Race to the finish; RCA’s final gamble (CED Part 5)

Race to the finish; RCA’s final gamble (CED Part 5)


Now that we’ve looked at how rice cookers
work, it’s time to get back to the CED. Yes, we are now on Part 5 of this three-part
series… at some point this series will be over. Will this be the video that concludes it? Well, at the time that I’m writing these
words, it looks like it. But we won’t really know until we get to
the end, will we? So, let’s not beat around the bush and get
right to it. As a refresher, the CED is RCA’s ultimate
exercise in beating around the bush. An idea first conceived in the mid 1960’s,
but ultimately delayed into the 1980’s, and delayed for a ton of reasons mostly to
do with mismanagement and corporate politics. I’m gonna put these away now…. We left the story in the year ♫ Stars and Stripes Forever ♫ when Edgar Griffiths, a videodisc naysayer, took the helm at RCA. Things didn’t look too great for the project,
especially because their Japanese competition was beginning to heat up. But let’s not talk about that, let’s go
back to 1974. Uh-oh, here comes a twist! Back in 1974, RCA had sent representatives
to Japan to try and license their videodisc technology to Japanese manufacturers. Now, you might be saying to yourself, really? Didn’t you just say something about the
Japanese being competition? Wasn’t it the case that they didn’t have
anything to do with the CED? Well, in the end, this was largely true. But initially, RCA was trying – hoping – to establish their soon-to-be-called CED as a unifying standard in the industry. They offered really generous terms to various
Japanese companies, hoping that they could get lots of third-parties involved and avoid
a potential format war. There were a couple of big problems, though. First, these demonstrations in Japan didn’t
go so well. The demonstration units burned through playback
styluses like there was no tomorrow, and the discs were extremely hit-or-miss. To those within RCA who had expressed doubts
in the system, uh this only strengthened those doubts. And frankly, they saw the performance of the
system in Japan as an embarrassment. The second big problem? Well, RCA wouldn’t find out about that for
a little while. But, suffice it to say they let the cat out
of the bag, and way too early. They weren’t anywhere near done ironing
out the kinks, and the Japanese knew that. Matsushita specifically expressed concerns
about the disc manufacturing process, and had even suggested that RCA set up a manufacturing
plant in Japan to help take care of that problem. With suggestions like that, it sure seemed
like Matsushita was on RCA’s side. I mean, they’re being so helpful! They were among six companies that had taken
RCA up on their incredibly generous deal. For just $3,000, RCA sold them a prototype
player, sample discs, and engineering drawings. Whether this generosity was out of desperation
or whether RCA was perhaps irresponsible is unclear, but in any case, Matsushita signalled
that they were all in, and they began doing their own work on the concept. We are going to return now to the year ♫ Stars and Stripes Forever ♫ when Griffiths
(who remember did not care for this project) was now in charge of RCA at large. But one thing that you should know is that
JVC, that’s the Japan Victor Company, funnily enough born from the Victor Talking Machine
Company and thus at one point owned by RCA (at least until World War II broke out), was at this time owned by Matsushita. Interestingly, Graham refers in her book to
Matsushita as being JVC’s parent company, and … ehhh I’m not sure that’s really
the best way to put that. Wikipedia simply says they were the majority
stockholder, and Panasonic’s own website (Panasonic is the main consumer-facing brand
of Matsushita in the US) says they “formed a capital alliance” with JVC in 1954. In any case, Matsushita and JVC were good buds! Remember that. Up ‘till now, RCA had learned that basically
everything they were doing wasn’t working. The auto-coater didn’t improve disc yields
at all. The discs were still wicked fragile. Labs and the consumer division in Indianapolis
still weren’t working together all that well. And in general, it looked like Griffiths had
plenty of reasons to just axe this project. This was when Griffiths commissioned that
report comparing it to Betamax which you may recall from the last episode. And here’s where things stood. Richard Sonnefeldt, who was the head of the
videodisc project, argued that if they pulled out of videodisc, it would be strike three
for the company. Already their image wasn’t great what with
all the terrible business they had been doing, and they announced both Holotape and Magtape
without actually delivering. If they couldn’t move on this third incarnation
of SelectaVision… they’re out. Moreover, the promises they had made to their
Japanese investors were presumably still good. If they moved forward they could get perhaps
$100 million in licensing revenues. Even if the product ultimately failed, they
could still have some sort of licensing from other patents. Sonnenfeldt made the case that having come
this far, it would be silly to quit. And he believed that, given the progress they
had made, they could get it out in April of 1978. But that was still a ways off. And the Japanese were encroaching on RCA not
only with video recorders, but also with consumer electronics in general. No longer was buying a color television a
choice between RCA and Zenith. Now there’s Sony, Panasonic, and Hitachi,
among others. They were being squeezed out on all sides,
and their existing dealer network was getting tired of the situation. When it came time to make the final decision,
Griffiths gathered all 17 managers of the Videodisc project for a vote. Should we proceed? Or should we cut our losses? The vote was 1 in favor of withdrawal, 5 abstaintions,
and eleven votes to continue. Griffiths agreed to keep going, but as a compromise
measure, they would enter into negotiations with Sony and Matsushita to produce a videotape
recorder that they could market through their dealer network. And THAT’s how the SelectaVision name ended
up on VCRs from Matsushita before it ended up on their own damn product. Side-note, this is unrelated to the CED story,
but since its come up in the past on this channel, I feel I can’t ignore the fact
that right here, in this very meeting, the fate of the videotape format war was essentially sealed. Matsushita gave more favorable terms to RCA
than Sony, and importantly they went along and bodged a long-play recording mode for
them which Sony wasn’t willing to do. RCA’s decision to go with Matsushita and
the VHS format is likely the single most important event in the entire format war. In the years that followed, Griffiths became
