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Vinyl Revival? A look at older CCTV formats…

This Saturday sees music aficionados and collectors rejoice, as the annual international Record Store Day rolls around once again. This year’s event will see over 200 stores around the UK participate, along with hundreds more in countries across the world. Hundreds of exclusive editions and releases have been planned, providing items to fawn over for fans of everyone from Anti-Flag to Alan Partridge. The event is at the centre of the much talked-about vinyl revival, with the format once thought to be long-obsolete proving one of the biggest areas of growth in the entire industry, and accounting for 3% of all UK music sales so far this year.

There are almost as many speculated reasons for the revival as there are releases on sale for Record Store Day, but most suggest it’s due to fans looking for a tactile object that they can hold. In the era of streaming and downloads, the physical grooves of vinyl can be alluring, and the price point also makes it a great way to support artists compared to a CD. But can the interest in older, analogue formats like vinyl and film photography translate to other things? With this in mind, we have delved into the history of CCTV to look at whether any of it’s older formats is ripe for a retro-chic revival.

Constant Monitoring

The first CCTV is thought to have been developed by Siemens to monitor the launchpads of German rockets in WWII. As with all video equipment in that era, there was no simple way to record the footage that was being sent to the monitors. Because of this, for most of the first 2 decades of their use, CCTV systems were solely for monitoring a live feed of events on a small TV, as there was no way to archive footage.

Revival Potential: 10/10. Whilst initially it seems strange, a lot of CCTV systems in current use has no recording function, and the most of the cameras themselves do not have this built-in. Many people use systems like door monitoring cameras, or set up a simple camera to allow them to keep an eye on another room in a workplace, for example. Also, our best selling gadget- the wireless bird box camera- is usually used with no recording, just switch your TV channel to see the footage!

Reel to Reel Tapes

By the 1960s, companies had started developing ways of recording video footage for reviewing later. Unfortunately however, the only way to do this was using cumbersome reel-to-reel magnetic tapes, loaded by hand. I will let Herman Kreugle explain, in his timeless work CCTV Surveillance: Video practices and technology:

“Operation was cumbersome and unreliable, and the tape was prone to damage or accidental erasing. The recorder required the operator to manually thread the tape from the tape reel through the recorder onto an empty take-up reel, similar to threading 8 mm and 16 mm film projectors. Not very much video security recording was done in this era.”

Revival Potential: 2/10. Probably just one for the die hard enthusiasts…

reel to reel tape
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The 1970s saw the invention of the video cassette recorder (or VCR), with the previously burdensome reels now contained in a handy, compact cassette. This made loading and unloading much, much simpler, as well as providing much more protection for the delicate magnetic tape. The most popular standard for these was VHS, and with the technology staying current right up until the 90s, many older systems still in place today use this technology. Unfortunately, it has some distinct downsides to modern Digital Video Recorders (DVRs). For a start, tapes have an inherent time limit, so they allowed 25fps recording, or 24/7 recording, but never both! Also- as with any analogue media- copies of the footage were never as good as the original. Also, before the invention of multiplexers in the 90s, users were limited to one camera per tape, with no motion detection.

Revival Potential: 7/10. Aside from the fact that it is still in use in many buildings to this day, VHS really provides your CCTV system with the tactile feel so beloved by analogue fans.

vhs tapes
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In conclusion, one would think that most users would be thankful for current technology. Thanks to HD-TVI cameras, HDD recorders and IP systems, CCTV footage has never been easier to record, store or view at amazing quality levels. Having said that, one can never guess how current technology will be remembered in the future…


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