Lost Formats
December 2000

Lost Formats Preservation Society

The society was founded in 2000 with the design of Emigre issue 57. Its sole purpose is to save formats from obscurity. This overview of Lost Formats is not presented in any particular order and not in any way complete.

Further explanation about this collection can be read below (scroll all the way down).

MagneticAudioTape

MagneticAudioTape

Dimensions: various
Storage Capacity: various
Manufacturer: AEG

Developed in 1930’s Germany, brought to the US and introduced by Bing Crosby to pre-record his weekly radio show, ‘in order to have more golftime’. He would also be the first to use Ampex videotape.
Minidisc

MiniDisc

Dimensions: 70 x 67.5 x 5 mm
Storage Capacity: up to 160 Mb
Manufacturer: Sony

Introduced in 1991 to compete with the popular Compact Audio Cassette. It had the advantage of recordability over the read- only Compact Disc.
Floppydisc

FloppyDisk

Dimensions: 5.25 x 5.25 inch
Storage Capacity: up to 1.2 Mb
Manufacturer: Dysan Corp.

Introduced in 1976 as replacement for IBM’s 8 inch FloppyDisk. Later has been made redundant after a battle between 2.0, 2.5, 2.8, 3.0, 3.5, 3.25, and 4.0" formats. The 3.5" format won.
CompactDisc

DigitalVersatileDisc

Dimensions: 12 x 12 cm
Storage Capacity: up to 7.2 Gb
Manufacturer: Various

DVD wasn’t developed by one single company, but when rivaling teams of developers used different technologies, the computer industry demanded a standard. This was introduced in 1995.
JAZ

Jaz

Dimensions: 3.7 x 3.5 inch Storage Capacity: up to 2 Gb
Manufacturer: Iomega

Large capacity removable cartridge system, big brother to Iomega’s once successful Zip. Introduced in 1996.
VideoHomeSystem

VideoHomeSystem

Dimensions: 18.7 x 10.2 x 2.5 cm
Storage Capacity: up to 4 hrs
Manufacturer: JVC

Introduced in 1976. Originally the only competitor to Sony’s superior Betamax, won the battle with better marketing. Was later developed into smaller formats, and formats with a higher resolution.
VideoEight

VideoEight

Dimensions: 66 x 48 x 12.2 mm Storage Capacity: 90 min
Manufacturer: Sony

In 1988 Sony came up with this 8mm video tape in order to be able to manufacture even smaller videocams than possible with the existing VHS compact. Later evolved to Hi8.
pocketdisc

PocketDisc

Dimensions: 4 x 4 inch
Storage Capacity: probably 3.5'
Manufacturer: Americom

Also known as ‘Hip Pocket-Record’. Made between 1966 and 1969, they were small flexi discs to carry around in your pocket! The best thing about it: they were sold in vending machines for 50 cents.
Minidisc

DiamondDisc

Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 0.25 inch Storage Capacity: 2 x 5 min Manufacturer: Edison

Although Thomas Edison was opposed to discs, cylinders were getting outdated. His team secretly developed the first vinyl disc to be played with a diamond stylus. Introduced in 1912.
FourTrack

FourTrack

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: unknown
Manufacturer: Fidelipac

Invented by George Muntz in 1963, and was initially called FideliPac. It was only available for custom installed car players. Transformed into EightTrack later the same year.
AdvancedIntelligentTape

Advanced Intelligence Tape

Dimensions: 95 x 62.5 x 15 mm
Storage Capacity: up to 520 GB
Manufacturer: Sony

Introduced by Sony in 1996.
Referred to by some as 
the medium of last resort. A slow but cheap 8 mm back-up tape cartridge. Also available in WORM (write-once read-many) format.
VideoCassetteRecording

VideoCassetteRecording (VCR)

Dimensions: 14.4 x 12.55 x 4 cm
Storage Capacity: up to 130 min
Manufacturer: Philips

When Sony introduced their U-Matic system, Philips responded in 1972 with the VCR system. Both were initially aimed at the professional market, but in 1974 VCR was widely available.


click

Click!

