The History of Video Tape and Camera

Posted: September 24, 2007 in Video Production

Charles Ginsburg led the research team at Ampex Corporation in developing the first practical videotape recorder (VTR). In 1951, the first video tape recorder (VTR) captured live images from television cameras by converting the information into electrical impulses and saving the information onto magnetic tape. Ampex sold the first VTR for $50,000 in 1956.The first VCassetteR or VCR were sold by Sony in 1971.

Ampex VRX-1000 – The First Commercial Videotape Recorder

Charles Ginsburg led the Ampex research team that developed a new machine that could run the tape at a much slower rate because the recording heads rotated at high speed, allowing the necessary high-frequency response.
Charles Paulson Ginsburg known as the “father of the video cassette recorder

Video Recording
In the early days, film was the only medium available for recording television programmes. Thoughts turned to magnetic tape, which was already being used for sound, but the greater quantity of information carried by the television signal demanded new studies. During the 1950s, a number of American companies began investigating the problem.

Image Dissector television camera tube and television receiver
Philo T. Farnsworth – 1929

Television Cameras
In the 1920s, American engineer, Philo Taylor Farnsworth devised the television camera, an image dissector, which converted the image captured into an electrical signal.

Television Cameras
The pick-up tube is the main element governing the technical quality of the picture obtained by the camera. The first electronic cameras using iconoscope tubes were characterised by very large lenses, necessary to ensure enough light reached the pick-up tube.

Iconoscope Television Camera Tube
Conceived in 1923 by V.K. Zworykin, the iconoscope was used in the Radio Corporation of America’s first public television broadcasts in 1939. The scene to be televised was focused on a light-sensitive mosaic of tiny globules of treated silver, which assumed an electric charge proportional to the strength of the illumination. A narrow scanning beam, shot from an electron gun and traced across the mosaic by magnetic deflection coils, caused a succession of voltages to pass to a signal plate. The picture signal then passed to an amplifier for transmission to a television receiver.

Video Stills
The still video or digital camera (the Sony Mavica single-lens reflex) was first demonstrated in 1981. It used a fast-rotating magnetic disc, two inches in diameter, recording on it up to 50 images formed in a solid-state device in the camera. The images were played back through a television receiver or monitor, or printed out.

VHS – Video tape in a large cassette format introduced by both JVC and Panasonic around 1976. This has been the most popular format for home use and video store rentals, however, it will be replaced by mini dv tapes and dvds. VHS stands for Video Home System.



  1. cecepswp says:

    Be patient please 🙂

  2. well researched, interesting article. Keep up the good job.

  3. urmomma says:

    i need more for my report and who used it

  4. see Erhard Kietz’ work at Ampex 1959-1971 and the patents he developed for Ampex in the field of video recording.

  5. Nice overview for anyone new in the TV business. Always good to know where we come from,right? I remember having to lift those quad machines into a remote truck from time to time – and that was the laste 70’s……….ck

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