This is my Yamaha CDV-1100 LaserDisc player that I bought in May at Time Traveler, a record store on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls.
At the end of my post on the Pioneer LD-V2000 I said that I was looking for another LaserDisc player that had digital audio capability if the price was right. At Time Traveler I came upon two LaserDisc players: a Pioneer CLD-S201 priced at $40 and this Yamaha CDV-1100 priced at $20. The Pioneer had it’s remote while the Yamaha didn’t. The LaserDisc conventional wisdom says to always go with the Pioneer.
However, the CLD-S201 just looks boring to me. It has that boring look that so many pieces of early 90s audio and video equipment have. One of the parts of this hobby of collecting obsolete electronics that I adore is that you can collect based on “coolness” rather than specs or features. In 1992, the CLD-S201 would have been the right thing to buy. But I’m not in 1992.
The Yamaha CDV-1100, on the other hand has a bit more late-80s styling. I have an affinity for Yamaha stuff, especially 1980s Yamaha stuff, ever since I found a Yamaha DSP-1 and it’s associated 4-channel power amplifier at the old Abbey Ann’s #1 years and years ago.
But the main thing that attracted me to the CDV-1100 was that wonderful CD-Video logo on the front of the player and how it brought back fond memories of The Compact Disc Book.
When I was a child my mother instilled in me a love of books and public libraries. She would visit Taylor Memorial Public Library (now Cuyahoga Falls Public Library) on a regular basis. Sometimes I would go with her and other times I would ask her to find me books on a specific subject. There were certain books I was fascinated with that I would take out over and over. One of these books was a 1987 introduction to the CD called The Compact Disc Book by Bryan Brewer and Edd Key (how can you forget a book by a guy named Edd?).
Today when you Google The Compact Disc Book what you find is a post on the site Awful Library Books where librarians make fun of obsolete, out-of-date books that get culled from library collections.
Much of the book was right on. The parts about how digital audio worked, how the data on a CD is encoded in pits and lands, and how CDs are manufactured are still relevant today.
However, the real fun part of books like this is the vision of the future they articulate. Even as I was reading the book in the mid-1990s the vision of the future the authors envisioned had not quite come to pass. The pages about how CD-ROM was going to revolutionize the world (complete with a priceless picture of a giant external CD-ROM drive attached to an IBM PC AT) were on the mark but the sections promising that CD-Interactive (CD-I) and a mysterious format I had not heard of called CD-V were going to revolutionize the living room clearly had not happened.
The reason I’m so into LaserDisc today? That page, right there. The idea that the ubiquitous CD was actually part of a family of disc standards that had been patched together fascinated me. I was aware that 12in LaserDiscs had movies on them but I had never seen an 8in LaserDisc or 5.25in CD-Video disc. I was especially taken with the idea that somewhere out there were gold CDs with video on them.
This Vine video I did with the Yamaha CDV-1100 and the various disc sizes is my tribute to that photo in The Compact Disc Book.
Earlier in the book there’s a section that explains the LaserDisc format and it’s relationship with CD Audio and CD Video.
The pièce de résistance was this vision of what the “living-room of the future” would look like.
In the future we will all have giant 4:3 flat screen TVs and “omni-disc” players for all sizes of LaserDiscs (though, I have to admit I do have a 40in flats screen and my PS3 does play many things…).
So, as I’m standing there in Time Traveler I was thinking about that book. I was thinking how both the Pioneer and the Yamaha both would basically be considered “Omni-Disc” players by the definition of The Compact Disc Book, but that the Yamaha was actually emblazoned with the CD-Video logo, was actually from the 1980s, and was $20 cheaper.
So I bought the Yamaha.
Unfortunately I also violated the cardinal rule of buying used electronics: Always try the thing in the store. I was so enamored with having one of the players that the book was talking about that I didn’t bother to test it in the store.
When we got it home we discovered that, much like the Realistic CD-1000, the belt responsible for opening and closing the drawer were totally shot as well as the belt responsible for moving the laser assembly.
My Dad offered to try to fix the CDV-1100, like he had the Realistic CD-1000, but that he wouldn’t have the time to do it for several weeks.
So, while I waited, I kind of went nuts on eBay. I started looking for a gold CD-V disc, like the book had described. It seems that people collect these now and many of them go for $30 and up. That was a little too rich for my blood, especially since I didn’t know if the Yamaha player I would need to play them worked. Fortunately, I found the CD-V disc from David Bowie’s Sound and Vision boxed set with the Ashes to Ashes video on it for a more reasonable price.
I finally had a gold disc in my hands. And, as the book said, there is an inner groove with CD Audio on it and an outer groove with LaserDisc video on it.
