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Video disk recorder announced

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Video disk recorder announced 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1990, The Syracuse Newspapers

Panasonic announced a long-awaited breakthrough in video recording last week. The company said it will start selling a tapeless video recorder by this fall.

The recorder uses a laser to record a videodisc. Panasonic said the laser disks can be erased and recorded again virtually any number of times. Current laser video disks cannot be erased at all.

The new recorder is being marketed for professional use and is expected to cost many thousands of dollars. But industry sources say Panasonic and other manufacturers are already developing consumer versions, and they are likely to reach the market 12 to 18 months from now.

The Panasonic disc recorder, which was demonstrated to television broadcasters the first week in April, is superior to video tape recorders in every area of performance. Both pictures and sound are sharper and steadier.

Laser disc recordings are also much sturdier than tape, and can be expected to last for centuries.

But the biggest advantage of the disc system comes from the instant accessibility of every part of the recording. Because the video information is contained on a spinning disc, the recorder's laser head can move to any point on the disc in a fraction of a second.

This means that one of the hardest tasks for pros and amateurs a like -- editing a video recording -- will at last become easy. On the Panasonic laser recorder, individual still frames can be ordered up onto the screen by punching a few buttons, and scenes can be mixed and matched as easily as pressing 1-2-3.

Panasonic sees a large demand for its new recorder among TV studios, advertising agencies and the producers of training videos. But the biggest market is yet to come -- the huge consumer arena, where laser video recorders are likely to replace VCRs over the next few years.

Panasonic and other Japanese companies are working on consumer versions of the professional system. However, they aren't likely to be released until the companies agree on a common format for the way the recordable disc operates. No one wants a repeat of the format war that killed Sony's excellent Beta system and left consumers confused.

Non-recordable, play-only video disks have been around for about 15 years. RCA's video disk, which worked like a very-fine-groove LP record, quickly died out, but a system developed by Phillips and Pioneer survived and continues to have a small, loyal following today.

The Phillips-Pioneer system also uses laser disks, but they cannot be recorded on. Although both are 12 inches in diameter, the physical format of these disks is incompatible with the format of the new Panasonic disks.

In an unrelated development, Panasonic announced that it will start selling a digital cassette recorder in North America later this year. The new DAT (digital audio tape) machine probably will sell for more than $1,000.

Other manufacturers also are planning to sell DAT recorders here, but some apparently are waiting for the next stage in digital audio -- the audio equivalent of the record-and-erase laser video disk.

These recordable audio disks will be the same size as CDs and may even be compatible with present CD players. When they become available in another year or so, they are likely to take sales away from DAT recorders.

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