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The Compact Disc Book what you find is a post on the site Awful Library Books where librarians make fun of obsolete, out-of-date books that get culled from library collections.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.
Today we return to the extravagant world of 1980s handheld TVs.
This is my Sony Watchman FD-10A and Sony Watchman FD-30A, two of Sony’s attempts to create “Watchman” CRT handheld TVs in the 1980s.
The FD-10A, dating from 1987 is on the left and the FD-30A, dating from 1984 is on the right. They both still work, though the FD-30A seems to have a loose connection somewhere and sometimes will not turn on after you pull the antenna out. As you can see, they are both black and white sets.
My father found the FD-10A at a thrift store some years ago and I believe I found the FD-30A at Village Thrift sometime in the past two years or so.
The most distinctive thing about these TVs is what they’ve done with the CRT. On a typical CRT the electron gun is located behind the viewing surface you’re looking at. The gun is firing at a surface of phosphors that are glowing on the other side of the glass tube you’re looking into. There’s basically a straight line between your eyes, the surface of the picture tube, the glowing phosphors, and the electron gun.
Take a look at these Panasonic Travelvision handheld TVs and you can see the ergonomic issue this creates. The shape you get from putting a tiny conventional CRT into a handheld TV ends up with the screen on the short end of a long case. Holding that up to your face is very unnatural. If you’re sitting down you end up putting the TV in your lap and craning your head down to look at it. If you really wanted to hold it up to your face you would have to hold it like a telescope.
The ingenious CRT that these Watchman units use solves this problem. Their CRTs have a window built into the top of the wide end of the tube and the electron gun fires at a curved surface of phosphors located under the window.
See that? You’re actually looking down into the CRT there.
So, the electron gun ends up firing perpendicular to the viewers eyes onto the curved white area with the phosphors. While this does not do great things for the geometry of the resulting image it does mean that you can hold the Watchman in a much ore natural way as you would a portable radio or a Game Boy with your hands down near the Watchman logo and the screen facing your eyes.
This must have been difficult to design. Clearly this is from the era people remember when Sony was doing amazing things miniaturizing electronics.
The FD-10A is a fairly basic model that only has VHF/UHF and no other fancy do-dads like AM/FM or a video-in jack. As a result though it’s more lightweight and somewhat smaller than the FD-30A.
Other than an earphone jack, just about the only feature that the FD-10A has is a switch that allows you to save the batteries by only listening to TV sound.
I used the FD-10A to watch the end of analog TV on June 12, 2009. Here is an image of Cleveland’s Channel 19, WOIO-TV taken before the 10AM cutoff and moments after.
At the moment of the cutoff I took a blurry and unusable movie with my Blackberry. While some channels made a big deal about the switchover to digital on WOIO there was no fanfare other than a text explanation that scrolled very fast up the screen, followed the by the static you see in the second picture.
The FD-30A is a more full-featured set but it’s heavier and larger than the FD-10A. It has a video-in jack (using a normal stereo Y-cable), AM/FM radio (with FM stereo), a DC power input, and a kickstand.
This FD-30A also came with a cloth case. All of the controls are accessible through the sides of the case so when the case is closed you can easily use the FD-30A as a rather weighty AM/FM radio.
The real party piece of the case though is that the cover can become a hood by unfolding flaps that attach to Velcro on either side of the Sony logo.
I supposed this might help in bright Sun conditions, but I couldn’t see using this thing in the rain at all.
One thing I like to think about when I collect items like this is what would people at the time thought about them? That is to say, if you walked into an electronics store in the 1980s and wished to purchase a handheld TV with your hard-earned money, which one should you have bought?
As a collector, I love the styling on the Casios such as the TV-400 and the TV-1000 here. These Sony Watchman units do not have the same 80s flair that the Casio do. I’m sure salespeople hawking the Casios would have been buzzing about the stunning newness of LCD technology and the significant advance of on-screen electronic tuning.