While searching for CD-V discs, by chance, I stumbled upon the remote for the CDV-1100 I was missing!
Like the player itself, this remote was emblazoned with the CD-Video logo. It resembles the remote for my DSP-1 in shape and layout. Where the DSP-1’s remote has “DSP” in it’s bottom right-hand corner, this remote has “CDV”, which is really nice symmetry across the product lines.
Next, I found the service manual for the CDV-1100.
The service manual is very, very cool.
It has the stuff you would expect, like a labeled internal diagram of all of the player’s guts and disassembly instructions.
But it also has instructions for a technician to calibrate the player with an oscilloscope.
Finally in order to refresh my old memories, I bought the copy of The Compact Disc Book I was showing you from AbeBooks.com.
Someone must have used the original receipt as a bookmark, because it was sitting inside the book!
It looks like the book was purchased at Tower Books on 1/22/89! I love it when things have the original receipt with them.
Meanwhile, my dad replaced the belts on the CDV-1100, which involved trips to two electronics parts shops in the Akron area because places don’t stock old belts like the used to.
What he found after he put everything back together was while the player works, and plays discs beautifully, it sometimes has trouble detecting that a disc is in the machine.
There are lights on the front of the machine that indicate what type of disc is in the machine.
Sometimes when you put a full-sized LaserDisc in, it refuses to see the disc. You can tell that it first checks for a 12in disc. If it finds it, the LD light lights up. If it doesn’t find it, there’s a click and then it starts looking for a smaller 5.25in disc. If it doesn’t find that either there’s another click and the player just sits there. Sporadically, you put in a 12in disc, get the two clicks, and the player refuses to play.
Oddly enough, I have found that if you turn on the player and put in a 5.25in disc, it’s detected almost all of the time. If you then take out the 5.25in disc and put in a 12in disc, there is a far greater chance of it being detected.
The service manual unfortunately doesn’t give any details as to how the disc detection process works. I have a feeling there’s some mechanical device that detects the disc size so that the player knows how to deal with the different size spindle holes between 3in/5.25in CD disc and 8in/12in LaserDiscs.
The good news is that if the player detects the disc then it plays beautifully. Here’s the Ashes to Ashes video on that Bowie CD-Video disc.
One of the neat features of the CDV-1100 are the different on-screen displays you get depending on what type of disc it’s playing.
When you turn the player on, you get this lovely, oh-so 1980s white text on blue background title screen.
If you put in a disc with CD Audio on it, such as a 3in CD Single, a normal CD, or a CD-Video disc, you get this screen that shows you how many tracks of audio and video the disc has and the total time.
While playing a CD the information about track time and track number you would usually get from a display on the player instead is shown on-screen.
If you put in a LaserDisc, you get a screen that tells you the disc size, format (CAV or CLV), and which side you have in the player.
We’re spoiled in the post-DVD world of elaborate on-screen menus but considering the primitive state of on-screen graphics in those days, this must have been very impressive in 1989.
When it’s working, this is a very cool piece of late-1980s home entertainment equipment. Like the Compact Disc Book promised this is an “omni-disc” player that basically played every type of Compact Disc/LaserDisc they sold in 1989.
The tray has indentations for 3in CD Singles, normal 5.25in CDs and CD-Video discs, 8in/20cm LaserDiscs, and full-sized 12in/30cm LaserDiscs. The player can play both the digital audio and analog audio tracks on LaserDiscs.
I would love to be able to use this player as my “daily driver” LaserDisc player, replacing the LD-V2000, but I’m not sure about the reliability. Even so, I’m very glad I bought it since I now have a player that was a part of the promised future laid out out in The Compact Disc Book.
This is my Pioneer LaserVision LD-V2000 LaserDisc player that I believe I found at the old State Road Goodwill some years ago.
A few weeks ago on Record Store Day I visited Time Traveler in Cuyahoga Falls and was pleased to find a nice little LaserDisc section among all of the other myriad things in that store. I think I spent about $20 on used LaserDiscs. That reminded me that I should write something about my LaserDisc player and my fascination with the LaserDisc format.
LaserDisc, if you’re not familiar with it, was a home video format active from about 1978 to 2000 that played high quality analog video from 30cm discs that resembled large CDs the size of a vinyl LP record.
LaserDisc is sometimes described as the forerunner to DVD, but that’s not a totally valid comparison. Unlike DVDs, LaserDiscs contain analog video. The way this page puts it, the video and audio signals are combined into a frequency modulated waveform and the length of the pits and lands represents the wave on the discs. So, while the discs are physically like CDs and DVDs in that pits and lands are read by a laser, the video itself is stored as composite analog video.
