Bring back the C9

Andy H

Beta machines: SL-C9UB To be honest, I don't actually own a Beta machine myself, but my Dad and grandfather both had C9s, bought as end of line deals, as they were cheaper than VHS machines at the time! My Nan was the first person in our family to own a VCR - she had a Sanyo Beta (a VTC 5000 I think), which I spent many happy hours watching cartoons on, though that disappeared a long time ago. It had a handy 1 event timer, so when you went out you had to choose what channel you wanted to record for the evening and stick with it! Unfortunately, both our C9s died in about 1992/3; one with a failed DC-DC converter, and the head went in the other.

My Grandfather had the great idea of using parts from one machine to fix the other, and a head transplant later we had a working machine again! For a 20 year old design it works beautifully - the tape transport is the best I have ever used in a VCR and puts modern VHS decks to shame, nothing else can flick forward and back between still frames in the blink of an eye without clunking and whirring for several seconds to change direction. The picture quality is only beaten by my fairly new Panasonic NICAM video (and the tape transport in that takes an age to respond to anything!) Cue and review have far less noise than most modern VHS VCRs too, and still frames are pretty good for a 2 head machine.

Using the C9 is fantastic - it's like being taken back in time; lots of flashing lights on the front panel and no on screen display - you don't need a tv to program the timer; just a degree in Physics :-) For such an old design it has an amazing range of features that modern VCRs still don't have; "Go to Zero" is so much more logical than a "counter memory", and absolute APS search, i.e. put in an index number and it'll find it without being told to go forward or back from the current tape position; it knows (though i've never worked out how). Try doing that on all but the latest "Tape management" VCRs! It did have it's idiosyncrasies, like separate pause buttons for play and record on the front panel (though I think they did the same thing) and tuner controls on the top of the case, but I forgive it almost anything for having such a great tape transport!

I grew up with Beta, and even today the C9 is a fantastic machine; I just wish there was a VHS equivalent!

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Submitted Saturday, October 19, 2002 at 05:06:39 GMT