Dimensions: ‘matchbook size’ Storage Capacity: 40 mb
Manufacturer: Iomega

Iomega’s 1997 attempt to jump in on the small-memory-carriers-for-portable- devices-action.
IntelliVision

IntelliVision

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: 4 to 12 k Manufacturer: Mattel Electronics

Introduced by Mattel in 1980, but when the videogames market started booming supplies couldn’t catch up. Discontinued in 1984.
AdvancedIntelligentTape

ID-1 Digital Tape

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: up to 96 GB Manufacturer: unknown

It took 206 of these tapes to hold the data of the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s eleven day mapping-the-world-in-3D- mission of 2002. Used for digital imagery as well as generic data storage.
SyJet

SyJet

Dimensions: 3.7 x 3.8 x 0.3 inch
Storage Capacity: 1.5 GB
Manufacturer: SyQuest

Introduced in 1997 as a follow-up to the much larger SyQuest discs and competing against Iomega’s 1 GB Jaz in the heat of the High Density Removable Storage War of the 1990’s.
NineTrackOpenReelTape

9 Track Open Reel Tape

Dimensions: 6 to 10.5 inch
Storage Capacity: up to 180 MB
Manufacturer: IBM

Reel-to-reel system tape, mostly found on mainframe computers. Slightly vulnerable and now completely extinct.
PhotoDisc

PhotoDisc

Dimensions: 12 x 12 cm
Storage Capacity: 650 mb
Manufacturer: Kodak

Kodak launched its system to supply digitally scanned images of photographic exposures in 1992. This was before the digital camera-revolution.
Vectrex

VecTrex

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: 64 k Manufacturer: GCE

Introduced in 1982, but didn’t survive the big 1984 video game crash, when consumers massively opted for pc’s.
CompactCassette

CompactCassette

Dimensions: 4 x 2.5 x 0.4 inch Storage Capacity: 60/90/120 min.
Manufacturer: Norelco (Philips)

Introduced in 1966 as a convenient way of recording and playing music in home and car. In 1982 it overtook the LP’s dominance after Sony’s popular Walkman was introduced, but was surpassed by Philips’ CD in 1993.
SmartMediaCard

SmartMediaCard

Dimensions: 45 X 37 X 0.76 mm
Storage Capacity: 16 to 128 mb
Manufacturer: Toshiba

Initially called Solid State Floppy Disk Cards, but that probably didn’t sound right. Mostly used in digital camera’s and MP3-players.
Telstar

Telstar

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: 3 games
Manufacturer: Coleco 1978.

Contained one of the early pong games, and came with a triangular console containing pong-like paddle knobs, a steering wheel with shift lever and a gun!
MagnetoOpticalDisc

Magneto Optical Disc

Dimensions: 3.5 x 3.5 inch
Storage Capacity: up to 5.2 GB
Manufacturer: 3M

Launched in 1985, this is a hybrid of laser- and magnetic technology, the same later used in Sony’s MiniDisc. Also available in 5.25". Larger capacity MO discs are still being developed.
EzFlyer

EzFlyer

Dimensions: 3.88 x 3.83 x 0.39 inch Storage Capacity: 200/235 Mb
Manufacturer: Syquest

Follow-up for the SyQuest EZ, with a capacity of 135 mb. Never a serious competitor to Iomega’s Zip, probably due to lack of consumer trust after serious problems with earlier SyQuest systems.
PaperPunchCard

PaperPunchCard

Dimensions: Various
Storage Capacity: 80 columns Manufacturer: IBM

Being able to store 80 characters per card programmers would try anything to economize use of card space, including shortening dates to their last two digits. Thus responsible for ‘Y2K’. Used from 1890 to the 1970’s.
Travan

Travan

Dimensions: 14.6 x 93 x 72 mm
Storage Capacity: up to 1.6 GB
Manufacturer: 3M

According to some the best thing to say about it is that it’s cheap. According to others it should not be used in critical applications, and that critical kinda means, if you want to recover your data.
TelDec

TelDec

Dimensions: 8 x 8 inch
Storage Capacity: 10 min 
Manufacturer: Telefunken/Decca

A floppy grooved PVC Disc inside a paper caddy could store 10 minutes of black & white video, needing 12 disc changes for a 2 hour movie. Introduced in 1975.
Diskette

Diskette

Dimensions: 3.5 x 3.5 x 0.08 inch
Storage Capacity: 1.44mb
Manufacturer: various
PhonoVision

PhonoVision

Dimensions: 10 inch
Storage Capacity: about 3 min
Manufacturer: J. Baird/Columbia