LaserDisc spent much of it’s life as a luxury format for film and home theater enthusiasts. It’s important to note that LaserDisc was not a failed format (like CED). Rather, it became a niche format that lasted for about 20 years while never achieving mainstream success. From 1978 to 1997 it was the home video format with the best video resolution, and after the introduction of digital audio in the late 1980s, the best audio as well.
At the time the main practical criticism of the format was that it was not recordable. If you bought a VCR you could both record from TV and watch prerecorded movies where if you owned a LaserDisc player you probably also wanted to own a VCR for recording TV. The other prominent downside to LaserDisc was that most films required at least one disc flip.
Early discs like this 1981 copy of Animal House were constant linear velocity (CLV) which meant that each side of the disc could hold 60 minutes of video and a two hour film could fit on two sides of a single disc and the film would require one disc flip. These discs are labeled Extended Play.
As the format became more of a high end item for film enthusiasts more films were sold as constant angular velocity (CAV) discs, which could only fit 30 minutes per side and generally required at least two discs for the whole film, meaning many more disc flips. However, they would have had better video quality. These discs were labeled Standard Play, like this Disc 1 of Blade Runner the Directors Cut.
The original Criterion release of the theatrical cut of Blade Runner was on two sides a single CLV Extended Play disc but the later Directors Cut was four sides of two CAV Standard Play discs.
There was also a 20cm LaserDisc size as well.
Today we associate features like random access and chapters with DVD but LaserDisc had already had them for years. One notable thing for me is that fast forwarding on LaserDisc is much more slick than on any other video format, DVD included. On VHS the image would waver and distort while fast forwarding. On DVD the fast forwarding is very jumpy as it quickly shows you still frames. On LaserDisc fast forwarding feels very stable, smooth, and responsive.
The most fascinating thing about LaserDisc was how the audio standards evolved over time. Originally LaserDiscs contained only analog audio. Some discs used the CX noise reduction system, like audio cassette tapes used Dolby-B noise reduction.
After the advent of the CD player started supporting PCM audio as well. Discs started coming with two PCM digital audio tracks in addition to the two analog tracks (to keep support for older players that only supported analog audio). These discs carried this digital SOUND logo.
About this time Philips tried to unite the LaserDisc and CD standards with what they called CD Video or CD-V. This meant they they wanted CD-V badged players to be able to play 30cm LaserDiscs, 20cm LaserDiscs, normal 12cm CDs, 8cm Mini CDs, and finally a new CD-Video format 12cm disc with 20 minutes of CD audio in an inner ring and 5 minutes of LaserDisc video on an outer ring, presumably for music videos.
Some LaserDiscs, like this 1993 AD Police anime disc, carry the CD Video logo.
In the mid-1990s some discs began to re-purpose one of the analog audio channels to carry RF modulated AC3 Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. These discs then carried three audio formats simultaneously: Mono analog audio, stereo PCM audio, and 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. It must have been a real thrill for home theater geeks to finally have a true discrete 6 channel surround sound format.
As LaserDisc players go my LD-V2000 is a very basic model and practically has none of the features you’d want to see in an ideal player. It does not automatically play both sides of the disc. It does not have a digital memory to show still frames. It does not have S-Video output. It does not play digital audio or have an AC3 Dolby Digital RF output. It does not have a fancy jog control. Basically, this player was manufactured in 1990 and the LaserDisc players that enthusiasts are really interested in were manufactured after this one in the early-to-mid 1990s.
I’ve seen references that call the LD-V2000 an industrial LaserDisc player model meaning that it was probably intended for the educational or business markets. LaserDisc is an ideal format for a business situation where you would want a TV playing a video on a loop all day.
I remember the ophthalmologist’s office I went to as a child had a LaserDisc player that would play Disney cartoons on a loop in the exam rooms. The idea was that kids would focus on the cartoons in the distance with one eye while he examined the other eye. I remember walking past the player in the hall outside of the exam rooms and being very impressed.
A VCR would have had to rewind the tape to play a loop where a LaserDisc player can seek to the beginning of the disc in a moment and loop the same video all day. That’s probably also why this player lacks the most basic controls on the front panel and totally depends on a remote control.
This particular LD-V2000 had a medical training disc in it when we bought it. It also did not come with a remote. However, I remembered seeing a Pioneer branded LaserDisc remote at the now-defunct Abbey Ann’s #2 in a basket of miscellaneous remotes. It still has the $5.99 price tag on it. I was correct in assuming that it would also work with other Pioneer models, though some of the controls don’t apply to the LD-V2000.
