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Published on Apr 2, 2010
Richard Dimbleby demonstrates the new BBC Vision Electronic Recording Apparatus in an edition of Panorama in April 1958.
Dr Peter Axon is also interviewed on the development of the new recording equipment.
VERA was capable of recording about 15 minutes of 405-line black-and-white video per reel, and the picture tended to wobble because the synchronizing pulses that keep the picture stable were not recorded accurately enough. Ironically, the only VERA recordings that survive are film telerecordings of the original demonstration.
In order to cope with 625-line PAL or SECAM colour transmissions VERA would likely have required an even faster, and possibly unfeasible, tape speed.
Development began in 1952, but VERA was not perfected until 1958, by which time it had already been rendered obsolete by the Ampex quadruplex video recording system. This used 2" (5 cm)-wide tapes running at a speed of 15 inches (38 cm) per second. The rapid tape-to-head speed was achieved by spinning the heads rapidly on a drum the system used, with variations, on all video tape systems ever since, as well as DAT.
The BBC scrapped VERA and quickly adopted the Ampex system. It has been suggested that the BBC only continued to develop VERA as a bargaining tool, so it would be offered some of the first Ampex machines produced in unstated exchange for abandoning further work on a potential rival.