News from the Archive

50 Years Ago -- Videotape Debuts

November 30th, 2006

The Advent of Videotape....50 Years Ago (November 30, 2006)
By Steve Cox

On November 30, 1956 at 6:15 pm Pacific Standard Time, a milestone in the history of broadcasting occurred: the debut of videotape. In Hollywood, CBS Television recorded and reproduced, on the new Ampex Videotape Recorder, a Douglas Edwards news broadcast in New York which was rebroadcast and seen by thousands of viewers along the Pacific West Coast, from Los Angeles up to the northern tip of Washington. The program was taped from a live New York telecast to achieve a two-hour delay and then broadcast to TV audiences in twelve western cities.

Videotape, a brand new medium, assured a record and playback of what was live television (or kinescope), but now in nearly miracle time. The new Ampex VRX-1000 Videotape Recorder--a complex gargantuan machine about the size of a wall--was installed at CBS Television City in Hollywood and utilized large two-inch format magnetic videotape. Live television broadcasts were now made possible, where kinescopes (filmed TV screens) once served as the delayed medium which to serve up shows. In fact, many television shows which originated in Hollywood as live programs were never seen "live" by West Coast viewers. Shows starring Jack Benny and Red Skelton, for instance, were presented around 4 or 5 pm in Hollywood, live for suitable prime-time air on the East Coast. West Coast viewers watched what was called a "hot kinny" (very fresh kinescope version).

CBS installed two Ampex machines and began recording news broadcasts on both for protection. The team of engineers who designed the practical videotape recorder included Charlie Ginsberg, Ray Dolby, Alex Maxey, Fred Pfost, Shelby Henderson, and Charles Anderson. These innovative visionaries were recognized by the National Television Academy in September 2005 for their achievement.

Without a doubt, video technology altered the world and the way we view it. The technology enabled was a fundamental shift in modern technology and changed the broadcasting world dramatically, if not instantly, providing choice, accessibility, as well diversity in television. Videotape changed the world in untold ways. Today, 50 years later, hundreds of millions of home-users have this miracle medium to thank for precious preserved personal memories. Not to mention endless bloopers and "live" antics caught because of this invention. Videotape has permeated literally every aspect of our lives, all the while educating, enlightening, witnessing, proving and disproving. It is the invention which has brought our society closer in a moment's glance. Now, with the digital age upon us, the video medium is bowing, a noticeable waning in its home-use, however it is still used widely within broadcasting and news media levels.

Guest Archive blogger Steve Cox is author of more than 15 books on pop culture, film, and television. He has contributed to TV Guide, The Hollywood Reporter, and LA Times. His most recent book is "The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane" (Waston-Guptill/ Backstage Books)

Above left: The Ampex videotape recorder installed at CBS Television City in Hollywood. (courtesy of Steve Cox)

Lower right: The actual first video recording of "Douglas Edwards With the News" on CBS, November 30, 1956 at 6:15 pm. (courtesy of Steve Cox)

© 2006 Steve Cox

Share and Enjoy:

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22nd, 2006

The Archive of American Television can't help you in the kitchen, but we can entertain you with an interview with one of American's top television chefs! As you wait for your turkey to be done, take a look at legendary TV chef Julia's Child's Archive of American Television Interview.

Click here to access Julia Child's entire interview.

Interview Description:

Julia Child (1912-2004) was interviewed for three hours in Cambridge, MA. Ms. Child discussed her first television show The French Chef created in 1962 for Boston's PBS station WGBH which was on the air until 1973. In 1978, Ms. Child returned to public television with Julia and Company. She talked about being a regular on Good Morning America throughout the 1980's. The interview was conducted by Michael Rosen on June 25, 1999.

Bon appetit!

Share and Enjoy:

Bob Keeshan's ("Captain Kangaroo" and TV's First Clarabell the Clown) Interview is now Online

November 19th, 2006

Remember Clarabell the clown on The Howdy Doody Show? Or what about Captain Kangaroo, with his menagerie of "Dancing Bear," "Mr. Moose," and "Mr. Greenjeans"? Bob Keeshan, best known as television's "Captain Kangaroo" was interviewed by the Archive of American Television in 1999 and it's now accessible on Google Video.

Interview Description:

Mr. Keeshan related his experiences as an NBC page before going to work for "Buffalo" Bob Smith. Keeshan talked about the beginnings of Smith’s Howdy Doody Show and how he was eventually transformed into the show’s clown, Clarabell. Keeshan discussed his four years on the show, and his eventual falling-out with Smith, which led to Keeshan's departure. He talked about starring in two local New York childrens’ programs before CBS tapped him to star in his own show, which ultimately became Captain Kangaroo. He talked about executive producing and starring in the program for almost 30 years and discussed the ensemble cast and classic moments. The 3-1/2 hour interview was conducted by Karen Herman in Queechee, Vermont on October 19, 1999.

Click here to access the entire interview. (The interview is done chronologically, so it's best to watch the parts in order.)

Share and Enjoy:

A Happy 90th Birthday to Archive Interviewee Sherwood Schwartz -- Creator of Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch

November 14th, 2006

Today marks the 90th birthday of Gilligan's Island and Brady Bunch creator/producer Sherwood Schwartz!

Click on the play arrow to hear about "the way they became the Brady Bunch!"

Interview Description:
During his close to 6-hour Archive of American Television interview, Mr. Schwartz discussed his early years where he hoped to become a doctor, but soon found himself writing for Bob Hope. He talked about his work on shows including The Red Skelton Show, I Married Joan and It's About Time. He discussed in detail the creation, casting and production of the two cult classic situation comedies, Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch and their later incarnations and spinoffs. The interview was conducted by Dan Pasternack in Los Angeles, CA in 1997.

Click here to access all segments of his full interview.

Happy Birthday, Sherwood, from your friends at the Archive of American Television!

So many of us grew up with his shows and many of the shows' characters and catchphrases have entered the pop culture lexicon. What's your favorite?

Share and Enjoy:

The Munsters Book -- In Non-Living Color!

November 13th, 2006

Writer (and Archive supporter) Steve Cox has updated his fabulous 1989 Munsters book! The redesigned and massively updated book, The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane (Watson-Guptill Publishing / Backstage Books, $21.95) is THE published resource for any Munsters fan. And, with the addition of new photos, expanded interviews, and lots of color pages, the book eclipses the earlier version. Cox even devotes a section to The Addams Family (on which he's also written a book).

On a related note, the Archive of American Television interviewed writer Allan Burns who talks about working on The Munsters. Click here to access the Google Video segment, then slide the time to 17 minutes in where his Munsters segment begins.

Share and Enjoy: