Saturday, February 17, 2007

My Vintage Laserdiscs

Also called a video disc, the laserdisc is a disc with pictures and sounds recorded onto it. It is read by laser and then transmitted to the TV screen. The material recorded onto the video disc is stamped on to the disc in a similar way that DVDs are produced. As with the early DVDs, the home user could not record onto a Laserdisc.

In the late 1970s, Philips and Sony brought video discs, later called laserdiscs, on to the market. It recorded images and sounds as tiny pits on the surface of the disc. Pioneer made use of the format as a form of karaoke entertainment which made the format popular in commercial circles of Asia. Laserdiscs were never really widely accepted as the discs could not be used to record and viewers were restricted to pre-recorded films. In addition, the hardware was expensive and therefore only the very serious video buffs were able to purchase the home laserdisc format. The average vdeo user was very happy with videotape due to its recording capabilities.

So, now that you know a little about the history of the laserdisc, what do they actually look like? Well, put it this way… DVD’s and laserdiscs look exactly alike except for a few differences. The diameter of a DVD is 12cm while the diameter of a laserdisc is 30cm which is about the same size of your old vinyl LPs. A movie can fit onto one side of a DVD while a movie fits on two sides of a Laserdisc. A DVD is recorded digitally while a laserdisc is recorded analogically. A DVD movie costs in the area of $25 where, when laserdiscs were selling movies, they cost $250! These are some of the main differences.

Needless to say, laserdiscs did not fly and were soon replaced with higher quality VHS tapes as well as the DVD. As a result, laserdiscs, though excellent in video quality, were erased into oblivion.

About four years ago, while out yard sale shopping, I purchased 100 laserdisc movies for a mere $50. I figured that I would resell them to laserdisc buffs over eBay but then decided to buy a laserdisc player and keep the movies. Since then, I have included many other movies to my collection for pennies compared to what they used to sell for. I could simply buy DVDs whose format is certainly better than laserdisc but, you know the way I am… I just love vintage! Most of the laserdiscs I buy are from the States and the laserdisc player I bought was from thousands of miles away in Western Canada. It is impossible to purchase new movies or players and so, it becomes an exercise in thinking outside the box to find exactly what you want for your collection.

Yesterday, I received a Laserdisc boxed set of Start Trek the Animated Series from Maryland, U.S.A. For over a year I had been looking for this boxed set and was pretty happy when it finally arrived. I have never seen any of these episodes before and am looking forward to checking a few of them out over this weekend. I could have bought a DVD boxed set of this series instead but it wasn’t the TV series that I bought it for as much as it was the format and scarcity of it.

Over the past few years, I have bought movies from all genres of interest including some of my favourites as well as ones that I had never even heard of. I am also considering buying a second laserdisc player since, if the one I have breaks years down the road, I might not be able to purchase another one. Have any of you seen an eight track player recently? If not, then you would know what I mean.

So… you know all about my vintage toys, my vintage windows, my vintage computers, my vintage family members and now my vintage laserdiscs. As time goes on, I will post about other vintage stuff that I have interest in. I would tell you about my vintage bottle of wine but that is not possible since I have to keep that story "sealed in the bottle" as it will only get better with age!

Have a great Saturday!


Hammer said...

I used to love that old crudely drawn star trek cartoon.

When I worked in a Karaoke place half the music was on laser disk and they would play even when they were scratched to oblivion.

I found a brand new laser disk CD player at a garage sale for 10 bucks and gave it to my Bro in law who had at least 500 movies and a broken player

Some of the movie rental places still had them up until about 5 years ago.

Passero said...

In Italy laserdisc was very expensive and it was used principally for karaoke.

Janice Thomson said...

You and Dad would get along great...Dad has collected all kinds of antique items many of which were donated to the local my great Grandmother's wedding dress and accessories-still very intact- from the mid 1800's...and an old RCA Victor phonograph player with the big horn etc....a much enjoyed read Dave.

Becky Wolfe said...

I remember seeing one of these big discs, when I was about 15 and thinking that they were a new, but expensive thechnology that would eventually make its way to my parents home. But my mom was and still is addicted to buying movies. I'm sure she has over 500 on VHS and is rapidly building her DVD collection. She purchased about 3 VCRs just in case her current ones ever died & they became obsolete in stores.

I'm glad for the compact size of DVDs that we have now!

[eric] said...

Good lord, I never knew those things were so big! Very informative post.

I remember they used to have some other format after the laserdisc but before the DVD, sort of like DVD's Beta. I should have to consult Wikipedia...