There are only six Phonovision discs known to exist. These one-sided wax discs contained 30-line moving images. in 1927!
CapacitanceElectronicDisc

CapacitanceElectronicDisc

Dimensions: 12 x 12 inch
Storage Capacity: 2 x 60 min 
Manufacturer: RCA

CED was a lubricated (!) pvc videodisc in a caddy. The caddy was inserted in a machine, the disc was unloaded and the empty caddy ejected. Worked with a diamond stylus with titanium electrode. 1981–1986.
NeoGeo

NeoGeo

Dimensions: 19 x 14 x 3 cm
Storage Capacity: 41.25 MB
Manufacturer: SNK

Introduced in 1990. At its time the largest cartridge in any videogame system, but due to the high quality, price and exclusivity new games appeared troughout the nineties, and well into the naughties.
VideoLongPlayer

VideoLongPlayer

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: unknown
Manufacturer: unknown
TelCan

TelCan

Dimensions: 0.25 inch tape reel
Storage Capacity: 2 x 15 min 
Manufacturer: NEVC

In order to record television broadcasts on ordinary two-track tape, the TelCan recorder ran the tape along its recordingheads at a speed of 11 km/h (10 feet per second). Introduced in 1963.
EightTrack

EightTrack

Dimensions: 5.25 x 4 x 0.9 inch
Storage Capacity: 80 min 
Manufacturer: RCA

William Lear (of Lear Jets) built FourTrack players into his jets. Dissatisfied with the technology he further developed it into the EightTrack format.
CompactDisc

CompactDisc

Dimensions: 12 x 12 cm
Storage Capacity: 74 min
Manufacturer: Sony/Philips

After the development of DiscoVision, (LaserDisc), it was a small step to an optical audiodisc. In conjunction with Sony the CD was introduced in 1980. The centerhole got it’s size from a ‘dubbeltje’ (Dutch 10-cents piece).
SuperDisc

SuperDisc

Dimensions: unknown Storage
Capacity: unknown
Manufacturer: unknown
TwelveInchVinylRecord

TwelveInchVinylRecord

Dimensions: 12 x 12 inch
Storage Capacity: 2 x 45 min
Manufacturer: CBS

LongPlay record, aimed at an audience for classical music, movie soundtracks and show tunes, but became a much larger success than anticipated.
ViewMaster

ViewMaster

Dimensions: about 3.5 inch
Storage Capacity: 7 pics/stereo Manufacturer: Sawyers

Introduced in 1939. Viewmaster was a stereoviewer which used paper reels with little slides. Viewers were available with back illumination, there were projectors and there was even a ‘talking’ variety.
Video2000

Video2000

Dimensions: not yet available
Storage Capacity: 2 x 1 hr
Manufacturer: Philips

Albeit superior to VHS and BetaMax, Philips’ Videosystem just came too late. Although some say that their reluctancy to allow porn being distributed on the format hasn’t helped it either.
DVDRam

DVD RAM

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: unknown
Manufacturer: unknown
Syquest

SyQuest

Dimensions: unknown Storage
Capacity: unknown
Manufacturer: unknown
Umatic

U-Matic

Dimensions: 8 5/8 x 5 3/8 x 1 3/1"
Storage Capacity: up to 60s min
Manufacturer: Sony

Launched in 1971, and mostly aimed at the professional market. It quickly became the industry’s standard and remained so for the next 25 years.
PlayTape

Playtape

Dimensions: 3 x 2.8 x 9.5 inch
Storage Capacity: 30 min 
Manufacturer: Sears/MGM

Endless tape loop similar to 4Track and 8Track, but this was a 2Track Cartridge, meant as replacement for a transistor radio. Only produced between 1967 and 1968.
CompactFlashCard

CompactFlashCard

Dimensions: 43 x 36 x 3.3 mm
Storage Capacity: 16 mb to 1 gb
Manufacturer: SanDisk

One of many, but many say the best small memory card. Introduced in 1994, it was based on the popular PC Card but soon became the most popular card.
DecTape

DecTape

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: unknown
Manufacturer: unknown
CartridgeSystemTape

CartridgeSystemTape

Dimensions: unknown Storage
Capacity: unknown
Manufacturer: unknown
VinylCylinder

VinylCylinder

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: unknown
Manufacturer: unknown
BetaMax