somewhat of a convert. Perhaps the result of a critical mention in
a Fortune magazine article, or possibly in an effort to convince the folks at labs that he wasn’t
against them, Griffiths became gung-ho on making Videodisc happen. And progress was happening. They still hadn’t figured out the keys to
everything, but their 1977 technical checkpoint went pretty well. Plus, they had demonstrated their system to
GE and it seemed like they might be interested in working with RCA. It began to look like maybe, just maybe, RCA
could get other American companies to follow their lead. And then they returned to Japan to follow-up
with their partners over there when they were completely blindsided. JVC had been lurking in the background this
entire time, and they had created a working videodisc made without a complicated coating
and mastered using a simple optical method. This disc seemed to be almost in all respects
better than what RCA was working on. Some of you may have already guessed that
this disc is what would eventually go on to become the VHD, or Video High Density format. This new format was very similar to the CED. In fact, one might say, suspiciously similar. If you’d like to learn more about this format
you should check out Techmoan’s video on it. I’ve linked it down below. Now RCA was kinda forked, here. You see, this new system, while pretty clearly
inspired by RCA’s ongoing efforts, was substantially different in many respects. This meant RCA probably couldn’t get any
sort of licensing revenue out of JVC, at least not anything significant. Whether or not JVC had stolen RCA’s idea
by way of Matsushita is unclear, but I mean… that would be one hell of a coincidence, wouldn’t it? RCA had now lost not only their competitive
advantage from proprietary disc mastering and manufacturing, but also any hope of unifying
everyone under the same technical standard. Not good. Suddenly, it was a race against time on all
sides. Sonnefeldt realised that JVC and Matsushita
could just come out with a videodisc format of their own without warning. Philips/MCA were now pushing DiscoVision as
a consumer format, and that’s looking like it’s gonna launch soon. And this whole time, videocassette recorders
are getting super popular, and although RCA is selling tons of them, they’re actually
buying them from who could soon be their main competitor in the videodisc space! It’s jus…. AHHHH! 1977 was the year that RCA decided they would
pretty much just start over. The labs and consumer division relationship
was still… not fantastic, and at this point the labs were mostly cast aside. Indianapolis would now be put in charge of
figuring out how to make this… work, and the labs would basically be there for support. The first task at hand was to figure out how
to make the discs using JVC’s techniques. You may recall that at this point RCA was
using injection molding for the discs, which is NOT how conventional audio records are produced. JVC’s videodisc prototype used plain, uncoated,
stamped discs, and RCA recognized this was a better and more cost-effective idea. So, if JVC had stolen their basic concept,
well now RCA stole their improvements so I guess they’re even now. The switch to conventional record-stamping
was not only simpler but also, just, worked better. Discs yields were way up and equipment costs
and complexity were way down. Perhaps they should have thought to try that
themselves like, forever ago. They also developed the electromechanical
mastering process, which also is incidentally pretty much exactly how conventional audio
record stampers are produced. They also switched to a diamond stylus from
the sapphire that they had been using, and this increased playback stylus life tenfold. OK, I need to interject here with some commentary. 1977 was the year this finally started to
come together, and yet, all these breakthroughs were hardly breakthroughs at all! Now, sure, I’m oversimplifying, but honestly
everything that just happened could be boiled down to; “well what if we just tried making
discs like audio records? And what if we just tried a diamond stylus,
like many record players have?” Treating the CED like the glorified audio
record it was fixed a lot of problems. Sure, they needed to innovate some of the
specifics, and coming up with the actual formulation of PVC which would allow the disc to be conductive
was an entirely new innovation, in my eyes. But seriously. So much progress was made in this one year by attacking the problem with already existing techniques. To me, this is the biggest piece of evidence
that the Labs was arguably more of a hindrance than they were a resource. Given that the people working there liked
to research shiny new phenomena and publish their findings, it seems pretty unlikely
that anyone there would have said “well, what if we just iterated on the technology
we already understand?” In fact we know this wasn’t their cup of
tea, given how everyone there flocked to Holotape rather than what would become the CED. This rapid progress didn’t happen until
Indianapolis was given the lead, and the pressure of restricted budgets caused them to consider
tried-and-true methods of the past. And these happened to work. And really well. This just goes to show that a bunch of bright
minds in one place isn’t necessarily a recipe for success unless they’re working towards
a common goal. The Labs didn’t see themselves as working
on the Videodisc, they were a research institution! And everyone in the labs had their own pet
projects, so of course they were gonna push for those to be incorporated into whatever
the consumer divisions were working on. It took me until I re-read this section of
the book to realize how absurdly complicated some of their ideas were. What place do electron beams have in making
a disc stamper? Why the hell wouldn’t you just do what you’ve
been doing for decades and physically cut the master? Well, unless somebody asks that question,
nobody’s gonna try. And if your job is to think up new things,
you’re probably not gonna ask that question. The people in Indianapolis weren’t trying
to blow the minds of the world with new discoveries. They were just trying to make the damn product
work. And once they were given the lead, suddenly
a lot of pieces fell into place. Funny what can happen when your division shares
a common goal. If 1977 was the year of figuring out the obvious,
1978 was the year of “let’s get going, shall we?” As predicted, Matsushita decided that they
would rather back this new thing JVC was working on, so there went any hope of having them
as a partner. Adding to that pain was the fact that currency
fluctuations now meant RCA couldn’t make much money on the VCRs they were importing
from Matushsita, and their hopes of importing Japan-made videodisc players of their own
