With the TV gaining popularity, efforts to record television programs for later viewing – so called time shifting – intensified in the late 50s. People wished to see favourite programs on their own timetable. They disliked missing favourites. However, the first recorders stored only the short snippets of the black and white film. They were expensive, unwieldy and unreliable, often damaging the magnetic tape during while at work. Something new was necessary to enable the masses to use the time shifting devices.
Then we had the breakthrough – the invention of the video cassette recorder. The idea was simple: let’s enclose the electromagnetic tape with data into the box separate from the main recorder. Electromechanical devices designed to record audio and video signals became cheaper and more reliable. Early models were still too expensive for the average family. Finally, in late 60s, VCRs started to conquer the masses.
Film production companies were horrified. They had sued VCR manufacturers due to the fear that video cassettes would steal their customers. The lawsuit went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. After the private use of VCRs was allowed, Hollywood moguls discovered that rental and sales of the video cassettes with movies provide the significant source of income for them.
Ironically, the VCR systems gained the favour, partially because of the popularity of the cassette rentals. Recording of sport events and movies became possible as the VHS video cassettes accepted two or four hours of recording.
However, VCRs were far from ideal due to technical problems, especially the sensitivity of the internal parts to the moisture and hardening of the rubber elements. Tapes were losing the quality of recording over time. Then the digital video recorders arrived on the scene. At first they recorded analogue data into the hard drive of the PCs using the decoding and compression software. Later they captured digital programs as well. However, the storage space on the drives was insufficient for the avid film collectors.
Then the companies invented the technology for storing large amounts of data on the optical discs. DVDs quickly proved superior to the other devices because of the higher quality of the recordings, long life of the storage media and the possibility of reliable copying and interactivity with content. However when HDTV became popular, the need for even more efficient storage of the data was pressing.
HD DVD allowed for recording of high definition video and the large amounts of data due to high density of the information. At first this format was winning the market competition with the similar Blu-ray but later inventor of HD DVD chose to discontinue it. Blu-ray got the advantage thanks to incorporation of the player in the PS3 design. Film production companies preferred it as well because the new technology turned out to be DRM friendly. They seem to never have recovered completely after the VCR scare.
While all DVD players used red laser beam to read the data from optical discs, Blu-ray uses violet laser, which allows for five times higher density of data storage on the disc. Typical Blu-ray disc can hold up to 50 GB of data on its two layers. Connecting the Blu-ray player with the viewing screen using HDMI cable allows for the remote control, audio transfer and deep colour vision.
How will the future of the recorded viewing turn out? It seems that streaming of the video content becomes the trend. Perhaps we shall see the new, improved physical media and devices for recording broadcasts. Perhaps watching the HD videos online will become so cheap and easy that people won’t bother to record the programs for personal use anymore.