In 1972, three years before Sony’s Betamax, more than a decade before Blockbuster, and 25 years before Netflix, Cartrivision – based in San Jose, California – brought Americans into the era of on-demand video with the first consumer videotape recorder available in the U.S., according to Fast Company.

Sony had built a video-tape recorder before this (the U-Matic), but it was made for television studios, not for consumers.

Cartridge Television’s “Cartrivision” could record and play back color-TV programs, play prerecorded videos, act as a closed-circuit security camera, and even play back home movies recorded on its companion video camera.

Cartrivision was a home-entertainment center with the TV and video recorder sold together as one unit.

The cartridges – 8-inch plastic squares – were inserted into a bottom-hinged compartment that closed into the color-TV console “with the thunk of a car door,” writes Fast Company.  Cartrivision could fast-forward and rewind tapes. It also had a simple wind-down timer for scheduling recordings.

In addition to offering reusable blank tapes starting at $15 for a 15-minute cartridge, Cartrivision was also quick to recognize the value of video content and offered a catalog of 100 to 200 tape cartridges to buy or rent.

Just as with later VCRs, the selection ranged from wholesome family entertainment (Roger Ramjet cartoons) to X-rated movies (Private Duty Nurses).

“This will put pornography back in the home where it belongs,” said an unnamed employee of Hornhill and Weeks-Hemphill, a Cartrivision investor, in a 1973 Washington Post article.

Most of the films available for purchase—prices ranged from $13 to $40—were instructional or cultural programs. Hollywood releases were supposedly available only for rental, at $3 to $6 a pop.


The latter included such classics as The Bridge on the River Kwai, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Dr. Strangelove, and High Noon.

That the company was able to offer Hollywood releases at all was good, given Hollywood’s resentment towards home video in the 70s.   That resentment led to the famous “Betamax case” of Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.

Just as today’s iTunes Store enforces time limits on digital movie rental via digital-rights management technology, Cartrivision employed analog-rights management: rented tapes, offered in red casings, could be rewound only with equipment available at retailers. That ensured that a consumer could only watch a movie once.

Integrated with a color TV, Cartrivision could record and play back color programming. However, it offered a monochrome “instant replay” video camera and further optional microphone that could be used to make home movies.

Even though the camera, tapes, and home-TV player all came from one company, the video cartridges couldn’t be moved from the camera to the TV console, like the VHS-C tapes that would come come a decade later. Playing back the recordings required hooking up cables to jacks on the Cartrivision side of the TV.CLICK THE PICTURE TO ENLARGE, BACK BUTTON TO RETURN

Rather than sell its system directly under its own brand, Cartrivision attracted a number of prominent TV and retailer brands, including Admiral, Emerson, Teledyne Packard Bell, Macy’s, Montgomery Ward, and Sears. Then, as now, there was a fair amount of product relabeling. The Montgomery Ward unit, for instance, used an Admiral chassis.

Cartrivision was the first video tape recorder made available in the U.S. Cartrivision had contemporary competition of sorts with machines such as the Philips N1500, which saw marginally more success in Europe.

The Philips device was expensive for its time (£600, or about $11,700 in today’s dollars), but had advantages. It was available as a standalone unit, where as Cartrivision came with a TV, as a home entertainment center.

The Phillips device also offered better video quality on its hour-long videocassettes. It also had a programmable digital timer and the ability to record shows on a channel that wasn’t being watched via its own tuner, which allowed the TV to be turned off during recording. Its fast-forward and rewind buttons used standard piano-style keys and didn’t require switching into a separate mode as Cartrivision did.

Philips looked into bringing the device to the U.S. in 1977, but encountered technical difficulties resulting from differences between the American NTSC broadcast standard and the European PAL standard. And by that time, the company was looking to VHS as the future of videotape.