In reality, those Casios are awful. Even if you look past the inherent awfulness of first generation passive-matrix LCDs screens the electronic tuning is disturbingly bad. Anyone who has ever tuned in analog TV knows that you always have to fiddle with the tuning. There’s no way to do that with the Casios. If they don’t find your desired channel, they just tune right on by.
So, what you really want is a TV with analog tuning. I think you also want a CRT. I still need to see what a quality 80s active-matrix LCD looks like but even so I don’t think the LCD technology of the time could hold a candle to the contrast and crispness of a CRT. Even if those CRT handheld TVs ate batteries like vampires, I think the picture quality would still be worth it.
Personally, I would have bought a FD-10A. It’s simple to operate and it’s more convenient than the larger and heavier FD-30A.
But then again, if this was the 80s and you were blowing a wad of cash on something as decadent as a handheld TV, you probably want the FD-30A with all of it’s bells and whistles.
This is the Realistic CD-1000 CD player that I found just this past Tuesday at Village Thrift.
This is the first time I’ve found an item and posted it to the blog in the same week. When I saw this in the electronics section at Village Thrift I could tell it was pretty old from the styling, but when I saw the August 1984 manufacture date I knew I had something really special on my hands.
Checking the 1985 Radio Shack catalog confirmed what I suspected: The CD-1000 is the very first CD player that Radio Shack sold. Given my already discussed fondness for Radio Shack and Realistic I had to have it.
The problem was that the price was marked “3.00 As Is”. If Village says something is as-is, most likely it plain doesn’t work. But, for $3, I’m willing to take a chance.
When I got it home it became apparent what the problem was: While the player would turn on, the CD drawer refused to open.
I opened up the case to see if I could spot anything obviously amiss inside. The first thing I noticed was that there was a CD-R disc that must have been stuck inside the machine when it was donated that had slipped out of the drawer and was sitting among the electronics. After removing the CD-R I tried watching the CD drawer try to open with the case open. All I heard was a motor try to turn but nothing moved.
Next, I took it to my father. He quickly discovered that the belt that goes between a motor and that white, round piece in the bottom center of the picture above was broken.
We then proceeded to remove the drawer assembly from the unit to get a better look. That involved unplugging all of the connections between the drawer and the main board.
Eventually we got the drawer assembly out of the unit. My father manually turned the round white piece and we discovered how the drawer works. As you would expect, first the drawer pulls in. What was really curious was seeing the little platform on the center of the drawer move.
See that raised platform where you place the disc? It works like an elevator that places the disc onto the drive spindle. Then the white plastic piece with the “Danger!…” sticker on it moves downward and clamps the disc in place. All of this was driven by that single white round piece with the broken belt.
The next day, my father took the drive assembly to Philcap Electronics where they took some measurements and sold him a replacement belt for $3.
After he installed the new belt and reconnected all of the wires the CD player worked! I’m personally somewhat shocked that nothing else was broken on this thing but that belt. In researching this unit you find people talking about problems with distorted sound and the laser failing, but my player seems to work perfectly after the belt repair.
The thing about CD players that is a blessing and a curse is that to a close approximation they basically all sound the same. I had heard though, that the very earliest CD players had some nasty filtering in their early DACs that might be audible. Personally, it sounded to great to my ears. That got me curious about what all of those chips were inside the CD-1000.
The first thing I found was that this player was probably designed for Tandy by Hitachi. Most of the chips inside are Hitachi chips. I stumbled upon this French website about another, much more flashy early CD player, the Hitachi DA-1000 that shows the chips it had inside of it.
Notice that both players used the MB15529 chip. Those two other chips next to it also look similar. The description of those chips is in French, but Google Translate tells me that the MB15529 decodes the bitstream into frames and the HD60901H does error conversion. Basically, these chips are the digital portion after the drive reads the bits and before the DAC turns them into analog sound.
The DAC used in the Realistic player is a 16-bit Burr Brown PCM53JP-V DAC.
It sounds like this was a common chip in pro audio equipment in the 1980s. It also looks like they’re even still in demand today to repair old gear. The Burr Brown DAC is probably why this unit sounds so good today.