format pretty much dried up. It became clear that if this system was to
have any chance of success, RCA would just have to do it themselves. And so, they did. Now that they had, like, a plan, Laboratories
came back into the fold to work on specifics like figuring out how to mass produce components
and whatnot. And Indianapolis played a bigger role than
ever. The various pilot tests that they had done
over the years were always being handled by a scrappy team at the Rockland Road facility,
and now that team would grow to about 300 people in preparation for launch. Luckily, this went pretty smoothly all things
considered. Thanks to the fact that they had cracked the code using nothing but [through clenched teeth]
modified record stamping equipment, it wasn’t that hard to procure the equipment
and start production. Plenty of companies made that sort of stuff. If only they hadn’t been trying to reinvent
the wheel [thorugh more intensely clenched teeth]
for the past decade. The new conductive PVC formulation eliminated
the need for the auto coater which had caused tremendous problems in each pilot program,
and really all they needed to do now was get a catalogue of programs ready to go, and start
pumping out players and discs. Unfortunately, the stars were not aligned. Before launch, videodiscs were getting bad
press thanks to reliability problems with the early Discovision players. And the economy was heading into a recession. And GE announced that they intended to back
JVC’s system. And IBM had backed Discovision. And videocassette recorders were getting cheaper
and were selling like hotcakes. And nobody wanted to work with RCA. So, alone, battered, and afraid, the system
finally launched in March of 1981 to little fanfare. Of course, RCA would add their own fanfare
in 1982 ♫ RCA’s incredibly confident fanfare for the CED plays ♫ buh dah dah dah dah dah dah daaaaaah daa daa dummm BWAH DO DO DO DOOOOO DUMMM but that wouldn’t help.
[that cut was bloody perfect, wasn’t it?] Not even RCA’s dealers were interested in
pushing this product, as they had had their hands full with VCRs for the past 4 years. Two thirds of the dealers who had signed on
to sell the videodisc had backed out, and that alone may have been enough to seal its
fate. But even had that not happened, it’s important
to remember that the VCR was in nearly every respect a better, more capable, and more convenient
product. The only advantage RCA had with their videodisc
was cost, but that would only remain true if the consumer attitude was to A) see no
reason to record live TV and B) wanted to buy lots of pre-recorded content. And of course the thing that RCA didn’t
see coming was rental. I went over this in much greater detail in
my series on Laserdisc, but an important thing to consider here is that RCA developed this
product before home video existed as a concept. You could argue they were trying to invent
that concept, but unfortunately they were catastrophically late. If the CED had managed to be on the market
before the VCR had made much headway, I’d wager that it would have been tremendously
successful. If they had made even their 1977 deadline, the choice would have been between a $400 machine with $15 movies and a $1300 machine
which could record live TV. That makes the value proposition of the CED
player much more compelling. But by 1981, not only had people been watching
the price of VCRs steadily decrease through four years of intense competition, but they could
also witness this home video rental market start to appear. Now, if they bought one of these VCRs, they
would not only be able to record live TV, but they’d have access to a large library
of content. And sure, mass producing pre-recorded videocassettes
was a slow and expensive process, but who cares if a videotape of your favorite movie
costs $75 to buy if you can rent it for $3? Also of note is the fact that you could get
practically anything on videocassette, but your choices on CED were limited to what RCA
could cobble together. They struggled to provide a wide library of
programming, and since relatively few people bought the machines, even though disc sales
exceeded expectations, they could never justify expanding production all that much. To their credit, though, they did manage to
have a remarkably large library when you consider only half a million players ever existed. But there was still a lot they just couldn’t offer. And, uh, well one of the things they didn’t
offer was shall we say… mature content. Graham mentions this mostly in passing as
an example of the lack of programming variety, and I don’t believe she’s suggesting that
this would have saved the videodisc. And hey. Before this gets brought up, because of course
it will now that I’ve said this, porn existed on Beta tapes, OK? That whole explanation of Beta losing the
format war because Sony wouldn’t allow porn is nothing but an urban legend, and we know
this because not only was there Beta in the back room, but because Sony didn’t have
control over what was being put on their tapes. Neither Betamax nor VHS were created to sell
content. Let me repeat that. Neither Beta nor VHS were created to sell
content. JVC and Sony weren’t in the distribution
business, and they were not greenlighting anything at all. I’m only bringing this up because RCA WAS
in the distribution business, and it IS the case that RCA was unwilling to put their name
on naughty movies, and since they were distributing literally all of the content available for
their players, the only way we’d have gotten that kind of Discpix would be if third party
manufacturers appeared. Which of course didn’t happen because the
volumes just weren’t there. This almost makes me wonder if the origins
of that VHS myth might be traced back to the CED, because that story is what literally
happened in the case of RCA. The real head-scratcher about the entire CED
ordeal is the why. Why did RCA continue with this in the face
of so much competition? Why did they think it could work? Well, that’s a complicated issue. In many respects, the CED’s role in the
company continually shifted. Conceived as the sequel to color television,
SelectaVision would have undoubtedly been tremendously successful had it been released
in the 1960’s. But that didn’t happen, and in the meantime
priorities at RCA had changed. Consumer electronics had stopped being the
primary business by the time David Sarnoff had stepped down. The diversification into computers, and of
course all the other businesses they had been gobbling up under Robert Sarnoff’s questionable
leadership, meant SelectaVision was now just one of many projects going on. And since Labs was allowed to pursue three
different methods at once, and the consumer divisions were also just doing their own thing
