My video timeline began sometime in 1978, with a Panasonic VHS VCR. The NV-8600, the model Panasonic sold on the European market. The same recorder had been introduced a year and a half earlier on the Japanese and American markets, there they use NTSC and that had to be adapted for the European market.

This VCR had a weight of as much as 17 Kilo. It could record from a preset TV channel with a timer or audio and video from a connected video camera. The drive was completely mechanical and used motors and relays to keep everything running. The electronics: completely analog with an IC (Integrated Circuit: very simple electronic circuits built into a chip here and there.

As I wrote; a video camera could also be connected to this recorder. I started filming with a monochrome camera using a cathode tube, similar to an old picture tube television, but capturing images. Because of the use of a tube, this camera had a problem with bright backlight resulting in streaks and smudges in the image. These did disappear after a while, but I can still remember the first recordings at an anniversary wedding of my aunt and uncle in Kampen. The music band had placed two blacklight fluorescent tubes on the stage. That was cool or hip, whatever, at the time, but the only way to capture the band on camera was to keep those two light sources out of view, or the camera still, as much as possible. If I didn’t, the streaks remained visible in the recorded image for minutes.

The monochrome (black and white) camera was connected directly to the Panasonic VHS recorder with a thirty meter long cable through which the image, sound and a start/stop signal ran for the recorder. The video input could be found on the back of the recorder. 

Seventeen pounds, you don’t take that on your shoulder for a moment, the recorder was often left in a corner of the room with each recording. The thirty-meter cable was rolled out and that way I had some freedom to move among the people. The original recordings of the party (now over 45 years ago) are still at my aunt’s house. She is now 96 years old and has not had a VHS recorder in the house for a long time. 

Around 1980 the Panasonic was replaced by a portable VHS recorder from JVC with a lead battery and the monochrome camera was replaced by a JVC that could record the picture in color.

Still with a Cathode tube and stripes and heavy, but portable and easier to move around. Recording time was limited by the VHS tape length and the battery. Therefore, for longer recordings an external power supply was often used and I could film up to 4 hours maximum at a stretch.

With the advent of Youtube, collectors, museums and enthusiastic electronics repairmen have come together to bring these old devices back to life. Some go very far in this. They find old devices, parts, service manuals and use sophisticated measuring equipment to restore these old recorders. Sometimes this is not easy, as you will see in the video below. The repairman has to replace all the electrolytic capacitors in this VCR because they are no longer functioning properly due to leakage. Monk’s work, because each capacitor is different in capacity and voltage. Also, everything on the PCB itself has to be cleaned.

If you have nothing to do with electronics repairs, these videos are not interesting at all, but it gives you a very good idea how complex these machines were. We performed many repairs ourselves in the 80s and 90s, but for the more complex problems we used a repair service from the brand itself. A repair like this is only affordable with a wallet full of love for technology.

The enthusiasm with which this user gets to work on this recorder deserves my respect. He knows exactly what to do and knows how to restore the 45-year-old device. A working video recorder of today, now some 45 years old.

Now I have to find those other old video cameras I used online. Until the next one!

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