From what I can gather the first generation of CD players like the famous Sony CDP-101 was from 1982-1983. By 1984-1985 when my CD-1000 debuted the hardware was settling down a bit.
This raises an interesting point about the CD-1000. Even at the time, this was an austere player. The design was pretty low-key compared to something like that over-the-top Hitachi DA-1000 I linked to above. The CD-1000 had no headphone input, no remote control, and a basic (but beautiful) display. On the other hand, the CD-1000 debuted at $400 which was probably more affordable than most players at the time. And yet, Radio Shack and Hitachi did not skimp on components, since the guts look comparable to the DA-1000.
It’s interesting to see how the designers of the CD-1000 dealt with things that are commonplace today. For example, there is no next track button. What you do instead is hold play and press the fast forward or rewind button to skip a track. If you just hit the fast forward or rewind buttons it seeks rather than skipping. If you want to skip to track 12 you have to hit the 1 button, then the 2 button, and then press Play.
The display is a simple affair with lovely, bright florescent digits.
Listening to a CD player for the first time in 1984 must have been amazing. The 1980s were a time of electronic novelties. There were portable TVs, personal computers, various type of home video like Beta, VHS and LaserDisc, huge early cellular phones, etc. But, none of them could hold a candle to the shockingly great sound of a Compact Disc. No pops, no scratches, no tape hiss. Just clean sound with amazing dynamic range. Some of the pro-CD propaganda from that era was nonsense, such as how the discs were indestructible, but the promise of clean sound was true. The Compact Disc was the ultimate 1980s novelty.
Today, as people re-embrace vinyl we forget the lesson the CD player taught us: Analog is tyranny. That is to say that in analog audio there’s always some noise, always some distortion and all you can do is spend more money to minimize it. That’s awful, when you think about it. You can whine all you want about the loveliness of analog audio but what it meant was that a select few who could afford expensive hi-fi systems got to listen to great sound and everyone else got less than that. Yes, you can have a great record player that minimizes surface noise and produces spine-tingling sound, but if you can’t make it affordable and give it to the masses, what’s the point of that?
So, if you walked into a Radio Shack in late 1984 and were blown away listening to a CD-1000 for the first time you were hearing not a $5000 turntable but a $400 component you were much more likely to be able to afford.
I can appreciate that album artwork looks much, much better on an LP dust jacket. Fundamentally I think that’s why vinyl is coming back into fashion now. It’s the beautiful artwork. There’s also a readily understandable beauty to watching a vinyl disc spin with music coming out.
But we too often forget the beauty of digital audio. It wasn’t until I watched this fantastic video from Xiph.org (YouTube link if your browser doesn’t support WebM) about the common misconceptions about how digital audio works that I realized how fortunate we are to have had the CD and 16-bit/44.1KHz PCM digital audio. The most surprising thing about the video is how Monty explains that human ears don’t really need anything better than 16/44 because 16/44 can reproduce any frequency we can hear. I had always assumed that more bits and more samples would mean better audio, but that’s not the case. Given two sampled points at a 44.1KHz sample rate there is only a single waveform that fits those points that is within the range of human hearing. The 16-bit sample depth already produces a dynamic range that exceeds the range of our ear’s sensitivity and a noise floor that is inaudible. We will never need anything greater than 16/44 with the speaker technology we possess today and the ears we will always possess.
The compact disc was unwittingly the last physical consumer electronics audio format. The depth of the 16/44 format meant that there will never be another format that sounds better to most people. For playback, there’s no need to go further.
More importantly though, by pressing hundreds of millions of discs full of unencrypted 16/44 PCM, the industry laid the groundwork for the future. Bits are inherently portable. Get those bits off of the CD and they can go anywhere and be physically stored in a drive of any size.
What’s killing the CD now is the tyranny of space. Storing discs takes up space. Players take up space. With digital the beauty is that the music is in the bits, and not the physical medium (which is how digital defeated analog in the first place). You can make digital storage basically as small as you want. But the polycarbonate disc never matter in the first place. What mattered are the bits. And they are likely to live forever.