MCA DiscoVision

November 1979

Looking Ahead
3M into Videodiscs
by David Lachenbruch

Videodisc fever is spreading. One of America's top industrial firms, 3M, has decided to go into the mastering and pressing business "for any viable videodisc system." It will start before the end of 1980, its first project being the manufacture of industrial-educational discs for the Thomson-CSF optical system. Although this system has been out of the limelight for a year or more, it is one of the first to be developed. It differs from the technique used in the DiscoVision records played on Magnavox and MCA optical players in that its discs are trans missive rather than reflective. In the Magnavox-MCA players, the laser beam is reflected by the disc to a light-sensitive detector. Thompson's discs are transparent and the laser light shines through the disc to a detector on the other side, being modulated (like the reflective system) by pits in the disc. The French company claims three advantages to its system: (1) Being uncoated, the discs are simpler to manufacture, (2) The discs can be made thin and flexible and can be sent through the main in thin envelopes, (3) Both sides of a disc can be played in sequence without turning the record over - by simply refocusing the laser to play the far side after the near side is finished.

Thompson is still vague on its plans for the consumer market. It will build no more than 1,000 players in 1980 at about $3,000 each for business and institutional users. Each disc can play for up to 30 minutes a side.

While Magnavox was continuing to enjoy a monopoly on players for the home, this seemed destined to come to an end soon. Players built in Japan by Universal Pioneer, a jointly owned subsidiary of MCA and Pioneer Electronics, are due to arrive here soon, probably under the Pioneer brand and possibly other trade names as well. This system is compatible with that used in Magnavox's Magnavision players. And before the year is over, an announcement is expected by RCA about its plans to introduce its non-compatible capacitive system. It's expected to be in large-scale production about a year from now. At least one Japanese developed system could be headed this way within a year.

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