Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Philips N1500: Dawn of the Timeshifting Age

The first home VCR didn't accept Beta or VHS tapes. Heck, it didn't even have a digital timer, opting instead for an inaccurate analog clock mechanism. The Philips N1500 was released in 1972, and can honestly lay claim to being the first "real" domestic video cassette recorder to offer simple cassette loading, a recording timer, and a RF modulator for playback on an ordinary B&W or color TV.


The "programmable timer" was little more than a fancy alarm clock, but instead of waking you from a blissful dream about Natale Portman and a giant tub of vanilla pudding [uhh... maybe that's just me], it turned on the power to the unit for a preset time. You had to remember to press the record button when you set the alarm, or your fancy new gadget would just sit there wasting precious electricity and warming your living room.

The unit had six buttons on the top panel to allow you to select the desired channel. This was well before the advent of 500-channel digital cable, back in the old world where all we received was ITV/BBC1/BBC2 [uk] CBS/NBC/ABC/PBS [usa] or CBC/More CBC/CTV [Canada]. There was even a "color killer" button which recorded B&W signals to improve viewing quality on your vintage B&W set.

The boxy Philips cartridge used half-inch tape, with the reels arranged coaxially (one on top of another), rather than side-by-side like the later VHS and Beta formats.  Initial tapes could only record 45 minutes, which was daft in a world filled with hour-long drama series. Philips was eventually able to reformulate the tape on a thinner substrate to make hour-long recordings possible, although the thinner tape was prone to breakage.

Alas, Philips failed to capture the home recording market with their new marvel. The biggest drawback was that they were a few years too early - the microprocessor revolution was just picking up steam, and the N1500 was built around extremely complicated discrete circuitry. This made it expensive (about $1200 - the equivalent of about $8000 when adjusted for inflation) and extremely fragile. The company went on to produce a handful of more sophisticated models (the N1501 offered freeze-frame) before introducing the ill-fated Video 2000 to compete against the Japanese VHS and Beta standards.


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