Some of you may have head of LaserDiscs, the pre-DVD optical disc video format for watching movies at home that offered better picture and sound quality than VHS, Beta, and some argue, even DVDs. But if you haven’t heard of a LaserDisc there’s even less of a chance that you’ve heard of a C.E.D. What the heck is a C.E.D. you may ask? Well it stands for Capacitance Electronic Disc, and it was video system developed by RCA to playback movies stored on special discs which were similar to phonograph records. The first player by RCA debuted on store shelves in March of 1981 with a choice of 50 films to purchase on CED. You can find out more information about the rise and simultaneous fall of the CED format here on Wikipedia.
I picked up my CED player on craigslist, it’s an early RCA model, I believe the first model made. I got about 20 or so CED discs with it as well. So what started this insanity? Well while at a local flea market I came across of a stack of CED discs. The guy selling them knew what they were, and was selling them for $2 a piece. So I picked up The Empire Strikes Back, Thunderbirds Are Go, and The Birds for a total of $5. Which lead me to look for a player to play the discs on, just to see how they worked. The player cost me $25 with a slew of discs, my only disappointment is that the player is not a stereo model and only has coaxial connections out – not the standard AV (yellow, white, red) ports that would be on later models.
Unlike Laserdiscs, CED players use a needle (again like that of a record player) to read the information from the disc, where a LaserDisc player is similar to a CD or DVD player, using a laser to read the information off of the disc. So while the CED player can cause wear on the needle and the disc, the LaserDisc player will not since it never comes into direct contact with the disc. The manufacturing process of stamping films onto vinyl discs at the time was cheaper than making VHS cassette tapes, so this medium was created for those to buy movies cheaper.
So does it work? Well yes surprisingly! I plugged the player in and put in my first disc, Star Wars. I skipped ahead a few seconds to the start of the film and it seemed to work just fine. The movie did skip a bit, it may be either the player or the disc, but it wasn’t too bad. I’m surprised it worked at all. After all the player is 30 years old this month, maybe I should throw it a birthday party? Overall this thing is pretty cool, definitely a geeky blast form the past. I prefer LaserDiscs still (and of course Blu-Rays), but the CED format is an interesting one from the history books.