with Magtape, there was never a real coordinated effort to make it work. So it just floundered in the background. Forever. By the time RCA had become re-focused on their
goals after their computer division sell-off, it was arguably too late already. Real progress didn’t happen until VCRs were
already on the market. And the sad irony is that RCA knew they couldn’t
afford to ignore that, hence the deal with Matsushita. If there’s one thing I can glean from this
situation, it’s that the CED was viewed as a “last hurrah”. A chance to return RCA to its roots of a consumer
electronics powerhouse, and to open up new business as a new kind of media company–not
television, but SelectaVision. Of course, it failed catastrophically. In the very beginning, RCA had made a series
of key assumptions that, if held true, would probably mean the success of the CED. These were that consumers would prefer a lower
price to more features, that potential format confusion could be alleviated by their dealers, and most importantly that videocassette recorders would remain expensive because economies of scale apparently don’t apply to magnetic tape for some reason. And also, of course, that consumers would
want to own a library of video, just as they had amassed their libraries of music on LPs. Nobody ever challenged these assumptions. And that was quite foolish. In 1972 those assumptions would almost certainly
hold up. And perhaps they still rang true in 1977. But RCA seemed unwilling to acknowledge the
changing landscape. Consumer electronics was starting to become
the way it is today, with intense competition pushing the boundaries of features and price
at an incredible pace. It seems RCA was just unaware of this new
reality. Four years wasn’t a long time to wait in the
1960’s. But by the late ‘70s it certainly was. Yet… they still tried. In summary, a bunch of things doomed this
poor product. The free-rein that Labs was given to just
do whatever with little regard to practical matters prevented progress from ever being
truly coordinated, as did the general resentment of the labs by other departments. So years passed without anything to really
show for it. Then, RCA had lost their way under Robert
Sarnoff and just… kinda stopped innovating altogether for a while. And by the time Griffiths was in charge, they
had just kinda forgotten how to innovate. Griffiths made an earnest attempt in the late
‘70s to take RCA back to its roots and become a true innovator once more. He brought back the “His Master’s Voice”
tagline, long ago abandoned, and he really tried to get RCA’s reputation back on good
footing. And I think it says a lot that real progress
was made once the folks in Indianapolis were essentially leading the project. That team over there worked like RCA of old,
and they actually got results. It was just too late to make much of a difference. RCA had a lot of debt to cover by the time
1984 rolled around. The CED had failed spectacularly, so there goes any chance of this covering it, and while they did have some strategies going for how
to get out of that debt, in the end they just couldn’t make it. GE bought what was left in 1986, and sold
off many of those assets in the years to come. Given how it panned out, the CED literally
was RCA’s last hurrah. Is the failure of the CED what ultimately
killed RCA? Well, not from a pure numbers sense, no. There were far too many things going on at
RCA for the failure of one product to sink the ship. But I think it’s fair to say it was the
final nail in the coffin. A lot was riding on the success of the CED. Literally the entire company. Had it gone according to plan, I think RCA
would still be around. But let’s be honest. It needed to be out about 6 years earlier
if it were really going to work. Well. That’s it. We’ve finished the series, and I hope you
enjoyed it! I’d like to mention here that RCA is dead. But the brand lives on as one of those brands
that doesn’t actually mean anything at all. You might find an RCA-branded whatever on
store shelves but let’s be real. It’s probably crap. Maybe you’ll find the odd gem here and there
but seriously, it’s not like the legacy of David Sarnoff lives on in this countertop
dishwasher. Oh, and one other thing. While this officially ends the series, it
was suggested to me that I could follow-up on some of the unanswered questions you may
have regarding this disastrous format. For example, some people have wondered if
you can insert the disc into the caddy upside down. Well, you can! At the edge of the spine there’s a little
side indicator, so that is really what tells you which side is which. I would imagine most people were careful to
make the sides match the label, but there is indeed nothing stopping you from putting
the caddy in “upside down”. If there’s anything you’d like to know
about the CED that I haven’t covered, please leave a comment! Of course, a huge thank you to the people
who support this channel through Patreon. Without your support I couldn’t spend so
much time on big long series like this, so thank you! You can join these folks if you like through
the link on the endscreen or in the description. Thanks for your consideration, and I’ll
see you next time! ♫ disastrously smooth jazz ♫ We are done! The series is over! Yeah! *inhales*
no. Hoping that they could sell…
beh bu ba da daba da dubba da Well in the end, this was large-ly true. But initially…. Why did I say “largely” like that? They offered really generous terms to various
Japanese companies hopening… hopening? This is not going well, this is gonna take
forever! I have to get the book which I left… upstairs. Hang on. Got it! Side-note, this is unrelated to the CED story
but since it comes up in the… (awkward pause) since it’s come up. It’s as in it’s has… it has. Disc yields were way up and equispment… equispment? And importantly, they went along and made
for them … (another awkward pause) Skipped a line The various ta.. buh buh buh buh buh buh buh
buh buh buh buh That would only remain true if consumer attitudes
were to A) (snaps fingers) What was that line? That would only remain true if the consumer
attitude… if THE consumer attitude. OK. Griifiths made… (clears throat) Griffiths made a… Griffiths is a hard name to say. You can join these folks if you like through
the link in the endscreen or on…. Ugh. …through the link in the ends
…aaahh You can join these folks if you like through
the link in the end.. ON. THE. ENDSCREEN. (Yells) IN the description! Ugh! You can join these folks if you like through the link in the endsc… I *bleeping* Augh!! Hey there, hows it going? You just watched 27 minutes about a long-dead home video format. If you’ve been following from the beginning, you’ve watched a good feature-length film’s worth. How does this make you feel? The answer is awesome! You’re awesome 😉

