Video Archiving - Restoration - Remastering - Duplication - Transfer - Vintage - Antique - Conversion
Introduced in the US in 1974, the Quasar VR-1000 was one of the first "cassette" type machines introduced. The VX tape cartridge was specifically designed for this machine and is about the same size as a 3/4-U cassette - - - (5.75 x 8.3 x 1.75 inches). The tape is 1/2 inch wide, spooled on 2 reels inside the cartridge that sit atop one another. The cartridge was available in several lengths and was capable of recording up to 2 hrs of color video with a VC120. VC20 & VC60 sizes were also popular. Image quality is surprisingly good !
What is unique about this machine is the way the tape is "threaded". Instead of the tape being pulled out of the cassette and threaded around the drum, the drum as well as audio/control track & erase heads are effectively inserted into the cartridge as the cartridge is lowered !
The cartridge actually "drops" into position with the partial pre-formed loop dropping around the head drum. No auto-threading here..... After inserting the cartridge and pushing down to seat it, a manually operated, long throw lever opens the cartridge, unlocks the loop and finishes the loading sequence. To eject, the lever is slid to the far left whereby the cartridge lock screw is re-tightened, thus securing the loop in the cartridge. Pushing the lever to the extreme left and down, ejects the cartridge. Perhaps one of the craziest loading/cartridge systems ever devised.
Say what you may about it being a "Rube Goldberg" design - but it works reliably and I've yet too witness a jam or mis-load !
Unlike the soon to come Beta format, the VX format used only one helical scan head with a full head wrap design. An innovative feature of the VR-1000, is that the head drum assembly is held in by a single thumb screw. Head changes require no tools - not even a screwdriver.... Simply unscrew the entire assembly with just your fingers via a thumbscrew - lift it out - drop in the replacement and tighten down the knurl nut using only finger pressure. No tools whatsoever required ! Even a 6 year old could easily perform a complete head replacement ! ....... Truly a great innovation that was sadly forgotten by all the manufacturer's to date.
Another innovation that did find it's way into future machines, was a dehumidifier or drum heater to overcome the condensation or "dew" formation on the head drum. The machine had a dew sensor that would place the transport into a shutdown mode as indicated by a front panel lamp. The dehumidifier was then turned on manually by a switch behind the front control panel cover. In many respects, the VR-1000 was ahead of it's time.
The VX format is very rare today and was considered a commercial flop, despite the excellent quality of video produced for a consumer format machine of that era. If not for the introduction of Beta at nearly the same exact time, there's little doubt the format would have been much more successful.The VR-1000 initially sold under Panasonic's Quasar label, though Lab Guy's World reports others being sold under the Matsushita and Panasonic divisions. All however, came off the same assembly line. Quasar marketing dept. dubbed it as "The Great Time Machine", and the name has stuck to this day.
Many of the machines found their way into corporate environments where the simplicity of dropping in a cartridge without having to manually thread reel to reel tape (and then having to call the "A/V guy" for help) was a major selling point.
Though quite rare today, there are still family as well as corporate videos still residing on VX cartridges hidden away in the dark depths of corporate archives or home closets.
Today, the format is one short step away from going completely extinct. Far as I last knew, we are the very last to still support it.
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