Throwback Thursday: RCA SelectaVision VideoDiscs

Old timey goodness comes from obsolete technology, don’t you agree? And what is more outdated than this gem from RCA, the SelectaVision VideoDisc player and movie discs.

I still remember living next to a convenience store that had a movie rental area in the back. But they weren’t renting the new fangled VHS format movies! Nope. They had dozens and dozens of SelectaVision VideoDiscs instead, and you had to rent the player with the movies.

Each VideoDisc was the size of a LP record (33 1/3 rpm format – 12″) and had to be inserted into the player with the cover. Once inside, you flipped the switch down (on the right, in the image above) and that unlocked the cover, which you then pulled out, leaving the disc inside. But you weren’t done yet! It only played half the movie. You had to stop part way through, flip the switch, reinsert the cover, flip the switch again, take the cover out, turn it over, reinsert it again, flip the switch yet again, and then pull the cover out again. This would allow you to play Side Two. Easy Peasy.

All that just to watch something like this:

RCA first got this technology completely right in September of 1972. They created a disc that contained ten minutes of a Get Smart TV show. But it wasn’t long before they licensed movies from all of the major studios and thus we have the titles that are shown in this post.

But before we get to more of those, have a look at some promotional footage for the RCA SelectaVision VideoDisc system:

RCA had formally started their VideoDisc project in 1964, when a four man team assembled to determine how to go about making video recordings on a high density version of a phonograph record. Yes, a black piece of round plastic! Let’s have a look at one of these high density phonographs by looking at what is inside one of the covers:

I was amazed to find writing on the disc! The disc is never out of the cover unless it’s released inside the player, so no one was ever meant to see what you are seeing now. So having a detailed copyright warning where no one will ever see it just goes to show how crazy Disney is about protecting their IPs!

And how did I get it out? Take a look:

Each cover has two tabs hidden in the top corners (Left Image, above). When you depress these, it releases the tray that holds the disc (Right Image, above). Normally the lever on the player would do this, but I used a pen to see what was inside.

Okay, time for some more titles that I have, but sadly, can never play because I don’t actually have an RCA player:

Obviously, as I said, I can’t play any of these titles but I collect them for the artwork and text they contain. But who knows? Maybe someday I’ll find a player that I can justify buying. They sell for between $150 and $300 US on selling sites! The discs are more reasonable at between $2.00 and $10.00 US, each.

FUN FACTS: In the beginning of the technology, each electromechanically mastered disc took 200 times as long to record as it did to play back! RCA’s VideoDisc system was called Discpix until 1971, when it adopted the SelectaVision name that was originally used for Holotape.

For more old timey fun, check out an earlier post entitled History 101: From Phonograph to Laser Disc that not only expands on the VideoDisc technology from this post, but adds information about other obscure formats as well.

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2 Responses to Throwback Thursday: RCA SelectaVision VideoDiscs

  1. Troy Chain says:

    I have a player just like this for sale .It is in perfect shape and has only had one owner until i got ownership. i would take any offer that is within reason .oh lets say 75 dollars would be a good offer troy 317 4 3 7 4 3 4 2

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