The World's First Commercial VCR
By James Grahame
The world's first practical videotape recorder was released in 1956. It was as large as a dining room table and cost a cool $50G. The Ampex VRX-1000 featured an incredibly modern-sounding model number, too.
Ampex discovered that the secret to recording video on tape was to use a rotating head. This enabled them to fit 90 minutes onto a single reel, making the VTR practical for TV broadcast use. The tape ran past the head at 15 inches per second, so those reels must have been huge! They obviously hit on the right approach: Modern VHS and dv recorders still use a rotating head mechanism.
(trivia: The man standing third from the right is Ray Dolby who later founded Dolby Labs.)
Ampex VRX-1000 video recorder [Pasta & Vinegar]