Time Machine: Time Travel for the Fisher Price Set
The end of 20th century, when Fisher Price sold $100 time machines for children, was a wild time with a penchant for deregulation. How else could a civilization produce something as potentially disruptive as the 1987 Fisher Price PXL2000? The PXL2000 produces a primitive black and white image similar to the images from early satellites. These imperfections might have endeared the PXL2000 to videographers of a more formalistic bent, but it never caught on with the younger Fisher Price set.
As a time traveler, I am always on the lookout for opportunities to experience historic moving image formats and curiosities. I was very excited when my colleague Crystal Rangel, a cataloger in NYPL's Special Formats Processing unit, mentioned that she had acquired (with a provenance too complicated for our short blog post) one of these mythical devices that recorded video on audio cassette tape with stationary record heads.
This unmodified unit came to my studio with its 12 volt adaptor and an original audio cassette tape used for recording video. Coordinating our free interstitial time we hastily assembled an adaptor to connect it to the RF or antenna input (VHF channel 3) of a Sony SVO 1630. The video raster is small and padded to fit a standard definition NTSC raster. Pixel vision recordings have little contrast and seem to struggle to have their undersized raster average to gray. These images come out of the camera looking like artifacts; they have the look of something dug up. So primitive, it could be imagined to be Edison's camera with him reciting "Mary had a little lamb… " from the murky grayness.