I found infinitely more informative and concise than this article, when I was reading up on the history of broadcast a few weeks ago.

Speaking of wasted time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15134651)

I wonder how many lifetimes have been spent staring at the TV (re)watching videos, or how many kids grew up with a video player as a surrogate mother.

Re:Waste of time... (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134673)

Don't confuse consumer grade tape machines with commercial grade tape machines. When you pay $100K for a tape machine, you get something with much better performance, consistency and reliability, that can be used for decades with periodic overhaul of the recording heads. I know people who use tape machines that were built 20+ years ago on a daily basis. These "ancient" machines still meet specs and rarely break.

Re:Waste of time... (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134731)

Do not underestimate the inginuity of small children to find a way to destroy your very expensive hardware.
Whether it be feeding the machine with soggy banana or giving it something to play with - the kids will win.
And those nice tapes make wonderful streamers.

Re:Waste of time... (4, Insightful)

mlewan (747328) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134693)

"In an age when video cameras and recording devices are virtually everywhere, it's difficult to believe that it wasn't always possible to walk into a Wal-Mart or Best Buy store with $50 and leave with a new video recorder."

"Yes, difficult to believe... if you're 16 years old. Jesus, it was less than 20 years ago that VCRs became ubiquitous."

I'd guess it wouldn't help to be 16 years old. There were no VCRs around when I was a kid. There are hardly any VCRs around today either, as everything is replaced with DVDs. The only persons agreeing with the article author would be someone born around 1985 who tragically died around 2000, so they never got to see the DVD revolution.

Re:Waste of time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135061)

No VCRs when you were a kid, between the years of say 1990-1998? Wow, I guess the home video entertainment market must've taken a serious nosedive before the introduction of DVDs in 1997. Thanks for setting us all straight there, Sparky.

Re:Waste of time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15134697)

Magnetic tape recording seems very iffy, even today.

Yes and no. I have video tapes from the early eighties that play just fine. I also have DVDs I burned six months ago that are already deteriorating (not to mention, you never know if a burned DVD will play in a given DVD player.) Of course vinyl has them both beat, but that's another story.

Also, I've had countless tapes get glitches or eaten by machines-- but the can be repaired, even taped together so the rest of the tape can be saved. One scratch on an optical disk and the whole thing is pretty much ruined.

And there's one more thing I miss about tape-- precise fast forward/rewinds. DVDs and CDs are of course made for skipping chapters/tracks, but for jumping back a few seconds or a minute tape is much easier to use.

Now this is all just opinion, so don't all jump in too fast to tell me why I'm wrong. Digital media is of course far, far better than magnetic tape and I wouldn't go back if you paid me. But there are some little things that get lost as technology keeps leaping forward.

Re:Waste of time... (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134722)

I have video tapes from the early eighties that play just fine. I also have DVDs I burned six months ago that are already deteriorating

Yes, well, if you paid as much for the VHS tapes as you did for those DVD-Rs, they'd probably be dust by now.

Of course vinyl has them both beat, but that's another story.

I'd love to see your vinyl-based video recording system.

One scratch on an optical disk and the whole thing is pretty much ruined.

Scratches can be repaired rather easily, and with a small investment you can prevent them from ever happening. Besides that, DVDs can always be salvaged, using something like "dd conv=noerror" to copy everything, and fill the damaged portion with zeros.

DVDs and CDs are of course made for skipping chapters/tracks, but for jumping back a few seconds or a minute tape is much easier to use.

DVDs are mastered with a keyframe every 1/2 second, so it's actually quite easy to handle seeking accurately. Cheapo DVD players just... don't.

Re:Waste of time... (1)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134854)

DVDs are mastered with a keyframe every 1/2 second, so it's actually quite easy to handle seeking accurately. Cheapo DVD players just... don't.

1/2 sec is 15 frames on ntsc.. My 20 years old Panasonic video recorder is accurate to the frame with fast forward/reverse, so is my relatively new and ultracheap Aiwa. The first is a lot easier to use then the later, but the cheap Aiwa still beats virtually all 'consumer grade' DVD players out there easily.

Re:Waste of time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135136)

"I'd love to see your vinyl-based video recording system."


As you wish, sir.


