LVR Linear Video
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All VCRs worked on the helical scan system. Spinning heads record magnetic tracks obliquely across the tape width, like the threads of a screw. In the 70s, two companies had what they thought was a better idea, Linear Video Recording.
BASF of Germany worked on LVR for eight years, four of them a deadly secret. Toshiba of Japan developed a rival version. Both unveiled prototypes at Consumer Electronics Shows in Chicago and Berlin in 1979.
LVR went back to the very first ideas for video recording. Tape runs very fast past a stationary head. This, the two companies argued, would make VCRs cheaper and small enough to build into a video camera.
Toshiba used a 100m loop of tape, housed in a cassette. Every 17 seconds, as the tape completed a full turn, the recording heads stepped sideways slightly. The tape ended up with 220 narrow parallel tracks across its width, and played for an hour.
BASF worked on the shuttle principle; 600m of tape raced past the heads in 2.5 minutes, then stopped dead and raced back again to give a 3 hour recording.
With unfliching faith in what looked like a dead end technology, BASF built a factory in California, with 125 engineers, and started to employ 450 production staff.
Both companies killed their LVR projects before coming to the market. Toshiba's tape needed lubrication and the lubricant clogged the heads. The BASF system gave an irritating blank screen as the tape reversed. And helical scan VCRs got much smaller and cheaper.