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Beam Me Up: 1979

Beam Me Up: 1979

April 1979, still in the early days of the home video revolution, in which I was something of a pioneer. Here I'm at the controls of my Advent VideoBeam projection television, which threw a 5.75-foot wide image onto a silvered screen. I got it in 1976 and my first Betamax VCR the following year - #2 is on the bottom shelf, a 2-hour capable SL-8200, replacing the 1-hour-only SL-7200. The gizmo on the shelf above the Betamax is an Atari Video Music. You ran audio into it, hooked it up to your TV and it produced garish animated abstract electronic patterns bouncing around in response to the musical content, the parameters of which you could control via a bunch of knobs and switches. Devo apparently used one in an early music video. It was, like, far out man. View full size.

This is in the video room a friend and I built in the basement of my folks' Larkspur house. The window in the back is for the projection of Super-8 films onto the VideoBeam screen via a clever arrangement of front-surfaced mirrors, as that wall is only a foot or so from the huge old gravity furnace. The wide-angle lens distorts the door frame angle.

Just last year I got my third projection video system, the largest yet, and in adjusted dollars it was the cheapest of the three.

Kodachrome (Konica Autoreflex T) via self-timer and bounce flash (Vivitar 273).


A friend had the same projection TV in the same year! I'll bet that Betamax cost over $1000, right? Your turntable looks almost exactly like mine. I bought it in 1978, the Elac sold by Radio Shack, still use it.


Quel surprise: Farked again.

That is quite the porn stache.

I can't help but wonder if the bloateed dude with the LCD projector, the PS3, and the Lord of the Rings on Blu-Ray will look as retro-hip in thirty years' time.

I like it!

I'm a daily Shorpy viewer and I love the occasional color photos. I'm wondering, is this the youngest pic ever on Shorpy?

Also...Did I read that right. Did the author say he stuck with Betamax until 2003?? That's some dedication!

VideoBeam memories

From 1983 until 1989 I worked at a video production company that rented A/V gear as a sideline. We had a VideoBeam in a rollaround shipping container that took 2 people and a lot of foul language to load into a truck. The screen stand was not built to withstand a lot of moving around and consequently was held together with gaffer's tape and prayer. It took an hour to set up and tweak, and even then it was obvious its best days were behind it. Still, it was easier to use than the Barco multistandard projector that had hieroglyphics for control labels and required a tiny nylon screwdriver to register the tubes, else you shorted it out.

The A/V Club

tterrace, can I come over and play? I lusted after the SLHF900! I think I still have the sales catalog. It looked like Darth Vader's VCR. All I could afford was the 600, so I did not have the jog/shuttle dial or flying erase heads. And the SLHF1000, I think it was a Video Review centerfold. Or should have been. And then there was something called ED Beta. (Extended Definition, and no snickering.) Finally I went over to the other side, and Super VHS. But it wasn't the same.

Now of course the video recorder is basically just another cable box "function." And something has been lost.

tterrace Answers Your Questions...

20,000 Leagues poster is a Spanish version I bought on a trip to Spain. Eventually mounted it on foam core, and I still have it. Likewise a Fantasia. Both have yellowed.

For the furniture fans, the love seat I'm on can be seen it a previous incarnation here. Hand-me-down from a family friend. Lamp eventually fell apart. I still have, and use, the afghan.

Turntable is indeed a Benjamin-Miracord and the receiver a Kenwood. Audio system here is the "B" team; "A" team is upstairs. These were the days when having anything approaching wide-range audio from TV was remarkable. I remember when the networks switched from land-line to microwave and suddenly "Mork & Mindy" had high frequencies!

Video rental business was in its infancy then, but I never used it much. Watched cable TV, Showtime and started recording stuff, eventually amassing around 550 Beta cassettes by 2003, when I finally gave up.

Eventually went through 7 Betamaxes, including one portable and one Sanyo. Last one SLHF1000 is still operating, now as playback unit for DVD-R transfer. SLHF900 just died a couple weeks ago. Oh, and two portable Betamovie camcorders. Had a couple VHS decks (plus a portable) for compatibility purposes, one still operating. Please don't ask me about the LaserDisc collection.

VideoBeam kept working until 1992. I was an inveterate convergence and focus tweaker.

Current video projector is a JVC DLA-HD350 which, adjusted for inflation, cost roughly 1/4 of the VideoBeam.

The stereo gear

Pretty sure that the turntable is a Benjamin-Miracord, but not sure about the receiver. Looks like an old Kenwood I had for awhile, though.

Another Ex-Adventist

I used to work on Advents myself in the early 1980's. By then the screen was integrated with the projection unit, still using front projection. I think I worked on a first generation VideoBeam as well during that time.

Great TV's in their day, but once the major brands came out with rear projection sets, they faded into obscurity pretty fast.

I agree

Okay, Jennahw, you can have the chairs, but I call dibs on the afghan.

Yesterday's streetcar

is today's projection TV.

I don't use horse-drawn streetcars but watch television until my eyes bleed, so, please -- No more streetcar photos and more 1970s home theatre pics! ;-) (English translation: "wink-eye").

My niece, now age 18, has never SEEN let alone used a phonograph and was fascinated when someone gave a friend an LP for her birthday (Bobby Vinton -- It was a joke gift). She's as interested in photos of things I grew up with as I am in things my parents and grandparents grew up with.

