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Cartrivision was a videocassette format introduced in 1972, and the first format to offer feature films for consumer rental. It was produced by Frank Stanton's Cartridge Television, Inc. (CTI), a subsidiary of Avco, who also owned Embassy Pictures at the time. Cartrivision was available in the form of a TV set with a built-in recorder for the format. Cartrivision recorders and sets were manufactured by Avco, a company that CTI partnered with to manufacture and develop the format, as well as Admiral, Packard Bell, Emerson, Montgomery Ward, and Sears, the latter two marketing Cartrivision sets under their own brand names in their stores. While Montgomery Ward's TV used the Admiral chassis, as did all Montgomery Wards Airline TVs, Admiral marketed their own Cartrivision with a different chassis.

The first model of Cartrivision-equipped TV set sold for US $1,350 (about $6600 in 2008 dollars), and was the first videocassette recorder to have pre-recorded tapes of popular movies available for rent. Like Philips' VCR format (introduced at the same time in Europe), the square Cartrivision cassette had the two reels of half-inch tape mounted on top of each other, but it could record up to 114 minutes. It did so using a crude "skip-field" form of video compression that recorded only every third video field and played it back three times.

Cassettes of major movies such as The Bridge on the River Kwaimarker and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner were ordered via catalog at a retailer, delivered by parcel mail, and then returned to the retailer after viewing. These rental cassettes were red, and could not be rewound by a home Cartrivision recorder. Rather, they were rewound by a special machine upon their return to the retailer. Other cassettes on sports, travel, art, and how-to topics were available for purchase. These cassettes were black, and could be rewound on a Cartrivision recorder. An optional monochrome camera manufactured for Cartrivision by Eumig could be bought to make home videos. A color camera was in the works but never materialized before CTI's demise.

Avco Corp. introduced Cartrivision at the Consumer Electronics Show in New York in June 1970. It was first sold in June 1972, mainly through Sears, Macy'smarker, and Montgomery Ward department stores in the United States. Manufacture ended thirteen months later in July 1973 after poor sales. Later, it was found that Cartivision tapes that had been stored in a warehouse had disintegrated due to humidity.

After the demise of Cartrivision in 1973, many Cartrivision-equipped TV sets, separate recording mechanisms, tapes, and other parts and accessories were liquidated by surplus retailers, mainly in California, and many electronic hobbyists bought quite a few of the Cartrivision systems. Some made their own homebrew modifications with the hardware, such as a stand-alone Cartrivision player in its own chassis with a RF modulator to hook it up to any TV set, much like today's VCRs.

Cartrivision was demonstrated on the television show What's My Line? in 1972 with the declaration that no home will be complete without one.

References and footnotes

  1. 1972: Cartrivision — The First VCR with Prerecorded Tapes, CED Magic, Article retrieved 2006-12-22.
  2. "Cartrivision — The First ALL American Home VCR!", LabGuy's World ( Article last updated 2005-01-09, retrieved 2006-12-22.
  3. Television on a Disk, Time, Sept. 18, 1972. Retrieved 2006-12-22.
  4. Cartrivision Cassette, Article retrieved 2006-12-22.

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