Posts filed under 'Obsolete Technology'

Laserdiscs: They Use Laser Beams!

I was holed-up recently due to snow and a flat tire. During some rummaging in the basement, I came across a bunch of my old laserdiscs (LDs) from college. It was a hoot watching ’80s sci-fi classics like The Thing and Aliens on cutting edge ’80s technology. Yeah, LDs don’t have the fancy specs of current DVDs, but I was surprised at how good they still look. I was also stunned to find that LDs were manufactured all the way up to 2000, with Sleepy Hollow being released by Paramount that year. Another interesting fact is LDs are all analog — they playback using frequency modulation technology (although some audio tracks were digitally encoded). There are still folks out there who claim some LDs can deliver better a picture than DVDs because LDs are not digitally encoded and compressed. And I guess some people think LDs offer a more “film like” image. I find DVDs have better detail and richer color rendering, which is probably because luminance (black and white) and chrominance (color) information is transmitted on different signals on DVDs. A really big weakness of the LD format was that the best picture and audio usually came at a price, meaning if you wanted a great player, you needed to spend $$$. DVDs, one the other hand, generally playback the same regardless of player quality and price. Finally, the big advantage LDs have over DVDs is they are not copy protected, allowing you to make VHS copies of your LDs (of course who owns a VHS deck these days?)

Just as an aside, the best TV I’ve ever watched (better than any plasma, DLP, or LCD I’ve seen recently) was at the Wilsonville Incredible Universe circa 1995. It was your basic flat-tube CRT set around 36 inches (widescreen!), but it had an amazing picture and cost, like, $9,000. They were using the Criterion Collection version of 2001 on LD to demo the set and the picture almost made me pee my pants. The only time I’ve seen 2001 look better was the re-release of the 70mm print circa 1997 in Chicago at the Navy Pier IMAX. I still wonder who made this TV because I would love to find it secondhand. It must have had some pimp-ass comb filter technology working its mojo to produce such a great picture.

MCA Laserdisc - The Ultimate Consumer Analog Video Format?

Add comment January 19th, 2007

Kodachrome Brazil, 1963 — Part Two

You might remember a post from a while back linking to a gallery full of images culled from slides I scanned. Those images were taken in 1963 by an American traveling in Brazil and given to me by my neighbor Tim. I’ve been meaning to digitize more, but didn’t have access to a slide scanner. Well, that has changed since my father gave me a new scanner for Christmas. It’s a flatbed Epson, but it came with an adapter allowing slide and negative scanning. Check the link if your interested in seeing more of the images.

2 comments January 10th, 2006

Build Your Own Mellotron

The Mellotron was an early “sampler” keyboard popular in the late ’60s and early ’70s with rock bands like Yes and the Moody Blues. Those flutes on the Beetles’ song Strawberry Fields? They were made by a Mellotron. Mellotrons were basically a small keyboard attached to a tape bank (a single strand of magnetic tape for each key). And the tapes could be any sound — flutes, strings, drums, whatever. But finding a working Mellotron today is virtually impossible. So, for those handy with a soldering iron, there is another option…build your own!

Melloman (link courtesy of Thorin)

It looks like a little more work than I’m willing to undertake. Besides, both my Optigans need some TLC first.

October 24th, 2005

Kodachrome Brazil, 1963

My neighbor Tim from across the street was cleaning out his garage the other day and came across a box of slides he found at a thrift store a couple years back. Naturally, knowing my obsession with Kodachrome, Tim offered the slides to me. It’s hard to tell what the story is behind the snapshots, but this I know: all the photos were taken in Brazil in 1963. I don’t know anything about the photographer, but from looking through everything, he must have been some kind of American official. My guess is he was on some kind of diplomatic mission — maybe related to trade or education. Anyway, take a look at some of the slides I scanned yesterday. It’s a great little window into the past.

7 comments September 27th, 2005

Mama Don’t Take My Kodachrome

Well, Kodak finally pulled the trigger and announced the end of Kodachrome (K40) super 8 this week. This is a real bummer, since they decided to replace it with the color reversal film Ektachrome 64T (tungsten balanced) instead of the anticipated Ektachrome 100D (daylight balanced). At first I didn’t think any of my cameras would notch these new 64T carts correctly. But as it turns out, two of my lesser used cams should recognize the new carts, so not all is lost. Also, some of my favorite cameras that do timelapse have manual exposure control, so it’s possible I could use 64T and just adjust the exposure by 2/3 a stop or so.

What really bums me out is that Kodachrome was my gateway into super 8. Any super 8 camera out there will notch a Kodachrome cartridge correctly in a plug-and-play sort of way. And Kodachrome was cheap to buy and process. I’m afraid that with the demise of Kodachrome at the end of the summer, less people will find their way into amateur filmmaking like I did.

Kodak claims they’re discontinuing Kodachrome for environmental reasons. I don’t have any issues with that, because Kodachrome does require all sorts of dangerous chemicals to process. However, for some strange reason, Kodak will continue to make Kodachrome for 16mm, so their reasoning for discontinuing super 8 is just bizarre. My only guess is that Kodak wants to transform super 8 into a professional film format by moving us over to negative film.

1 comment May 12th, 2005

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