Voila. [cedmagic.com]

Re:Waste of time... (1)

VoiceOfRaisin (554019) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135910)

"I'd love to see your vinyl-based video recording system."

um.. there was vinyl videodiscs..
they were called CEDs (Capacitance Electronic Discs) and made by RCA.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SelectaVision [wikipedia.org]

Memoirs of a taping geek (1)

MsGeek (162936) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135658)

If you've ever seen the Anime OAV "Otaku no Video" you might remember the guy who was a videotaping freak. That was me from about 1987 until 2 years ago when I canceled my cable TV. I have boxes and boxes and shelves full of VHS tapes, primarily of movies and TV series, but also stuff from my tape trading days. It used to be that you couldn't download fansubbed anime, you would have to trade tapes with people. Tape traders lived by a strict code. No money was to change hands...you "repaid" your fellow tape trader with blank tape and stamps, or a nominal sum to cover blank tape and postage. If a legit release came out of a particular title, you stopped circulating the tape.

I have been thinking about getting a DVD recorder, but have been hesitant due to the expense. However, they are coming down in price. And now that I have a camcorder (thank you eBay) I have a need to burn footage to DVD+R to free up the expensive little DV tapes it consumes. And they *are* expensive, dammit. $4/tape! Damn, I remember when Maxell, TDK and Fuji VHS tape were that price...now they're a buck a tape or less.

It's amusing to look at my little chibi-DV camcorder and think about the gargantuan machine Ampex built. The thing fits in the palm of my hand. The tapes are about 2" x 1" x 1/4". And you can hear the mechanism wrapping the tape around the helical scan drum just like with any other videotape format. And DV tape is on its way out as a standard, replaced by mini-DVD and in camera hard drives. Looks like DV tape is going to eventually wind up at Total Rewind [totalrewind.org] on display. Oh well, it's working for me now.

Re:Waste of time... (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134873)

The wikipedia does lack some of the unnecessary fluff, bit it seems a bit shorter on anything outside the pure technical details of the hardware. eg

[TVT article]
It was the star of the convention and even though Ampex had set a selling price of $45,000 for production models (more than $320,000 in 2006 dollars), orders were written that week for more than 70 machines. (Market research conducted prior to the show indicated that there would be a demand for no more than a dozen globally.)
and
Even so, sales orders were being written on an almost non-stop basis. According to one source, Ampex ran out of sales forms and was writing orders on any scrap of paper they had at hand.

[wikipedia]
Both demonstrations were a success, and as a result, Ampex was swamped with orders for the new 2 inch Quad VTR.

There do appear to be details in the tvt article that are interesting but missing from the wikipedia article.

Re:Waste of time... (2, Interesting)

Matrix2110 (190829) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134945)

I have not RTFA but your post bring back the hard memories...

I had to go to work with 50lbs of recording machinery with another 20lbs of batteries in the snow...

Those darn 2" recorders were so very heavy.

Having said that, the current generation of camcorders and 5 megapixle cellphones don't know what they have in the palm of the hand.

At least I know.

Re:Waste of time... (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135372)

I had to go to work with 50lbs of recording machinery with another 20lbs of batteries in the snow...

Uphill both ways? Barefoot?

Cmon, how hard was it? :)

Dont Be Jealous (0)

loco13 (827450) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134615)

Cristopher Columbus broke asked a question "How do you make an egg stand on its end?" ... Many people tried to balance the egg, but no one had an answer.... It's Simple, you tap one of the ends gently on its end and once this end has a flat surface, you can balance the egg with no effort. This is the same when he discovered that his theory was correct: The world is round! Everyone before him didnt know it was round, yet when he could prove it, everyone said: That is obvious, the world is not flat, its round. The same goes with the tape recorder, some idiot may say, well, its no big deal, its just an analog signal on tape, but it took 6 intelligent people to work out how to do it. Dont be jealous.

Re:Dont Be Jealous (1)

Tezkah (771144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134625)

Cristopher Columbus broke asked a question "How do you make an egg stand on its end?"

Listen, I'm pretty sure the video tape recorder was not invented by someone posting drunk on slashdot.

Actually... (3, Informative)

Sirch (82595) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134674)

... there wasn't widespread belief of a flat Earth at the time of Christopher Columbus. This misconception is generally attributed to Washington Irving [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Actually... (1)

loco13 (827450) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134684)

Yeah ok, you missed the point, well Im sure everyone that was around during that time period knew the world was round, that's why they didnt want to explore the seas....