(Re the LP, we all watched with bated breath to see how she handled it. Much to our surprise, although she'd never seen one or seen one handled, she slipped it out of the dust-jacket as though she'd been doing it all her life.)

I miss English

Let's go back to the original 100 years entries when English was spoken, not tech-speak. For instance, what the heck does <3 mean? I didn't understand what TTerrace was talking about either but it is at least English (I think!).

["<3" = "heart" emoticon. Next up: The mysterious ":-)" - Dave]

Boogie Nights

You and Hef were on the cutting edge.

I <3 Geeks!

Another great slice of tterrace!! Also, send me the lamp, the 20000 Leagues Under the Sea poster and the red chair, thank you.

One sweet setup

That's amazing for 1979, and I covet that poster.

Nowadays you could do all of that with a Blackberry and a book-sized projector, but it was more fun back then.

Enter VHS

tterrace's SL7200 Betamax sold for $1295. At at about that time JVC introduced the first VHS-format single speed (two hour) VCR. Sony dropped the ball because it couldn't supply enough of the Beta two-hour tapes. If we could lay our hands on those tapes we limited the sales to customers buying the SL7200. The VHS cassettes sold initially for $19.95 and a reasonable amount of them were available. About a year later Panasonic produced a two-speed, four-hour VCR and allowed RCA to market it at $999. RCA had it to themselves for, I believe, nine months and then Panasonic brought it out under their own label. Shortly after that they released it to the rest of the industry. Both Sanyo and Quasar released other tape formats but they were meaningless because they also could record for only two hours.

Just for the record

I was a Beta geek too, circa 1985. SuperBeta, actually. Sony SLHF-600. TV: KV-25XBR Trinitron. A black cube on a pedestal.


Menudo aparato, veo que hasta la lámpara amarilla tenía tres focos.

Two feet away from a VideoBeam 1000a

Nice and unexpected photo. I picked up a dead VideoBeam 1000a from a church garage sale in the late 90s. After searching the internet for days, I was able to track down a former repairman for Advent products. It turned out that he was a co-designer and was able to send me a photocopied service manual (schematics and everything) along with the strong warning to replace the Mexican capacitors immediately. It's true that they had started leaking, but the main problem with the HV board had overloaded and cracked. It wasn't quite clear which components were in need of replacement, so I contacted Advent, which had been bought out and--at that time--only sold audio systems out of Canada. They recommended I see the one last repair guy that they knew of, a guy who operated out of Kenner, Louisiana. It was a shocking discovery (no pun intended) since that's only an hour away from where I live. The guy replaced the board and I was watching CNN coverage of the Gulf War and playing Super Mario Brothers for a week before the unit blew out again. Amazingly, the tubes are still in good shape and are sure to fill my life with light day.


OK - forget about the fancy electronics. Can we talk about the chairs? I want both of them.

But where's the waterbed?

I love this photo. It's in the best Shorpy tradition of bringing other places and times to life. Could you rent videotapes in 1979? Did you have a personal library? Or did you use this monster for watching The Dukes of Hazzard?


A real geek would've motorized the little curtain over the projection window. The Atari Video Music - whoa. Far out indeed. There are some videos of it in action online.

Man Cave ca. 1979

I don't even want to know how much all that stuff cost, but it was probably a lot in today's dollars.


Not to bruise your ego, but this does not fit at all my Shropy requirements. I really don't care about your tlevision obesssion in the 70s, I don't use televisions and do not fnd this ind of picture old enough to be intersting.

To me is it pure ego on your oart to think it is interesting - thoguh I see you have friends who priase you for it.

I'd prefer you make alink to some other page where they can go admire your old gear, not put it in the Shorpy email list!

Just mu feelings, not meaning to put it down,just not my taste at all for 100 year old pictures...

No need to post this, just a message for you, Dave.


[Lou, you are deeply confused. As a side note, this pic, No. 1 today on Shorpy, is also climbing the charts at - Dave]


I have no idea what you just said but it sounds like someone got their geek on full throttle.


(Insert lame joke about 70's styles and color preferences, technology, techno-nerds, and Mom's basement.)

Great to see both the advances in equipment, and the look back at the way we were. Nice work.

20,000 Cameras

The video camera looks like it's from "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"!

Great stuff; keep up the good work!

Advent VideoBeam Rocks!

The Advent Videobeam was my first experience of a giant-screen TV, which I saw in some random bar. It was awesome! Using Faroujda processing, it got the full potential out of old analog NTSC, which was better than most people realized. The triple-tube setup painted the screen smoothly without the color dots of ordinary picture tubes. With full 330-line resolution (and careful setup), the Advent could resolve objects as small as 1/5 of an inch across the five-foot screen - much better detail than average color TVs of the day. It was years ahead of its time, and only really surpassed when TV went digital and flat-screen.

tterrace just won the Internet

The rest of us are excused.

Registration required

I'm a retired TV repair tech and your photo brings back some old memories. Some of those old projection units were quite something to set up the registration (convergence). U-matics and Beta, pretty well gone and forgotten .
Keep up the good work.

That was a pretty enjoyable movie, too!

"20,000 Leagues Under The Sea"......some great special effects for that time.

I am interested in that turntable, as I have what might be the same type. Is it a Garrard Zero 100 tangential?

High tech!

Ah 1976, a time when "CD" still made you think "Civil Defense."

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