Danny Hutson

100 thoughts on “Race to the finish; RCA’s final gamble (CED Part 5)

  1. Hello! I'd like to thank you all for coming on this bizarre journey with me. Telling the story of the CED has been a lot of fun, but it also required a lot more… storytelling than I typically do. However, once I found Margaret B. W. Graham's book on the subject, well first of all the story is frankly bonkers and quite enjoyable, but also I felt the real nuts and bolts of the story deserved to see the light of day.
    Not a lot of info is online beyond "what is this product?" and "It failed because VCRs". And without the context that Graham provides, the entire idea seems outlandishly foolish. In the end we know it was, but I think there are a lot of truly valuable lessons to learn from this ordeal.
    Thanks for putting up with this project, and as I said at the end – if there's anything you'd like to know that I didn't cover in these video please ask! I may make a follow-up video down the road.

  2. I just wanted to say I really enjoyed this series you did on the CED, I think it would be cool if you organized your videos and had different "shows" on this channel, like this kinda story telling documentary style is one show, failed technology is another, stuff that fell into obscurity can be another, and another just explaining modern technology, I mean you get the idea

  3. Oh wow…. I feel like you should get so many bonus life points for the all closed captioning being correct in the bloopers. Like"large-ly"…. So good..

  4. imagine, if sony list all the content they can put on the disc they made…which will be happened in the era?,

    and or how about they giving same disc with different formats and universal player,
    so the format a for kids
    format b for teenager
    format c for adult
    and etc

    this is will be more easier to managet the content and without using the complicated rating system we have right now.

    ah… im blaberring too much

  5. Sadly RCA is not the first or will it be the last company to stick it in the hedge, so to speak.. Apple is heading that way, with the attitude of "We know what is best for you and we will give you what we know is best for you.." and so they have and for some bizarre reason, this is popular.. The idea of innovation seems to have died, and it is now just a case of rinse and repeat…Nothing new…

    For some reason there is a format war of sorts, or what is it I am not sure what to call it…The cable connector/dongle nightmare..USB and thunder/lightning, I have no idea what is what, there are more than 2 dozen types of cables and connectors, A B C, mini, thunder, lightening, then previous it was firewire, I have no idea what is what, so confusing, the products shipped be it laptops, tablets, mobile phones, come with this or that port, usually not enough, or worst case, your phone needs charging, and your mate has the wrong connector…bugger!

    There is no universal agreement on the way forward, and it is annoying, I just recently found out that Apple stuffed it with the new 16inch laptop, that has just 4 of the same ports, and if you are not careful, and the laptop uses "Nap mode" it will auto eject attached hard drives…ooops.. As the charge port is any one of the 4 ports, it switches off all ports…ouch!!

    No one is talking to the consumer, it is all about we know best, and well that led to disaster for RCA, companies don't know, and no matter how much research you do, those companies will not trust that research.. For me it is simple, do I want to record something I am going to miss, or re-watch something I have already watched? Option 1..my choice…

    Now in 2020 and beyond, we are being hounded about e-waste, to try and be eco!! So my question.. In the drive to be the best eco friendly "green" save mother earth, why are companies such as Apple working so hard to make devices so unupgradeable as possible? For example, 2005/2006 you could buy a laptop, and upgrade the RAM/hard drive/battery easy, then now 10 years later, you have to BTO, build to order, accept that once you have paid, you are stuck with that device, it cannot be upgraded.. Nothing wrong with the ports, the screen, the trackpad, the keyboard…The battery has worn out, and the RAM is ineffective…So you throw a viable device save for battery and RAM upgrades into the landfill…

    I would love to know why the ban on post purchase upgrading is such a bad thing? Why not 2 streams of devices, one for consumers that is cheap and robust, and a parallel stream for professionals that cater for upgrading/updating of internal parts? That maybe has legacy ports? Sure it costs more, but then this is expected in professional areas… A professional video camera will cost more than a tourist grade camera…So the laptops/desktops should as well…

    For example, a professional camera has the ability to change lenses, have recorders attached, where as this is not possible in consumer grade, it is auto this, auto that… We understand the concept…Sadly it seems companies do not…