Re:Actually... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15134766)

They didn't want to explore the seas because... IT WAS DANGEROUS ! Not because they believed the earth was flat.

Re:Dont Be Jealous (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134708)

The question at the time was of the size of the earth, and whether there were more landmasses to be found west of Europe (aside from those already discovered by going east).

Re:Dont Be Jealous (1)

penguin-collective (932038) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135159)

Actually, people had established experimentally for at least a couple of thousand years prior to Columbus that the earth was round.

Much of the population and lots of politicians were unfamiliar with science at the time, but that hasn't changed.

Still can't fit it through the doorway (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134622)

...because it is irrevocably tied to a bunch of other stuff in a big tangle of cables.

wtf (0, Troll)

Loktar Ogar (960557) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134638)

Seriously I saw this on Digg like 50 years ago!

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135638)

That was funny. (sadly I don't have mod points)

Betamax (2, Interesting)

glas_gow (961896) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134653)

We had one of the first betamax videos when they came out. We had it for a couple of months ... during the world cup in Mexico my father sat up until 2am programming the thing to record every game. Then a few weeks later some ****ers broke into the house and stole the thing, along with all my father's world cup tapes. By that time VHS was taking over, and since we didn't know anyone who'd had a VHS stolen, we replaced those lovely DAT-like betamax tapes for the horror, the horror, of chewed VHS tape.

Tape rules, bring back the audio cassette (only this time clean yer heads and don't use anything bigger than a C60).

Re:Betamax (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134754)

lovely DAT-like betamax tapes

I think you are off by an order of magnitude, but not two.

Cool article: disruptive technology (3, Insightful)

AaronLawrence (600990) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134657)

This is cool because it reminds us what can happen when a *real* innovation is created, instead of version X+1 of existing software program with new feature Y.

People go crazy, you make more money than you can dream of, the world changes.

That's what geeks should dream to do...

Except that this isn't true (2, Informative)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134689)

If you read the article you can read that this vcr was a X+1 technology. Not only does the article mention two previous video recorders from wich lessons were learned it also makes the link that a video recorder is just a audio recorder +1

Neither did it create a truly new product kinescope already existed and provided a pretty similar function. Just slower.

So what this really proves is that most tech is based on other tech and that devices wich the average human considers revolutionary are in fact evolutionary.

Funny that even after reading an article that constantly mentions how the various parts of the video recorder existed before you still claim to be innovative.

It is, but because they got existing tech to work better and together.

Re:Except that this isn't true (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134901)

It's funny that even after reading his post you come to the conclusion that he read the article ;-)

Except that this isn't true-Ev. VS. Rev. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135440)

The GP's post is basically another "I hate IP". They want you to think that IP is always about everything being wholely unique, but there are many reasons why an invention isn't an island into itself. BTW software is no exception to this rule. The important lesson we should glean from the story is that hindsight is a strong force, blinding us towards the evolutionary nature of most of our useful inventions, and we shouldn't forget that evolutionary or revolutionary, hard work and peserverance is involved, and that's what IP rewards. Not the invention itself.

Re:Except that this isn't true (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135748)

I think you're wrong about it being X+1 technology. The other video tape recording techniques simply didn't work, so they don't count as X. Kinescope could not play back immediately or be erased (and the picture quality really sucked), so it doesn't count either. There truly was nothing like the VTR before Ampex made one. Otherwise they wouldn't have received such a deafening round of applause and 70 orders in a weekend.

The cell phone was a similar technology revolution. There truly was nothing like it - a portable phone that could dial anyone in the world - before Motorola made those big bricks in 1983. Any cellphone since is evolutionary.

Re:Cool article: disruptive technology (2, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134735)

This is cool because it reminds us what can happen when a *real* innovation is created

I wonder how many people in the audience were saying "This'll ruin the movie industry. We'd better kill it off before that happens".

Re:Cool article: disruptive technology (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134761)

it reminds us what can happen when a *real* innovation is created

I think CD was like that. Not so sure about DVD though.

Re:Cool article: disruptive technology (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135721)

>I think CD was like that. Not so sure about DVD though.

DVD, to the consumer, was X+1. Essentially a CD for moving pictures, and was received as "it's about time", not "what an amazing, unexpected development."

