Graphic: Elena Scotti/Photos: Getty Images, eBay, Screenshot via YouTube When I talk about the discs I watched videos on as a kid people assume I mean laser discs, or maybe I’ve confused my decades and mean DVDs, or even video CDs. There’s an assumption that I’ve just misremembered things, but that’s because the capacitance electronic disc, or videodisc (or in my house just “disc”), was a mere flash in the pan of a gadget. Something few stores sold and few people bought. Except for my father, who amassed a collection of nearly 100 of the discs so wildly unpopular we couldn’t even donate them when we moved out of the family home.
Capacitance electronic discs, or CEDs, were first developed back in 1964 by a team of four researchers at then consumer tech giant RCA. They were very fragile discs with grooves in them that stored the media and were read by rotating at approximately 450rpm—more than ten times faster than a record player. Essentially CEDs were super fancy records that played videos and the idea was they could be a cheap solution for selling movies to home users. But development languished for nearly two decades and by the time CEDs launched the VHS, Betamax, and Laserdisc were all available and without the myriad of issues that plagued CEDs. That didn’t stop my dad from buying a RCA SJT400 in 1983. This was only the second or third CED player to include a “remote control” and it was an enormous […]