    RCA failed to understand that in the end it is the consumer that pays the bills, they do this buy buying what they need, and they know very well what they need… RCA failed to listen to the consumer, I guess betamax did the same, and countless other companies have done this…I feel Tesla might be going the same route, with the variety of charging cable connectors, instead of 1 agreed universal adaptable connector, you have a range, and not all do the same, some work at one station, and not at others.. The consumer just wants to charge, and should not have to worry about connectors…

    We don't have this issue with gasoline, it is 1 nozzle at all pumps for the same grade of gas, regardless of who supplies the gas, the consumer drives up, pumps, pays, not worried about do I have the right nozzle for this company's pump?? No…would cause chaos if this was the case, having to carry around 20 different nozzles, and such…insanity…

    So why is this acceptable in 2020 with dongles and charging for electric cars?? Why is this insanity acceptable??

  6. As a budding consumer in the late 1970's, I never bought into any medium that was NOT recordable. Unlike most teens then I did NOT have a substantial "vinyl" record collection, I was into tape BIG TIME, Open reel and cassette. This for me, has held up over the decades. I did not buy in to CD, But DID buy into MiniDisc, I did not get ANY DVD player until I got a DVD Recorder. A play only option to me is just to damn limiting in usefulness. A CED was cheaper,perhaps but it's only good for whatever "they" release for it. If I can't "Roll my Own", I'll pass. It's plain that the public wanted to record (at least as an option), So, CED may have been cheaper and DiscoVision (Laser Disc) may have been "better",Magnetic tape (in some form) was gonna win, And did.

  7. Hats off to the person who did the English subs for the section at 15:08 to 15:19. You made my day and it brought me some peace before shuffling off to bed.

  8. I have reasonable collection of porn on Beta (Beta was my first VCR format with a GEN-YOU-WINE Sony Betamax), I still have BOXES of Betamax tapes and 2 working Beta VCRs, LOL, That urban legend needs to die. Porn has ALWAYS been a part of videotape history, VHS or Beta. Sony didn't give a rat's ass what you watched on Betamax, Just that you bought a Betamax! P.S.: Homemade "porn" sold a LOT of camcorders (Not to mention Polaroid cameras). Human horniness has moved a lot of tech gear over the years! 😜

  9. I feel like RCA really needed a middle man between the research and consumer product divisions. A practical application division, if you will, that solely focused on picking and choosing technological advancements and concepts from the research side and tried and true tech and throwing them together to see what sticks. The way they had it there was no cooperation between the techies and the marketeers, but this middle division seemingly could've pushed the new disc out half a decade or more earlier considering how it ultimately utilized already established tech more than anything new the research division came up with.

  10. Meanwhile, in t-shirt news:
    https://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/new_logo_identity_and_livery_for_eastern_by_mechanica.php

  11. 17:18 Three '81 bucks are almost 8.5 today. Was rental so –EXPENSIVE– when it started? You might as well watch movies in a theatre for that much (or even cheaper), with ludicrously better quality.

  12. Yeah,Sadly Like "Westinghouse", "RCA" is just now a licence "Brand" that is applied to random (Mostly Chinese made) stuff, But I will say some of it is OK to good The $8 RCA earbuds I got at freaking Family Dollar are surprisingly good sounding. (Better than $8 'phones SHOULD sound.) and I have an RCA branded universal remote control that is WAY better to use than the orginals for my Blu-Ray and TV, SO there's that.

  13. This all oddly reminds me of the 64 Disk Drive a little bit. VCR=CD, CED=Disk. Both hardware took forever to release and finally did to little fanfare, both meant to lower the cost of the media medium by using old things rather than new in a different way.
    Both failed from bad decisions. But the potential sure was there.

  14. I don't think anyone said that there "was no porn on beta"….I think the statement is that the porn industry headed more into what the market was showing had the best draw, which was VHS, which further pushed people into it due to human nature. Porn had pushed a lot of products forward, such as certain cameras and recording devices, because when there is porn, there are people willing to pay to see it….VR was the same way, it's been around for yeeeeeeears, but it wasn't until there was enough POV that caused people to pay the high entry price to bring the costs down for the rest of us. We are a depraved animal always looking for vices, otherwise hoarders, fatties, and kardashians wouldn't have been popular shows…..hell, the kids of today don't even play games anymore, they watch other people on youtube reacting to other people playing games…..our species is fucking stupid.

  15. First, I commend you, sir; the amazing reorganization of number values that allowed you to make a five-part trilogy shall stand in the annals of mathematics for centuries to come… and I have to admit a sigh of relief that you didn't go down the same rabbit hole as the channel that is still attempting to finish talking about "Journey to the West." <8-D That said, your not-quite-outro comment on whether or not the discs could be inserted upside-down reminds me of the Intro to Computers class I taught at a local college back in the early 1990s. I would repeatedly tell my students, "There are eight ways you can insert a floppy disc into your PC. Only one of them is correct." Despite that, we never missed a class without at least one "uh oh" from a student… <sigh>

  16. Just want to let you know I really dig your channel man. You and other YouTubers, like Matt from Technoan, are an important part of my ongoing education and entertainment. One of these days I need to put my money where my mouth is and get on that Patreon support, but right now I just want to express gratitude for all the hard work you put in. Thank you, and long live Technology Connections.