Audio cassette tape might have been more important, but it took Ampex so long to make it available for consumers (due to IP constraints!), that it was also received with derision.

Actually it was Wayne Green, W2NSD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15134779)

Wayne Green, the founder of Byte Magazine actually invented the video recorder when he suggested hetrodyne techniques to frequency shift the signal so that it would fit into the bandwidth availble on magnetic tape.

Truly we're at the end of an era. (3, Insightful)

johnnywheeze (792148) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134793)

Very nostalgic, for those of us who work with broadcast VTR's on a daily basis. I can still thread a quad machine in a pinch, but even I can't wait to get rid of tape completely.

The next generation of broadcasters are going to look at tape like we look at recording on wax cylinders.

Good to see it's beginning, and even better to see its end. It's time has passed.

Re:Truly we're at the end of an era. (2, Interesting)

Eagleartoo (849045) | more than 8 years ago | (#15134917)

We may be at the end of an era, but beta and VHS won't give in without a fight, I'm a master control operator for our local NBC affiliate and we still have an odetics beta tape machine, purchased back in 94, twelve years and I look at that beast with such disdain because it is so freakin huge! and to do the same job that one digital server does for the commercials for our sister station. While other stations are upgrading to fully digital stations (i.e. news, operations, production, master control) we "cannot afford the upgrade". Beta because it is a better product that VHS has held it's own and will continue to serve a vital function to the media. Although the video that we record to analog went from analog to digital beemed thousands of miles into space and back to be prossesed from digital back to analog onto Beta tapes that shouldn't be run through the machine more than 50 times so that they maintain integrity. Tapes probably get run closer to 300+ times through our VTRs. I would like to see Beta scrapped, but while we are at it sattelite's are also on the decline due to network video servers which we are now pulling a show off of. As to the idea of throwing your TV out, for someone who watches 12 hours of it a day, I'd highly recommend it, of course if everyone stopped watching TV I'd have to find another job.

Re:Truly we're at the end of an era. (2, Interesting)

spada_gyp (968623) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135551)

Can we be so sure that the tape era is dead? In the remote sensing (satellite measured data) area the main storage method is still magnetic tape. It simply can store more data and is reliable for storing data long term. This point reminds me of the comment made by somebody in IBM a while back regarding writable cdroms and how they are not reliable in the long term (yet). Furthermore it is a bit of a concern when people store there digital photos on a medium that has yet to be truly tested in the long term. Current historians look at faded photos a hundred years old which still tell a story. Will a cdrom or dvd burned today be able to do the same in a hundred years.....

Re:Truly we're at the end of an era. (1)

Pontiac (135778) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135796)

Yeah it takes me back to my Brodcast TV days too..

I wonder how may people here even know what a quad is.

For those who don't it's a 2" wide reel to reel video tape system.
It has an air drivin head and is quite the beast.

The station I worked for had 2 Ampex VR1200's, 2 RCA TR-50's and at the end of the quad era at theat station we picked up an Ampex AVR-1.. That thing was cool.

We ran those in production untill 1999 when they were retired for a digital library (think SAN with a video playback control system)

I miss those days

Is it the cowboy or is it the horse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15134942)

That was the question asked of the first working demo because the video was so bad. I had the priviledge of meeting Fred on several occassions, he is quite the tinkerer. He was working on several projects at once the last time I spoke with him at FAUG(First Amiga Users Group). He was working on a an automatic pool cue (spring loaded to help the novice deliver th right english). Distributed GPS (using modems!) to get 1 inch accuracy, and one other thing that escapes me now. What struck me each time I met him was that: If he was on the team, they were lucky to make the VTR work and the second one was that they were lucky to have him. He was that kind of unorthodox guy who could simultaneously seem the mad scientist and creative genius at the same time.

Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15134998)

The first VTR was the BBC's VERA. Although it had limited tape life, it was the *first*.

Yet another example of the Merkans (US-Anians) thinking they were there first, and now here they are, rewriting history. Twats.

Re:Rubbish (1)

szyzyg (7313) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135307)

Yep, you know some of them still think they invented the computer too, another British achievement that was less publicised than the american version half a decade later.

The date was, April 14, 1956 (3, Funny)

nblender (741424) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135039)

The time was ..... 12:00 .... 12:00 .... 12:00 ..... 12:00 .... 12:00 .... 12:00 (Apologies to those of you who are 30yo and have no idea what I'm talking about).

