Betamax: Next best thing to time travel!

Jesse Skeen

E-mail: alnsmthe*
Web URL:
Current Beta Machines: SLHF-400

I got a Superbeta Hi Fi with stereo tuner for $60 at a junk shop, a real bargain. I got it just because I have to have every video format ever made so I don't have to worry about not having anything to play something on I might find. (This is also why I got a CED videodisc player, but that has turned into an obsession; this format is such a notorious failure and so eccentric that I've devoted most of my life to finding every title made for it!)

Anyway, last year at a thrift shop in town I usually go to once every week, I found a few really old Beta tapes. One was labeled and I couldn't believe it: "60 Minutes- 1/1/78" I grabbed it and several others that were also dated 1978, I had to endure an entire day of work before I could go home and play them. I feared that they would be worn beyond playability, oor all the conmmercials would be edited out. When I played the first tape I coudn't believe how clear it was. It was absolutely PERFECT, no noise or anything, and the reception when it was recorded was perfect too. I thought there was no way this could be from 1978, it must have been a recent rebroadcast of the show. Then the commercial break started, and my jaw dropped when I saw it was a commercial for the 1978 Ford Thunderbird! Absolutely incredible. Sadly the second commercial break was cut, a Ford Futura commercial started out with a voice saying "Ford announces Futura: a new car for 1978- and beyond!" then click! Back to the show. Very heartbreaking but there was still lots more valuable stuff.

After 60 Minutes the rest of the tape was filled with a continuous afternoon of ABC Sports. This is not only THE oldest video recording in my entire collection, but the most often watched as well. In fact it was one of the first things I watched upon delievery of my new 40-inch Mitsubishi picture tube TV. There's something very strange about watching something on a TV that was impossible to even imagine at the time this stuff was broadcast. One of the other tapes had a later 1978 ad for the "breakthrough" Zenith System 3 TV, showing the TV being assembled as the parts fly through space. I have about 5 VHS tapes recorded from 1980 through 1982, at EP speed, that while perfectly watchable show much more signs of their age than these Betas.

I'd like everyone who's reading this to know that I'm ALWAYS looking for tapes of old TV broadcasts, around 1981 or earlier, taped off TV, doesn't matter what it is as long as the commercials are not cut out. I'll trade copies of any of my stuff too. And if you owned a VCR back in the 70's and always stopped the tape during commercials, I hereby sentence you to a lifetime of being tied up in discarded VHS tape from damamged Blockbuster rentals, and being forced to watch an EP speed copy of "Ace Ventura" on VHS, in mono and made without the aid of a Macrovision eliminator. ;)

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Submitted Wed Nov 20 23:55:55 1996