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.

"Thumbs Up" For Hands-On Video Editing, Even If You're All Thumbs

Who needs computers? 
An alarming number of years ago I worked for one of the first companies to create a digital video editing machine that was easy to use. Try to remember a time before iMovie and Firewire et al had come along to make video really accessible to the masses. Even in the late-ish 90's, computer based video meant lots of hardware jiggery-pokery, and long waits while computers generated even the most basic edits and effects.

What the boss of that company really wanted was a sophisticated editor that was as easy to use as the Videonics Thumbs Up (rebadged Radio Shack version pictured here) editor from the early 90's. At that point, editing video meant synchronizing two video decks and selectively copying clips from one to another. For professionals, this expensive enterprise entailed special VCR's and a Siskel & Ebert missed a real endorsement opportunity here...Rube-Goldberg rat's nest of wires. For amateurs it meant finding a pair of VHS VCR's with Flying Erase Heads (a nifty band name?) to keep the picture free of blemishes during cuts. You also needed quick thumbs to pause and unpause the decks, hoping that the edits would somehow happen where you wanted them to.

The Thumbs Up editor solved a number of problems when editing with consumer gear, while keeping the process rather simple. The device controlled a camcorder and VCR, allowing you to review your master tape and chose segments to copy as part of your project. All of this happened with a much higher degree of control than the ol' two-thumbs method.

Speaking of thumbs, to select scenes for your final edit you'd hit the "thumbs up" button at the beginning, and "thumbs down" when it was over. You could buffer 62 edit decisions in the unit itself, which would then cleverly take control of both VCR's to execute your edits automatically while you pop the popcorn for premiere night.

The chunkiness of the design and the beguiling simplicity of the few buttons concealed the sophisticated goings-on within. The Thumbs Up was an early device to display commands on the If it only worked as well as it does in sci-fi movies...television for much better workflow than a single blinking light or some LED digits. You could fade to black during edits, and the device even included an enhancement circuit to help compensate for the loss of image quality during the dubbing process.

This might sound a bit too simple for a $200 device now, but in 1992 being able to assemble video with this degree of automation for that little was quite a feat. Determined amateurs went the extra mile and edited in some home computer generated graphics to join the earliest generations of home video pros. Today it's easier than ever for an amateur to edit video with a level of sophistication miles away from the Thumbs Up video editor. We live in a time where communicating with video is easier and more accessible than ever, with only a few notable and inexcusable exceptions (Microsoft Movie Maker, I'm looking at you...)


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