Auto Focus (2, Interesting)

sharrestom (531929) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135041)

There was a film a couple of years back about Hogan's Heroes' Bob Crane called "Auto Focus" starring Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe. He was one of the first to use the new "portable" VTR from Sony for sex video's. I googled up this: http://crimemagazine.com/bobcrane.htm [crimemagazine.com]

Damn the RIAA for not stopping this then! (3, Funny)

jocknerd (29758) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135050)

They unleashed a monster. Could have nipped it in the bud back in the 50's.

Disc recording came first (2, Informative)

b1t r0t (216468) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135262)

This was a seeming impossibility, as the only means for preserving video images was kinescope recording, a process in which a special motion picture camera photographed a television monitor. When the recording was finished, the film had to be removed and sent away for developing. Under normal circumstances, this could take hours.

Actually, it wasn't the only way. In the late 1920s, back when cameras were still mechanical-scan, there were people in the UK who had hooked up vinyl disc recorders (search for "phonovision") to their primitive television sets and recorded a few programs. Not only did they record programs, but they actually used them for time-shift viewing!

The video recorder wasn't trivial. The problem was getting enough octaves of bandwidth for the video signal. And the bandwidth was directly related to the head-to-tape speed. Using transverse or helical scan (transverse scan is really just helical scan at a very sharp angle), you can increase the head speed enough for video. Later, color added another problem, and a technique called "color under" was used which shifted the chroma information to another band.

Laserdisc isn't really much different, except that it has enough bandwidth to not need color-under. And no, just because it has pits and non-pits, it is NOT digital, though the audio can be. The distance between the pit edges represents a wideband analog signal, with four sub-bands for audio and one for video.

Slashdot lag? (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135270)

Some of the stories on Slashdot can be a bit dated, but this happened fifty years ago and /. is only reporting on it now?

- RG>

Pornography Liberation Day! (2, Funny)

LibertineR (591918) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135275)

Why no national holiday? The VCR did more to take Pornography from the seedy theater into your homes. In fact, were it not for the VCR, many people would still be thinking of motor oil whenever the subject of 'lube' came up.

Video?! I'll use video (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135286)

when they pry my B&H Filmo-70DR from my cold dead fingers.

Who really invented the video tape recorder? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135614)

Claiming that only six men invented this video tape recorder is simply nonsense. The Ampex work - only one of the projects that independently invented video tape recording - depended on that done by thousands of earlier workers in the field. Ampex in the 1950s had to have given to them magnetic tape recording technology of a highly developed sort (including AC bias - most of the development work was done in Germany), as well as the idea of recording video signals (first demonstrated by Baird - Scottish - on disc in the 1920s) and putting video signals on tape (worked out in principle in 1932 by Schroeter - German).

Some of the highlights of the groundwork that let Ampex put together a machine described by others using technology developed by others are mentioned here:
http://www.tvhandbook.com/History/History_timeline .htm [tvhandbook.com] . The reason they got the job done with such a small team is that very little was left to do bar `put the bits together to implement the method already described' (okay, okay, so they did have lots of new technical problems to overcome and I bet it was hell to get it to work properly and I am in fact very impressed with what they achieved (I couldn't do it, could I?) - but... It wasn't *that* big a deal and lots of people other than those working directly for Ampex were responsible for designing it.)

There was a separate video tape recorder project running at the BBC (UK), which resulted in VERA coming into service two years after Ampex first demonstrated its video tape recorder. This was designed by BBC engineers and did not depend on Ampex research at all.

http://www.nmpft.org.uk/insight/downloads/Introduc tionVideoRecorder.asp [nmpft.org.uk]

Hugh Hefner's "VCR" (1)

seven of five (578993) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135781)

An old (1970?) copy of Audio magazine toured Hugh Hefner's 'Playboy Mansion' and gave details of his gear and gadgets. A big reel-to-reel video recorder was pictured along with a library of Hef's favorite movies. Wow. Watch whatever movie you wanted, right in your living room. Hot stuff for the day.

Reflection (1)

Blue0ctane (968508) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135943)

But 50 years ago, they didn't realize that any idiot would be able to go out with a $100 video camera and take countless videos of their friends doing stupid stunts with absolutely no meaning. No theme, no posture, just footage of people jumping off of buildings.
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