1972: Optical Laser Disc Player is demonstrated

MCA and Philips develop laser technology for distributing consumer movies

Victorian music-box discs and phonograph records, played significant roles in enabling the music industry but, until the introduction of the laser disc in the late 1970’s, no non-magnetic disk exerted a significant impact on computer storage. Note that “disc” vs. “disk” has been used interchangeably by various organizations in the storage industry.

Pioneering optical disc recording patents include filings by David Paul Gregg for transparent media (1958); James Russell for a photographic process (1966), and Jon Clemons (1971) for RCA’s VideoDisk CED (Capacitance Electronic Disc) technology. In 1969, Dutch physicists Klaas Compaan and Piet Kramer at Phillips developed an analog system using a laser diode and reflective optical techniques that yielded a December 1972 joint public demonstration of a Phillips Video Long Play (VLP) laser player with discs produced by MCA (Music Corporation of America). Accompanied by “Jaws”, the first MCA movie on disc, in 1978 Philips introduced the Magnavox VH-8000 consumer laser disc player in the U.S for $749. Pioneer of Japan trademarked the name LaserDisc and followed with the VP 1000 in 1979. For training and educational applications, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) developed an Interactive Video Instructional System (IVIS) interface and in 1979 a Chicago Museum of Science and Industry exhibit allowed visitors to search the Chicago Tribune newspaper.

Laser discs offered superior image and sound compared to earlier Betamax and VHS video tape formats, but due to high price and lack of recording ability, they were not successful in the market. However the essential elements of laser disc technology evolved from analog to digital technology through several generations into the popular CD-ROM, CD-R and DVD systems.

  • Gregg, David Paul. “Transparent recording disc” U.S. Patent # 3,430,966 (Filed: Apr 3, 1967 Issued: Mar 4, 1969)
  • Russell, James T. “Analog to digital to optical photographic recording and playback system” U.S. Patent # 3,501,586 (Filed: Sep 1, 1966 Issued: Mar 17, 1970)
  • Clemens, Jon Kaufmann. “Information records and recording/playback systems” U.S. Patent # 3,430,966 (Filed: Mar 22, 1971 Issued: Oct 15, 1974”
  • Optical Storage Revolution Exhibit Computer History Museum
  • Jordan Isailovic. Videodisc and Optical Memory Systems Vol. 1 Boston: Prentice Hall (1984)
  • “First Public Demonstration of the MCA Disco-Vision System” (Retrieved on 1.15.15 from: http://www.cedmagic.com/history//discovision-1972.html
  • Lenk, John D. Complete Guide to Laser/VideoDisc Player Troubleshooting and Repair, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall (1985)

Rev: 9.2.15