Ampex 2 inch helical VTR
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From 1963 to 1970, Ampex manufactured several models of VTR 2 inch helical VTRs, capable of recording and playing back analog black & white video. Recording employed non-segmented helical scanning, with one wrap of the tape around the video head drum being a little more than 180 degrees, using two video heads. One video drum rotation time was two fields of video. The units had two audio tracks recorded on the top edge of the tape, with a control track recorded on the tape's bottom edge. The 2" wide video tape used was one mil (0.001 in or 0.0254mm) thick. The VTRs were mostly used by industrial companies, educational institutions, and a few for in-flight entertainment.
The capstan tape speed is 3.7 inches per second, which provided a long record time of up to 5 five hours on large reels. The units were 100% solid state. The Ampex 2 inch helical VTRs were popular, as they were priced much less that the 2 inch quadruplex videotape recorders used in the broadcast television industry at the time.
On March 14, 1961, Ampex introduced the first helical scan video recorder, the VR-8000, which recorded video using helical scan recording technology on 2 inch tape. The VR-8000 was made using a similar chassis used by Ampex's 2 inch quadruplex VTRs. Unlike the VR-660, it used only one video head on the scanner with a full alpha wrap. The first unit was working in Jan. of 1961.
Only four VR-8000s were manufactured, sold, and delivered to customers. The units had a number of problems, so they were later replaced with VR-1100 machines, a quadruplex-format machine. The VR-8000 was advertised by Ampex as being ideal for closed-circuit video, and for educational & training applications. Employees of Ampex at the time reported that the company kept a VR-8000 hidden behind a wall at the 1960 National Association of Broadcasters convention, kept hidden just in case a competitor showed a helical scan VTR (they could then reveal the VR-8000 if the scenario arose, as a competing product). No other companies at NAB showed a helical scan VTR, so the VR-8000 stayed hidden.
VR 1500 was first shown in December 1962. It was the first consumer-marketed VTR commercially available, and was also packaged as part of a high end home entertainment center for consumers as the Signature V.
The Signature V system came with a VR-1500 VTR, a black & white video camera, and a television set with tuner. It also contained an audio system with AM/FM tuner, stereo amplifier, an open-reel audio tape recorder, and stereo loudspeakers. The video camera included with the system was very large, weighing about a 100 pounds. The complete system was sold by the Neiman-Marcus department store for about $30,000, and was featured in their 1963 catalog. The Signature V console containing all the equipment was nine feet long and weighed 900 pounds, only one was sold.
The VR-660 VTR was first introduced in December 1962, and was the professional version of the VR-1500. It weight was 130 lbs and 1/4 the cost of a 2 inch quad VTR. Continental Airlines used the VR-660 for movies shown as part of their in-flight entertainment system. For Apollo 11, NASA installed a VR-660 as part of a slow-scan video system for recording at Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station in Australia. The slow-scan television video transmitted from Apollo 11 had a resolution of 250 TV lines at 10 frames per second, where it was then converted using equipment at the tracking station to standard 525-line 30 frames-per-second NTSC video, and then recorded to the VR-660.
The U.S. Air Force used 6 hour VR-660 VTRs in B-52 bombers to record bombing runs during the Vietnam War and during training exercises. The first helical scan VTR used in broadcast TV stations was the VR-660. Later versions of the VR-660 had a color option, the VR-660C with an external color adapter. An optional electronic editor ("Edicon") also was available in later models. The VR-600 was used both for mobile and studio TV applications. Its list price in 1963 was $14,500.
Joint efforts with Sony and then Toshiba
Ampex worked with Sony in 1960 on helical VTR agreements, this joint effort did not work out as Ampex had hoped. In September 1964 Ampex entered into joint venture with Toshiba. In 1961 Sony showed a 2 inch helical VTR, the model SV-201. Only a few were made, and the 1962 cost for a SV-201 was $10,000.00. The SV-201 was the first VTR to have stop and one frame at a time play back. It did not meet U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) specifications for broadcastable videotape formats for television at the time. The SV-201 was a vacuum tube based unit and had a total weight of about 440 pounds / 200 kg. The PV-100 was Sony's second model of 2 inch helical VTR. The PV100 was solid state and had a total weight of about 132 pounds / 60 kg. The VR-420 VTR was one of the Toshiba-Ampex's joint venture VTRs.
General specifications of the VR-1500
Length: 29-7/8 inches (75.9 cm) Depth: 17-38 inches (44.1 cm) Height: 14-5/8 inches (37.1 cm) Weight: 100 pounds (45 kg)
- POWER REQUIREMENTS
105 to 125 volts AC, 60 Hz, 4 Amps peak (VTR furnished with one 117 VAC utility outlet, rated at 100 Watts maximum)
3.7 in/S (9.4 cm/S)
- RECORDING TIME
- a. 40 minutes for a 6-1/2 inch reel (750 feet)
- b. 90 minutes for an 8 inch reel (1650 feet)
- c. 195 minutes (3 hrs 15 min.) for a 6-1/2 inch reel (3600 feet)
- d. 300 minutes (5 hrs) for a 12-1/2 inch reel (5540 feet, 1 mile+) at 25 pounds.
+/-3 dB, 10 Hz to 3 MHz
40 dB or better on interchange tapes, p-p video to RMS noise
B-wind tape tape comes off the right side reel, with the oxide surface facing out.
- Type A videotape
- 1 inch type B videotape
- 1 inch type C videotape
- IVC videotape format about the IVC 2 inch helical VTR, Model 9000
- Video tape recorder (VTR)
- The History of Television, 1942 to 2000, By Albert Abramson, Christopher H. Sterling, page 93.
- Labguysworld, VTR TimeLine
- terramedia.co.uk Photo and text of Toshiba VTR
- Winner take all: how competitiveness shapes the fate of nations, By Richard J. Elkus (Jr.), page 114
- Lab guy world VR-420
- Lab guy world VR-420 color photo
- Lab Guys World VR-1500
- Lab Guys World Ampex Cat
- Lab Guys World Ampex VR-1550 and VR-660
- Lab Guys World Ampex VR-660B
- Lion Lamb Ampex page
- Rewind Museum complete VR-1500 system add
- Lab Guys World Ampex Cat with VR-660 and VR-8000 info
- DC Video VR 660 page
- Tonband Museum
- video preservation and conservation us.org museum
- fundinguniverse.com Ampex History
- columbiaisa, Consumer & Professional Video Formats, Video Formats: history
- DC video VR-600 page
- Vintage Ad Browser. electronics ad for VR-1500
- Sony.com History Page
- Sony.net History Page
- Lab Guys World Sony Sony 2 inch helical VTR page
- Electronics World Magazine - December, 1963