  17. My favorite RCA product is the RCA Lyra(RD1021A). It's an mp3 player that takes one AAA battery. Other older mp3 players that took an internal lithium are all basically dead now. We desperately need simple replaceable batteries in products!

  18. Well, that dishwasher might not be carrying the legacy of David Sarnoff but at least it carries on the Robert Sarnoff legacy. 😛

  19. I was a technical rep for RCA consumer division in the mid 1980s when CED was in the market. I even had at player at home. The problem was not so much the labs but cost cutting from non-technical management. What I heard was the diamond stylus was the first preference and the sapphire was seen as both cost cutting and a way to sell more styluses. When I first saw the player at Indy, I internally rolled my eyes when I was told it had a stylus. I considered already yesterday's technology. A laser pickup was the only way to go by them.

    I also found that most every disk I played had at least a few spots where it skipped. Overall, while the picture was better than VHS, the Video Cassette rental market was already so well established that the last thing that industry wanted was a product with a more fragile medium.

    The idea that they could make up their losses on the player by selling lots of content to media collectors was a pipe dream. People will play audio recordings over and over but really, there are not many movies that people can watch more than a 2-3 times.

    As well Video tape was improving so rapidly that it was better to just stick with the one format and I was not surprised when RCA pulled the plug on CED.

    It was around 1986 when I heard in a company memo that GE was buying back RCA and that morning I made a call to my previous employer, got my old job back as a service manager and handed in my resignation to the RCA office I worked from. It was funny in a way that when GE closed the office, the only job not terminated was the job I had held. That job lasted another 2 years.

    I saw horrific waste in marketing with ineffectual junkets and an ineffectual system for coming up with new products. And when decisions were made, they were way too slow getting anything to market in a timely manner. The consumer division definitely could not have survived the transition to flat screen technology.

    It was sad in a way to see such a major corporation to go downhill that quickly and be broken up that way. Bow I have a nice Android tablet that says RCA on it but that is just a name someone licensed to put on a no name product to be sold for cheap at Walmart.

  20. I was torrenting some Linux ISOs while I watched the video. Then in 14:58 when Alec says "and nobody wanted to work with RCA" the ding alarm of a complete torrent popped up in the exact perfect spot.

  21. i love ced. i think any physical medium with a caddy is cool. i wish blu-rays had caddies like originally intended, although that antiscratch coating they came up with was nothing to sneeze at, i dont have a single scratched bluray

  22. Hey I’ve got the hidden gem ! My TV is a 40 inch 1080p RCA TV sold at 240 CAD.

    At this price in Canada, you pretty much have nothing bigger than 28 inch usually. And the picture is good enough for pretty much anybody, while being in a good looking enclosure.

    But don’t buy the 50 inch 4K one, it looks like crap. Seems that they’re not even built by the same company, or they really lack consistency…

  23. Simply incredible work on this series. So, the whole point was to create cheap discs just like stamped LPs. I just assumed they'd actually TRIED stamping discs and deemed it unworkable before they went to injection molding. It's unreal that they hadn't. This is why you go to engineers, not scientists, when you actually need to build something in this world.

  24. It's interesting how much of a failure and an albatross around the company's neck that RCA Labs became. I wonder how Bell Labs would look under a similar critical lens, on the surface Bell Labs seems to have been much better about generating useful things out of their discoveries for the electronics and communication industries, even if the consent decrees prevented them from all being commercialized at the time (Unix). I wonder what if anything made the difference? Maybe Western Electric and having a strong manufacturing partner to guide fundemental research to applied science?

  25. I love how you produced a 128-minute documentary to an obscure also-ran to LaserDisc, within which you are able to identify the exact moment that BetaMax failed.

  26. "Hey, who's that guy over there?"
    "The really tall guy? That's HUGE LEE. He's 6ft 2!"

    Haha, this was a great series. I once saw a tote box of like 50 of these discs at a thrift store near me. They wanted 50 cents each… I'm starting to think I really should've grabbed them. :/

  27. Perhaps in 1977 it was a case of "We will definitely fail if we don't do this thing… but there is a slight chance we'll succeed if we do it." I have fond memories of my CED player as a kid… probably my dad picked it up with a bunch of movies when they were on sale. Same reason I had like 20 Coleco-vision games after the video game crash.

  28. No, you are awesome 😀 (I had the subtitles turned on and awesome, youve added litle extra's here and there. and yes, thats was a great cut)

  29. That last bit about RCA now being just a brand to throw on things – more true than you know. Most things branded as 'RCA' are now totally craptastic, and soon most of the people who believe the name brand stands for something will be dead. Maybe you could do videos about how other similarly fallen brand names ended up there, like Sharp, Philips, and Polaroid.

  30. I still have some porn on Betamax tape. I also have "The Girls of Penthouse" on laserdisc. I never had any interest in the RCA disc, though I think you've made the topic about as interesting as it could be.

  31. Wait, I thought the entire motivation for CED was to use the same manufacturing methods and all in all existing tech of audio discs to create a disc with video capabilities.

  32. Very entertaining. 🙂 The tone of this video reminds me of the puppet from the MC 900 Ft. Jesus song "Truth is Out of Style". Here's the video link I mentioned if you're interested…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vgDpI8kU98

  33. Disc Pix xD

    I actually kind of wish that this format did take off because for archival purposes it's way better than magnetic tape. I'm sure they could have developed a way to actually have it record on the fly as well. Granted my 1988 quasar VHS movie camcorder would be much bigger if it wasn't for VHS tapes, and that's already a big hulking camera.

