Friday, June 5, 2009

Amusing But Obsolete Technology #1

Gearhounds tend to have a bit of a soft spot for interesting technology that was crushed by a disinterested market place. The case at hand: the RCA Selectavision Capacitance Electronic Disk (CED) video system. Released to the world at roughly the same time as the Laserdisc and its optical pick up, the CED system actually uses a needle that tracks the disk and renders the movie via modulated capacitance. Really. I am not capable of making this up. Ok, I am, but I swear I am not.

RCA Selectavision seems to have lived from 1981 until RCA was purchased by GE in 1986.

One still occasionally comes across the interestingly packaged 12" disks in thrifts, usually Butch Cassidy. The disk actually lives inside the hard plastic sleeve until loaded into player. The sleeve is removed and the disk stays. But the players are very rare these days. Until two days ago my last encounter with a player was about 10 years ago. Laserdisc players are much more common, maybe approaching 100 LDs for every Selectavision player that I have ever encountered in a thrift. Selectavision died young compared to laserdiscs.

A few days ago I found an RCA SFT 100 in very good condition for $4.20 after my my 30% senior discount at Savers. (I was shocked to see that this same player went for $305 on ebay recently. Wow.) As a resident in good standing at the Home for the Easily Amused, I made the purchase and took it by the Home, otherwise known as Austin Stereo Service.

Mike happened to have a few disks around and 'Pumping Iron', the movie that eventually led to the bankruptcy of California, was tried out.

After a few missteps akin to Gerry Ford eating the corn husk with the tamale we fired it up and it worked!

Here is Arnold's bicep attempting to devour Mike's tv. The observant among you will note that the player only draws 38 watts while pumping Arnold out to the screen. The picture quality was quite good. This format's ability to fast forward is truly astounding. You can rip to the end of the video in seconds in non-display mode, and fast forward display retains its video quality.

All in all this player was a great addition to the Stereo Club collection. Now we all need to pull those Selectavision disks we have been saving out of the closet and see how they look...

1 comment:

Justin Block said...

I was at the Savers on Burnet yesterday, and on the rack by the register, they have several of those RCA discs for sale. Good stuff, like the Godfather I and II, High Noon, etc.

Thought it was timely with your post and all.