With the U.S. market to itself, Cartrivision pushed hard on marketing the wonder of its machine. The Hollywood spotlight even briefly shined on it in an episode of What’s My Line? in which the panelists had to guess that the contents of a Cartrivision cartridge contained the opening of the very program they were on. (It took panelist Henry Morgan less than a minute to do so.)

Cartrivision indulged the medium it served with its advertising and instructional materials, too. Indeed, save for period fashions, background music straight out of a Brady Bunch episode, and gender stereotypes (“While you’re at the meeting, your wife simply inserts a blank cartridge, presses the record button, turns the selector switch, and records the program in full color.”), its promo videos bring to mind pitches that accompany crowdfunding campaigns. The company was not shy about using effusive language for its “experience center,” with the voice of the anthropomorphized Cartrivision noting, “I can bring you whatever you want to see, whenever you want to see it.”


Alas, for all its pioneering, Cartrivision attracted a very small audience and failed spectacularly over the course of a little more than a year. The product suffered from a range of problems. First among these was price. In 1972, even standard color TVs were still pricey: only about half of American homes had one. The mass market was loath to cough up Cartrivision’s asking price of $1,600 (about $9,100 in today’s dollars).

Cartrivision also had its user experience failings. Here’s how one enthusiast site describes its operation:

“[T]o go into fast forward, you press down the FF button and turn the function selector knob to the rewind position. Kind of like going into record mode. (Press & hold record button, turn selector to play.) This takes two hands and even then is cumbersome to say the least. Notice that the positioning of the controls is near the height of most people’s ankles! Behind the smoked cover . . . are two additional mode switches and the mechanical sleep timer. The logic of these switches is bewildering in its (unnecessary) complexity.”

The Cartrivision’s picture was reportedly fuzzy.  The product recorded only every third video frame, in an early form of analog compression.

Unfortunately, due to poor luck or poor planning, the company stored many of its cartridges in a warehouse so humid that many of the tapes were destroyed.

Some also claim that advance pronouncements from RCA about its forthcoming SelectaVision MagTape VCR, which never shipped, harmed Cartrivision. In 1973, Avco, the company that manufactured Cartrivision, pulled out, and founder Frank Stanton was forced to lay off staff and slash work on projects such as a standalone version of the product.

But like today’s startup entrepreneurs, the company’s staff were true believers. A radio report on the closure of Cartrivision notes that employees came in the day after they were let go to keep the company going, perhaps in hopes of a salvation that never arrived.


In 1975, Sony shipped the first Betamax systems in Japan. It undercut the price of Cartrivision even at the premium Sony was able to charge. JVC followed with the even less expensive first VHS VCR the following year. Even if it had seen more early success, Cartrivision was doomed to be crushed in the looming war between these formats, both of which avoided some of its quirks.

The ultimate paradox of Cartrivision was that it looked like just another color TV of the era. Fast Company claims that its invisibility contributed to challenges on the sales floor.

The “I am Cartrivision” video (seen above) acknowledges this by noting, “At first, you probably thought I was a color television set.” However, behind the scenes, the company was attempting to move mountains in a prototypical technology-entertainment ecosystem, bringing together licensed hardware (the TV manufacturers and cameras), content (the movies available to purchase and rent), services (the rental rewinding and catalogs), and distribution (the retailers).

(Updated post)

Saddam Autopsy Footage


“While officially released footage of the event stopped short of showing the actual execution, an amateur video shot using a camera phone from a staircase leading up to the gallows surfaced, contained low-quality footage of the entire hanging.  The amateur footage, unlike the official footage, included sound; witnesses could be heard taunting Saddam at the gallows,” states Wikipedia.

Wikipedia states that on January 3rd, 2007, the Iraqi government arrested the guard who they believe made the mobile phone video of Saddam’s execution, though it was too late to prevent the video from spreading across the internet.  Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie later held a press conference where he announced that three arrests had been made in connection with the investigation into the video recording and leak.

Wikipedia:  “A week later, another video surfaced on the Internet, which showed Saddam’s body with a large neck wound, creating speculation that the execution had been carried out incorrectly.”