BetaMax

Dimensions: 155 x 95 x 25 mm
Storage Capacity: 120 min
Manufacturer: Sony

From 1974. In 1976 Universal Studios filed a lawsuit against Sony for copyright infringement, stating that home taping off-the-air was illegal. Sony won, but BetaMax lost the battle against VHS.
DigitalAudioTape

DigitalAudioTape

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: unknown
Manufacturer: unknown
DiscoVision

DiscoVision

Dimensions: 8 x 8 inch
Storage Capacity: 2 x 30 min Manufacturer: MCA/Philips

Replay-only video optical disc system, first demonstrated in 1972. MCA and Philips were both developing a very similar format, and decided to join hands. Same as (and later became) LaserDisc.
VideoHomeSystem

VideoHomeSystem

Dimensions: 18.7 x 10.2 x 2.5 cm
Storage Capacity: up to 4 hrs 
Manufacturer: JVC

Introduced in 1976. Originally the only competitor to Sony’s superior Betamax, won the battle with better marketing. Was later developed into smaller formats, and formats with a higher resolution.
MemoryStick

MemoryStick

Dimensions: 5 x 2.1 x 0.2 cm
Storage Capacity: 4 mb – 1 gb
Manufacturer: Sony

From Sony’s introduction in 1998: ‘Attention Humanoid: I am the Memory Stick. I am the Future. Enter my World of Infinite Connections’.
MiniCassette

MicroCassette

Dimensions: 2.2 5 x 1.5 x 0.3 inch
Storage Capacity: up to 90 min
Manufacturer: Olympus

Not to be mistaken with the MiniCassette which is slightly larger. Later joined by the PicoCassette. As seen in dictaphones and answering machines.
CompactVideoCassette

VideoHomeSystemCompact

Dimensions: not yet available
Storage Capacity: 60 min
Manufacturer: not yet available

In 1982 this much smaller VHS tape tried to put an end to the ridiculously huge videocamera’s. With an adapter they were made compatible with normal VHS players.
Qic

QIC

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: unknown
Manufacturer: unknown
Ditto

Ditto

Dimensions: 2.4 x 3.1 x 0.5 inch
Storage Capacity: up to 7 gb
Manufacturer: Iomega

After the success of its Zip and Jaz, Iomega came up with this Backup Tape in 1995. Otherwise exactly the same as Quarter Inch Cartridge.
SteelWireReel

SteelWireReel

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: unknown
Manufacturer: unknown

Introduced in 1889 by Valdemar Poulsen after an invention by Oberlin Smith. First Practical Use: 1900, the Telegraphone, a telephonic answering machine!
CompactVideoCassette

CompactVideoCassette

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: unknown
Manufacturer: unknown
ThirtyChannelPaperTape

ThirtyChannelPaperTape

Dimensions: various
Storage Capacity: 400000 digits
Manufacturer: IBM

Predessesor to all of the modern day tape systems, which themselves are almost obsolete. Wouldn’t have helped the ‘paperless office’ anyway.
DigitalCompactCassette

Visc

Dimensions: 12 x 12 inch
Storage Capacity: 2 x 1 hr 
Manufacturer: Matsushita

Visc was a vinyl (video) record, developed in 1978. It was never launched, possibly due to the development by JVC, Matsushita’s partner, of the more sophisticated CED/SelectaVision system.
CompactDiscInterActive

DigitalCompactCassette

Dimensions: 4 x 2.5 x 0.4 inch
Storage Capacity: 45 to 105 min 
Manufacturer: Philips

First seen in the fall of 1992, it was meant to be a replacement for analog tapes. As it turned out, DCC could not compete with MiniDisc and DAT.
EighteenTrackTape

EighteenTrackTape

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: unknown
Manufacturer: unknown
TenInchRecord

CompactDiscInteractive

Dimensions: 12 x 12 cm
Storage Capacity: 650 mb
Manufacturer: Philips/Sony

Interactive CD format that came with its own hardware and software operating system, hooked up to a television, which was praised for its ease-of-use.
DeskTopHolographic

DesktopHolographic DS

Dimensions: unknown
Storage Capacity: unknown Manufacturer: unknown

DesktopHolographicDataStorage, the holy grail of formats since polaroid started researching 3-d holographic data storage in the 60’s. IBM took over and promised it to be ready for home use by 2003...
 