One interesting feature this player does have is an “I/O Port”, which I believe is a serial port.
I have never seen the manual for the LD-V2000, so I have to speculate a but about what this port is for. I’m fairly certain that it’s not some sort of port that reads data off of discs. I believe it’s a serial port that allows a computer or another accessory to control the player. Since all LaserDisc were time-coded it was very easy to tell a player to call up a particular frame from anywhere on the disc. For example, there were educational discs that used a bar code reader accessory to let a person scan a bar code in a book and call up a still image or a video from the LaserDisc. You can also easily imagine a museum display where pressing a specific button would call up a video on a monitor from a LaserDisc player.
So, what this player does have going for it it that it works and it’s built like a tank. I’ve been on the lookout for a player with more of the fun features people look for in LaserDisc players for some time now, but the problem is that usually someone wants $40 for it, and my sweet spot for something like this is $15. In the meantime, this simple player has been an excellent gateway into the world of beautiful analog video that is LaserDisc.
After the massive post on Windows/386 last week I promised a return to regular service the following week. Unfortunately I caught a stomach bug this week and by the time I recovered I didn’t have time to come up with a full post. So instead, here’s a post of “odds and ends”, neat things that might not make it into a full length post.
After last week’s post Twitter user (and all around fascinating dude) @scottcarson1957 recommended that I read Fire in the Valley by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine, about the early years of the personal computer from about 1975 to 1984 when the book was written. I ordered a copy from AbeBooks and it arrived Saturday morning. This copy looks like it came out of a public school library, which has a neat kind of charm. I believe Fire in the Valley was the basis for the awesome TNT movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, a movie I adore.
On Saturday I was delighted to feel well enough to go to the Friends of the Cuyahoga Falls Library book sale where in the past I’ve had really great luck finding cool sci-fi books for peanuts. Isaac Asimov is always well represented. The Friends of the Library organization has this large room in the basement of the Cuyahoga Falls Library where they collect books for sale and twice per year they let the public come in and buy them at very low prices. This time we got there after 3PM, which is when they start doing their “fit as many books as you can into a bag for $3” sale. The selection was still very good for the sale being so close to the end. As I made my way to the sci-fi section I passed the history and war sections and spotted a copy of The Codebreakers by David Kahn, published in 1967 (this copy is a Fourth Edition from 1968).
I remembered there was something special about this book and that for some reason it was difficult to get so I immediately grabbed it and put it into my bag.
When I read Crypto I thought “gee, I should own a copy of the The Codebreakers” but then I looked up the book…It’s not that it’s difficult to get it’s that for some reason it’s bloody expensive! A new copy basically costs $45 whether you want the hardcover or the eBook. A $45 eBook! A used copy of the hardcover is still over $20! I don’t care how important a book is, that’s highway robbery.
So, I’m very glad I picked up a copy of The Codebreakers as part of my $3 bag of books.
Also in my bag of books where these three Asimov books:
Pebble in the Sky is the first of the classic novels he wrote early in his career, but those two other books are collections of science fact writing he also did. It’s oddly not that well known that Asimov was a terrifically prolific fact writer. There was a series of collections of his science fact articles from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction published under the Discus imprint by Avon Books in the 1970s and From Earth to Heaven and Of Time, Space, and Other Things are the seventh and eighth in the series I have found.
Another thing I bought at the Friends of the Library Sale was this copy of Caddyshack on CED:
CED, you may recall, was the Capacitance Electronic Disc System, RCA’s entry into the early-1980s home video format war that also brought us VHS, Beta, and LaserDisc. Of the various losers of that war, CED was probably the most sad loser.
VHS, of course won. Beta gave the world slightly better video quality and was still recordable. LaserDisc was a very adaptable format that soldered on until the advent of DVD as the format with the highest quality analog video. CED basically had no advantages. It was not recordable but did not have better video quality as LaserDisc did. It used a needle that had to physically touch the surface of the disc so over-time the video quality of a disc would degrade.
The discs are held in the bulky plastic caddy you see in the photo. You would insert the caddy into the player and the player would sort of eat the disc while you removed the caddy.
At the moment I do not own a CED player.
The reason I bought this CED is that I sort of collect examples of forgotten video formats:
Here you see Caddyshack on CED, Blade Runner on LaserDisc, The Pink Panther on Video CD, Jumpin’ Jack Flash on Beta, Being John Malkovich on HD DVD, and Deep Impact on DIVX (full-frame DIVX for maximum awfulness).
The practical reason for owning these things is if I happen to find a player at a thrift store I want to already own a test article. The silly reason is that I just think it’s hilarious.