Sometimes in this business I get asked by customers if I would like their old machine – usually it’s been in storage for a couple decades and all but forgotten until the tapes re-surface. And usually my response is thanks, but no thanks. A machine that’s been idle for this much time is going to take a lot of work to get going again and up to spec. But, recently I had an offer I couldn’t refuse – an Akai 1/4″ Open Reel video machine (VT-100S).
Akai came out with this unit in 1967 – it was a b&w video and mono sound format, and pretty crude by today’s standards. This particular unit even had the original batteries – after all, this was a “portable” VTR that would plug into an external camera. I couldn’t resist the chance to get this unit going.
At first, it looked pretty grim, all the rubber belts and idler tires needed replacing and where to source these parts? I barely had a service manual for this obsolete item! But some checking around led me to a supplier in Europe for some belts, then another company was making idler tires in the US that I think I could MacGyver enough to pull some tape through. Then some troubleshooting at the component level, some cleaning and eventually we saw an image.
In the end I suppose I was lucky with this unit. I was able to transfer some tapes for the client and get a machine working for a little longer. How long it will run is anyone’s guess. But it was a beautiful thing to see an image once again and a little window back in time.