Longlisted:

Wax Cylinder, VidiCord, Silvatone, Quadraplex, V-Cord, CartriVision, AcuTrack, MavicaVideoCard, DataPac, PolygramoVision, SparQ, Bernoulli, PocketRocker, SecureDigitalCard, MicroDrive, ChromaDisc, OptiDisc, Elcaset, SoundTape, Tapette.



About Lost Formats

Towards the end of 2000, we were asked by Rudy Vanderlans to guest-edit and design issue 57 of Emigre. We decided to dedicate that issue completely to the subject of storage formats; around that time, we were quite fascinated by that theme.
In 1999, we designed a line of ten t-shirts for Dutch fashion label SoGenes, shirts featuring drawn silhouettes of formats like the compact disc, the 12'' LP and the 8'' video cassette (see SoGenes / Personal Formats). In that same period, we were working on a project for Droog Design that also involved formats. In short, Droog Design asked us if we wanted to come up with a proposal for a piece of furniture; we came up with a design for a storage cabinet that could hold all possible formats, a cabinet that would also function as a monument for obsolete formats. Droog Design rejected the idea, but we still felt it was a subject that needed further exploration.

What fascinated (and still fascinates) us about formats is the whole ‘dialectical materialistic’ dimension of the subject: the way content is shaped by formats, and formats are shaped by content. In an interview we gave in 2007 to French graphic design magazine Ink, we described it as follows:

We’re really interested in this continuous interaction between form and content: Form determining content determining form determining content etc. Its a continues flow, and in the ideal situation, you cant really distinguish between form and content; they constantly change place.
A good example is the LP, the 12'' vinyl gramophone record. The standard LP can only contain 45 minutes of music, so most albums by rock bands are approximately 45 minutes long. This is a very good illustration of the way in which a given format (in this case, the LP) can determine the length of an artwork (in this case, the rock album) in a very direct, physical way. Very similar to the way in which the format of the column determines the style of writing. In fact, many artists have played deliberately with this format. (For example, a lot of Brian Eno
s ambient compositions have exactly the length of one side of an LP, the maximum amount of music).
But at the other hand, the length of the standard CD is 75 minutes, because those who developed the CD wanted to make sure that Beethoven
s Nine could fit on it. So here you see the reverse process: the capacity of a format being determined by the length of an artwork. And thats exactly what we find fascinating: this constant interaction between form and content, between humans and their physical environment, between the material base and the superstructure.

In 2000, we realized formats were slowly disappearing. There once was a time when every format contained its own specific data, while nowadays the CD-rom format is capable of containing all data, and even the CD-rom is slowly disappearing. So when Rudy asked us to design/edit an issue of Emigre, we decided to turn the issue into a monument to obsolete formats, and named the project ‘Lost Formats Preservation Society’.

We designed Emigre 57 towards the end of 2000, and it was published in the beginning of 2001 (to read the full story, go to Emigre 57). Although we thought we did a good job, the magazine wasn’t received very well at all; in fact, many readers cancelled their subscriptions after the magazine was sent to them.
Four years later, in 2004, we put some of the material (that we collected while we were designing Emigre 57) online, on our website, and this collection of material turned out to be more successful than that issue of Emigre ever was. We received many reactions, suggestions and comments. So when we relaunched our site in 2008, we decided to feature the material again. And that’s where we are now.

A few quick remarks. First of all, we like to thank everybody who mailed us their suggestions over the last years. We haven’t had the time yet to actually add these suggested formats to the collection, but we will do soon. (We will then also compile a thank list, mentioning all those people who suggested formats to us).

Secondly, we received some reactions from people asking why the formats are represented as having all the same size. The answer of this can be found in the magazine. The shapes we show above were part of a typographic section of six pages, a ‘memorial wall’ of lost formats, displaying the shapes almost as a font, as a typeface. That’s why all the shapes have the same size. Elsewhere in the magazine, we included a section featuring line-drawings of all the formats in real size; so the difference in size was made apparent in that section. These two sections complemented each other: the first section showed the shapes, the second section showed the sizes. The shapes that we show above are coming from that first section; in other words, they are not related to each other proportionally, they all have the same size. That’s part of their charm, we think.

Enoy the list.

( c ) 1997 – 2014