South West England Vintage Television Museum
Updated: 2nd October 2006
The Philips N1500 (VCR Format) was the first commercially available home video cassette recorder in the UK. Schools and colleges could buy them in 1972 although the general public had to wait a little while longer before they could get their hands on them.
The limited recording and playback time of 70 minutes, and the fact that two or even three tapes were needed to record a feature film (not to mention the VCR's enormous price tag) probably didn't do anything to increase it's popularity in the home.
The machines themselves were entirely mechanically controlled, with big square keys and mechanical interlocks. The head drum, capstan and reel drives were driven by two noisy synchronous mains motors with eddy current braking, whilst the lacing mechanism was driven by a small DC motor driving a nylon cord. The 24 hour 1 event timer was controlled by a mechanical clock which resembled many kitchen cooker clocks. The electronics inside were entirely discreet and were very awkward to repair, but luckily they didn't go wrong all that often (although mechanical faults were another story).
In 1975, Dynatron manufactured an astonishingly expensive colour television with an N1500 built into the top. I have never actually seen one, and don't have any pictures, but if you know anything about this monster set or have any pictures of one, I would be happy to hear from you and perhaps put some information about it on this page. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
After various incarnations of the N1500, including a semi-professional stereo machine - the N1520, came a long playing version, the Philips N1700 (VCR-LP Format). This was a much friendlier looking machine which used DC motors and was far more modularized. It was also made out of plastic, rather than fablon or veneer covered chipboard and metal as with the N1500. It used the same tapes as the N1500, but effectively doubled the record and playback time. It did this by halving the tape speed and using a clever trick with the video heads (It was a clever trick for a domestic machine then, but now it is entirely standard). Recordings made on the N1700 were not interchangeable with the N1500. Initially the recordings were limited to just over two hours, but after a while, two and a half hour (LVC150) and eventually three hour tapes (LVC180) were developed. These three hour tapes used a very thin base, and could only be used in the N1700, as the high tape speed and other factors in the N1500 caused the thin tapes to stretch and snap very easily.
There was a final incarnation of this tape-format, which was the Grundig SVR system. Once again, the tape speed was reduced, and consequently the maximum recording time was increased to just over four hours. Philips never adopted this format, and it was only Grundig that ever made SVR machines.
Recorders that conformed to the VCR and VCR-LP standards were manufactured or re-badged by several European companies other than Philips. These included: Dynatron, ITT, Grundig, Loewe, Pye and Skantic. Watch out for a comprehensive list of Philips and Non-Philips model numbers and specifications coming soon(ish).
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