Retro Video

identifier: 2014070 TELDEC & TELCAN



The DeccaRecord Company Limited, Decca House, 9 Albert Embankment, London, S.E.1. [Printing number: PL564770]

Folded leaflet, page size: 202 x 254mm. [SOLD]

In 1970 – or was it 1971? I was technician for a conference about Video Discs, held at the National Film Theatre. The possibilities of this new medium, not yet commercially available, were promoted – short extracts from videos of surgical operations, so that surgeons could easily have repeat viewings in their office or at home, and other groundbreaking possibilities. To set the scene, it should be remembered that this was many years before VHS and Betamax, and before the introduction of the Philips VideoCassette. The images were recorded on an 8-inch-diameter (200 mm) flexible foil disc which spun at 1,500 rpm on a cushion of air, and reproduced by means of a pickup with a diamond stylus. Running time: 5 minutes (12-inch disc: 7.5 minutes).

“…the undisputed merits of the disc as a storage medium – encouraged engineers of TELDEC … to resume experiments five years ago. Their labours were not in vain. The Video Disc is now a reality and a commercial proposition; and the world of communication will, as a result, be revolutionised.”


I think it was intended to have a demo at the talk, but the gear didn’t materialize – though I do remember seeing a sample flexi-disc. Launched a while later as TeD (Television Electronic Disc), there was limited commercial application. The technology moved on. The year that TeD was launched I wrote a science fiction short story, Razzle Dazzle (Science Fiction Monthly, August 1975) alluding to the Philips LaserDisc, then in development. Twenty years later, in the museum building next door to the NFT, I found myself Technical Manager responsible for perhaps the largest (anywhere) installation of Philips LaserDiscs – 72 players that whirred away all day, six or seven days a week.



I picked up a leaflet at that 1970 conference, thinking “This might be of interest in the future.” Well, the future has come and gone, with the later development of LaserDiscs now a distant memory, and DVD and BluRay fading away as downloads and modern storage methods take over. So here it is, a leaflet from the deep past of visual media. Well, my deep past, anyway.

Condition: very good.

Price: £15.00 plus postage. (Plus: see item below)




For all Recording Tape Users. Published by Badische Anilin-& Soda-Fabrik AG Ludwigshafen am Rhein and distributed by BASF Chemicals Limited, 5a Gillespie Road, London, N.5. 20 pages including cover. Size: 146 x 146mm.

The main interest is a short piece entitled Tape Recording of Vision and Sound, which occupies less than 4 pages. Telcan was the first attempt at marketing a domestic “TV recorder” in the UK. For those of us not backroom boffins in tv studios, the idea of recording moving images onto magnetic tape seemed like some kind of magic. Yet this is what we were promised.

telcan02[click to read]


A friend told me years later that he’d been to a demonstration at a London hotel. The quarter-inch tape was moving at 120 inches per second! The system worked, it was marketed briefly, but soon died.

The young people on the cover are perhaps recording a play – in between cigarette puffs. No doubt they would also drag out the Grundig occasionally to record messages for friends; as explained herein, swapping audio tapes by post was a popular hobby in those days. I was doing it myself a few years later. Social media of the early 1960s.

It’s stained, creased, torn, inked, patched-up and poorly – and hence, free to whoever buys the video disc brochure listed above.

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