  34. I've been a big fan of this one.
    I's just wild to think about how different info storage would be today if this had worked.

  35. Divix DVDs killed circuit city,what about doing a video on the history of a format war between divix DVDs and regular DVD's

  36. Restore RCA to the consumer electronics giant and innovator of old…

    …sell off the computer division, which could have done what Clive Sinclair and Jack Tramiel did and innovate an affordable, but capable home microcomputer…

    …instead, they came up with the RCA Studio II and got burned.

    Meaanwhile, PCs have become consumer electronics.

  37. I think it’s quite telling that one of the last CED players was part of the RCA Dimensia series, which was a nifty, well-integrated set of AV components. But… did NO ONE at RCA speak that name out loud? 🤦‍♂️ I think RCA was starting to suffer from Dimensia by then…

  38. Before even watching the video – is the beginning of the title a reference to CED itself, or just this video series? 😛

    Also, you missed the opportunity to use a Douglas Adams joke: "Part five of the increasingly inaccurately named [subject] trilogy."

  39. Such a shame there wasn't better management to coordinate the various departments. Having a whole division that is purely focused on scientific and engineering research is such a cool idea, but unless you have someone corral their work into something at least a little practical, it ends up just being a money pit. I hear the Dyson vacuum company has something similar, but they mostly use it as an excuse to patent-troll other companies/inventors.
    Loved this series. Can't wait for the eventual follow-up about HDDVD vs Blu-Ray.

  40. I remember in the late 90s to early 2000s when I went to Radio Shack, they only sold RCA TVs and stereos. Even back then I knew RCA was crap. Aren’t they just rebadged Chinese junk nowadays like Westinghouse?

  41. For anyone who hasn’t watched the Techmoan video of VHD yet, you should know that unlike CED, VHD was popular enough through the 80’s to be considered successful in Japan, the only country it was ever released in. They were planning to release it in North America in 1982 but those plan were canceled, maybe due to the failure of CED at the time and the slow sales of Laserdisc. VHD would eventually start to die out in Japan the 90’s when Laserdisc players became cheaper and price competitive with VHD, and thus started to overtake VHD in sales (Laserdisc eventually claimed as high as 10% of the Japanese market, it’s most successful market). I believe that had it been released is North America in ‘82 as originally planned VHD would have clearly beaten CED and Laserdisc, least during the 80’s, though I don’t think it ever would have been as popular as VHS, given that VHS can record unlike VHD. But one thing I discovered in my own research of CED vs VHD was that VHD was not simply just CED using a slightly different method of stylus-based capacitance technology implementation but rather that VHD made some key improvements over CED in picture and sound quality and special effects features as well as durability of the discs. Here is a comparison of VHD vs CED & LD in those areas:

    Picture Quality – VHD had better picture quality then CED and Long-playing Laserdiscs due to some key due technological differences in how their stylus-based compacitance disc systems are implemented. VHD doesn’t suffer from the problem of skip that CED can, at least unless the disc is really damaged or defective, much like LD.

    Sound Quality – VHD beat out both CED and analog LD in sound quality because from the beginning, JVC included a noise reduction system for VHD audio. This resulted in even mono discs being noise free (i.e. there's no ticks or pops to be heard). With CED and LD, visual disturbances on screen can cause audible artifacts, something VHD does not suffer from. LD suffered from audio problems dealing with high-level, high frequency sounds which VHD avoided by using FM frequencies to encode the soundtrack. Of course, late era LD include the ability to have digital audio tracks and digital audio beats analog audio for movies hands down IMO.
    
Special Effects – One area where VHD blows away CED and even CLV LD was in the special effects area such as: a) Crystal-clear slow motion, fast-forward and reverse b) Quickly (within 4 seconds) search to any of the 54,000 tracks on one side of the disc. c) Time and chapter searches d) Freeze frame e) Normal speed reverse play. CED on the other hand has very slow seek times and effects quality is poor and never offered any form of slow motion or reverse play.

Durability – This one area where LD discs have always won (vs CED and VHD) even though even VHD is a close second. While both VHD and CED discs are protected in a plastic caddy, VHD discs (unlike CED) have no grooves to damage. Also the VHD stylus tracks with 1/10th the surface pressure of CED, thus a VHD disc will last for over 10,000 plays and the stylus for over 2,000 hours where as CED discs and styli don’t last anywhere near this many plays/hours.

  42. The CED was a white elephant before it was released, RCA should have cut their losses in the 70's and abandoned the project. Great series, thank you for the history lesson.

  43. Being around around when this happened I agree that the CED was doomed as soon as it came out. A major reason for buying a vcr was for time shifting, that is recording shows we couldn’t watch at the time of broadcast. Investing in a player that didn’t record just didn’t make sense for most people. It is the same reason the laserdisc was not a huge hit. Some of us bought laserdisc players to play big movies like star wars but even then, when renting it was usually vhs tapes.

  44. Could be basically be describing the entire Google Pixel team too…. Change songs with a hand wave fancy thingamajig!?!?! No jezzious I just want my phone to be a good price and take great photos.

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