The home-video idea, on disc or on tape, is making one of its periodic bids for attention with reports from several manufacturers on new devices now available or soon to become so.
In tape, there's the cassette-type Umatic system developed by Sony and now offered by Sony, JVC, Norelco, and Panasonic. The 3/4-inch-wide tape runs at 3 3/4-i.p.s. speed. Maximum time is 60 minutes per tape at a cost of $35 (or $23 for a 30-minute tape). Prices for machines vary from $1,960 for a recorder/player to $1,100 for a player-only. Color pictures are possible, and audio response is claimed to cover from 50 Hz to 12,000 Hz with a signal-to-noise of at least 40 dB. (By way of reference, a good audio tape deck has response from at least 30 Hz to beyond 15,000 Hz with a S/N ratio of 55 dB or higher.)
Less expensivalso a color-cassette system that uses 1/2-inch tape and runs at 1.6-i.p.s. speed. Maximum recording time of 60 minutes costs about $16; the machine itself, $1,260. Response is said not be up to professional standards, either visually or sonically standards, either is rated from 50 Hz to 10,000 Hz at less than 3 per cent distortion and with S/N ratio of at least 43 dB.
Yet another color video cassette system is the V-Cord II announced by Sanyo. This uses 1/2-inch tape at either of two speeds, 1.45 or 2.91 i.p.s. Maximum playing time is two hours at a cassette cost of $20.
The device is priced at $1,250 to $1,300. Picture quality is said to be a little better than in Betamax, but audio response is given as only 80 Hz to 10,000 Hz within plus or minus 6 dB and a S/N ratio of 40 dB.
A videotape cartridge system has been announced by Panasonic. Thisuses 1/2-inch tape running at 7 1/2 i.p.s. speed; maximum playing time is 30 minutes at a cartridge cost of $30.
Color resolution is reportedly on a par with the other systems. Audio response is said to be 50 to 12,000 Hz with a S/N ratio of better than 42 dB. The equipment costs $1,600.
None of these systems is interchangeable or "compatible" with any other, nor with the bigger, costlier open-reel video tape systems that have been around for some time and are used professionally.
As for video on disc, things are not much advanced beyond a year or more ago except the price of the RCA version, which is now $500 (originally it was announced at $400). The disc price is $10 - this is a 12-inch platter with up to 30 minutes per side at 450 r.p.m. speed. Market date has been postponed from an earlier estimate of late 1976 to sometime this year or maybe in 1978. The Philips video disc player also costs $500; the disc, $10. This laser-beam-operated system rotates at 1,800 r.p.m. for 30 minutes on one side of a 12-inch platter. Reporbe marketed in limited quantities this year by Magnavox. Opinion on sound quality seems to be that both systems leave something to be desired.
I'd say the video disc is behind the videp tape as a consumer item. But before you rush out to buy a video tape system, consider that the one you buy may not turn out to be the "standard" or - judging from the past - it may not even continue to be manufactured in its present form.
Beyond this is the question of what you do with it after you get it. Make your own audio/visual shows? Tape television programs for later viewing? Probably. But the subject of buying prerecorded material for home viewing remains very iffy, complicated by questions of performing rights and union jurisdiction in technical and artistic areas.