Ever see the Saddam Hussein autopsy video from the morgue? Does it look like the hanging went well?

Was the execution carried out in a professional way?

How come we don’t have video footage like this of Hitler?  Just wondering…

(Updated article)

CNN: Grand Jury Won’t Indict Officers In Dallas Shooting

Secular Talk

Two Dallas officers who shot a schizophrenic, bipolar man holding a screwdriver within 20 seconds of arriving at his family’s doorstep last June will not be indicted, according to CNN and ThinkProgress.

Officers John Rogers and Andrew Hutchins shot Jason Harrison, 38, who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, after they ordered him to drop the screwdriver, states Al-Jazeera.

“The family is obviously severely disappointed,” said attorney Geoff Henley.  Henley is representing Harrison’s family in a federal civil-rights lawsuit that was filed last October, states Al-Jazeera.  Henley also said,  “…(T)his isn’t going to affect our case. We’ll continue to move forward.”


Dennis Quaid Onset Rant: Real Or Fake?

TYT Network

Recently, a video surfaced of an onset meltdown by Dennis Quaid.

According to Variety: “In the expletive-laden tirade, seemingly captured on a crew member’s phone, Quaid takes someone to task for walking onto set and interrupting his line, before an off-camera speaker tries to calm him down. ‘Don’t f—ing ‘Dennis’ me, I am doing my job here, I’m a pro! This is the most unprofessional set I have ever been on,’ Quaid retorts, hurling a few more insults before apparently storming off set.”

Entertainment Weekly claims the rant was fake, but Jimmy Kimmel wasn’t behind it.

It came from the comedy outlet Funny or Die.


(Updated post)

U.S. Rep. Jones: Recommends Impeachment Of Obama, Says Obama Doesn’t Uphold The Constitution

U.S. Representative Walter Jones, R-NC, claims Republicans must fulfill their constitutional duties by impeaching Obama due to immigration.

Wikipedia states that Walter Jones, Jr. (born February 10, 1943) is the U.S. Representative for North Carolina’s 3rd congressional district, serving since 1995.

Right Wing Watch

The YouTube Interview with President Obama

Yesterday, YouTube personalities Bethany Mota, GloZell Green and Hank Green interviewed President Obama about the top issues facing them and their audiences.

Fox News expressed outrage, claiming that President Obama’s interviews with three YouTube stars were “beneath the dignity of the office.”

(Video 46 minutes long)

The White House

Think Progress: Official Republican Website Posts Doctored Version Of State Of The Union

According to ThinkProgress, the official website for John Boehner and the House Republicans posted a YouTube version of President Obama’s State of the Union address that cuts out comments where the President was critical of Republican rhetoric on climate change.

In the website’s “enhanced webcast” of the State of the Union speech, comments criticizing Republicans for saying they are “not scientists” when it comes to climate change are erased.

At the 43:25 minute mark, President Obama is supposed to say “I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.”

However, that entire section is skipped. Obama’s comments resume with “…(C)limate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

The 43:25 minute mark is not the only place where the video is incomplete. At the 44:51 minute mark, a section is missing where Obama spoke of respecting “human dignity,” prohibiting torture, and speaking out against anti-Semitism.

The section that is missing reads as follows: “As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained. It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world.”

A spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner’s office did not immediately respond to ThinkProgress’ request for comment on whether the missing information was intentional or not.

New ISIS Video Purportedly Shows Child Executing Russian Spies

TYT Network

There is a new ISIS video that purportedly shows a child executing Russian spies. According to Buzzfeed, the video is from November.  The boy, who appears to be about 10, says in Kazakh that his name is Abdallah.

Kazakh officials appeared to confirm that video’s authenticity by first insisting that outlets in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan delete it, then claiming to know the children’s identities. Most of the children traveled to Syria with their families, Kazakh deputy prosecutor Andrei Kravchenko told local media in December, adding that the country’s secret services were working on repatriating them.