Adding video to the hugely successful CD format was seen as the Holy Grail…

The CD system – as standardised by Sony and Philips in 1980 with the so-called Red Book – stored stereo sound at 1.4 megabits/second. Colour TV then needed 200 megabits/second. So video playback from CD should have been impossible.

In early 1987, RCA’s Research Centre in the US demonstrated the first Video CD. RCA used a computer to analsyse each picture from a moving sequence, and compare it with the pictures that came before and after. Only the changes were coded. This reduced the bits by a factor of a hundred. But it took hours to record a scene that lasted a few seconds on screen.

All round the world, electronics companies started looking for better ways of compressing video.

From 1988 a voluntary industry committee, the Moving Picture Experts Group, examined every proposal. Four years later the group agreed a standard, known as MPEG-1. Philips saw MPEG-1 as a good way to make its interactive CD system more attractive. A CD-i player would play movies as well as games.

JVC, Panasonic and Sony saw MPEG-1 as a way to let ordinary CD players play movies as well as music. The first VCDs went on sale in 1993.The system sold quite well in the Far East where it was used for karaoke and pornography, with cheap pirate discs from China.

Video CD flopped in the West because the four companies let slip that they were already working on DVD, which would use the higher quality MPEG-2 standard and a higher density disc.

Later they tried to re-launch MPEG-1 Video CD as a computer peripheral, but with no better luck.