Discover Videodisc, The Forgotten ’80s Format That Played Movies Like A Turntable
Get ready for the Capacitance Electronic Disc vinyl revival.
Can you imagine a alternate reality where video DJs mixed vinyl just like your favorite club DJs? Where you could spin back Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, scratch Terminator, or slam in sci-fi visuals as easily as techno tracks? Perhaps if things had gone a little bit differently back in the ’80s, this idea wouldn’t seem so farfetched.
From modular video synthesizers to raved-up, glitchy demo competitions, audio-visual setups have always been full of weird ideas, but RCA’s Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED) system definitely has to be one of the strangest. Essentially a vinyl video format, the system was such a glorious flop for RCA that it caused the collapse the company. By the time the technology was actually released for the public—17 years after conception—it had already been rendered obsolete by the laser disc, which left the vinyl video system looking like an archaic analog quirk to be forgotten as people rushed to join the digital revolution.
But putting aside the lack of technical foresight and the estimated $600 million lost on its production costs, the CED videodisc is truly worth checking out. RCA managed to increase the density of a long-playing record by two orders of magnitude, meaning that its vinyl could eventually store an entire film; plus, these films were packaged in beautiful 12″ cases containing in-depth descriptions of the features, just like LPs.
Sure, the entire concept borders on the gloriously absurd. But with vinyl sales on the rise and new artistic practices marrying new and dated technologies, perhaps the videodisc is due for a revival. If so, we can imagine the perfect vinyl-purist, audio-visual parties cropping up everywhere.
Go on, check out two extensive looks into CED in the videos above, and try not to be impressed.