Now Open: The Sarnoff Collection Reopens!

View of the museum, with an electron microscope in the foreground, and artifacts and photos visible in the background.
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Vinyl Videos – a new exhibit and a lively debate! [plus links to great videos]

Vinyl Videos – a new exhibit and a lively debate! [plus links to great videos]

 

At our recent Vinyl Videos opening reception and live/Zoom discussion, conversation swirled around the topics of innovation and organizations and successes…and failures.

The subject of the exhibit, the Videodisc system, was RCA’s decades-long project to extend its disc/needle-based domination of home entertainment for just …one…… more… …phase… of ingenuity driving engineering and production for the consumer marketplace. In the exhibit, laboratory and manufacturing materials and prototypes, documents, photographs, and memorabilia illustrate the complexity of the technical — and the corporate — challenges confronting the teams assembled to put images and sound on discs for the home.

We will be posting more exhibit images and texts — and putting the entire exhibit online — over the coming months, so please check back. We also plan to resume an oral history recording/cataloguing project (paused due to Covid-19) and will be focusing our interviews on the Videodisc project.

 

Our discussion participants — Dr. Margaret Graham, Dr. John van Raalte, Brian Wallace, Flori Pierri, and Dr. Ben Gross — offered first-hand accounts of, or perspectives on, the ways this technology tested the fundamental capacity of the corporate laboratory to bridge research and product.

The conversation — like most good ones! — produced more questions than answers, but all the participants did agree that while a series of dedicated groups succeeded in bringing a complex idea to market, the headwinds of serious management and leadership struggles, rapid changes in labor and investment conditions, new market competitors, and unexpected consumer desires combined to render the Videodisc program uncompetitive a few short years after its launch.

The discussion among our presenters was amplified and expanded by comments and questions from our in-house and Zoom audiences about the nature of specific technologies and general trends in innovation — and, almost inevitably, about the human attributes and impulses behind individual and group achievements that can be studied, described, and quantified but never wholly anticipated.

 

Ironically, given its short life in the marketplace, the Videodisc system has spawned a long-standing and avid online/meet-up community ranging from “vintage” engineers, salespeople, and marketing folks to enthusiasts of every stripe, many of whom weren’t even born until decades after the shutdown of the Videodisc program. Discs, players, components, stories, schematics, manuals, and all kinds of knowledge are traded with great intensity and, occasionally, a sense of genuine wonder that seems out of place in these jaded times.

Below are links to 3 videos that some of these folks have created or found and posted: please share your thoughts with these providers on their YouTube platforms — and please be in touch with us at sarnoff@tcnj.edu or via social media!

 

RCA Selectavision Videodisc Dealer Introduction (featuring one very young Tom Brokaw)

 

NIB RCA CED Videodisc SJT 400 Unboxing (nice people in Indianapolis, where Videodisc players and discs were manufactured 40 years ago)

,

The CED: RCA’s Very Late, Very Weird Video Gamble (Pt. 1) (…of 4…along with much related content)

 

Dr. Gary Woodward: Six Vital Auditory Landmarks

Dr. Gary Woodward: Six Vital Auditory Landmarks

Join us for a presentation by Dr. Gary Woodwork on Sunday, December 5! Dr. Gary Woodward Presentation Six Vital Auditory Landmarks Sunday, December 5, 2021 5:00 pm Join us at the Sarnoff Collection to celebrate its re-opening, and for this audio/visual presentation by TCNJ emeritus professor Gary Woodward based on his provocative new book, The… Continue Reading

Welcome Back! Re-opening Celebration Sunday, December 5

Welcome Back! Re-opening Celebration Sunday, December 5

Welcome Back Open House at The Sarnoff Collection Join us to celebrate another important milestone, the reopening of the Sarnoff Collection at TCNJ! Stop by the Sarnoff Collection on Sunday, December 5th to mark the Sarnoff’s reopening with a free public reception and audio/visual presentation by TCNJ emeritus professor Gary Woodward based on his provocative… Continue Reading

Sarnoff Closed for Thanksgiving

Sarnoff Closed for Thanksgiving

We are sorry to miss you, but the Sarnoff Collection will be closed Wednesday 11/24 and Sunday 11/28. We’ll reopen on Wednesday 12/1 at 1:00! Also – be on the lookout for an announcement of our official welcome back event on Sunday, December 5! Continue Reading

We’re Open!!

We’re Open!!

Come visit us — the Sarnoff Collection at TCNJ is open to visitors! We are excited to announce that the Sarnoff Collection will now be open regular hours: Wednesday 1:00-5:00 pm Sunday 1:00-3:00 pm The Sarnoff will be open Wednesdays and Sundays (except Thanksgiving week) through December 12. Sarnoff exhibitions and events are free and… Continue Reading

Reopening Soon!

Looking forward to seeing you soon…. The Sarnoff has been closed since March, 2019, but we are looking forward to opening in November, 2021. We’re looking forward to welcoming visitiors again. To get updates on the Sarnoff Collection, email sarnoff@tcnj.edu to be added to our mailing list! Continue Reading

Register Now! Unsung WWII Code Breakers and Y-Operator Heroines of Bletchley Park

Register Now! Unsung WWII Code Breakers and Y-Operator Heroines of Bletchley Park

Register now for this free webinar! Sundays at the Sarnoff:: Unsung WWII Code Breakers and Y-Operator Heroines of Bletchley Park Presentation by Joseph Jesson Sunday, February 28 1:30pm Register in advance for this webinar: https://tcnj.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_H6zAiIwXSQy0JNqpJkb2fA Research into the German war communications and interception technology during WWII led to the discovery of many incredible heroines who… Continue Reading

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