Editors Note:


EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

That Seventies Cam

Some men covet classic cars, others pine for vintage neon signs. I dig old TV cameras. Take the TK-76 - possibly the most celebrated fancy-cam of all my time. Named for the bicentennial year in which it was unveiled, this pale blue number greatly hastened the pace of electronic news - all while I was drawing cartoons in the fourth grade. But while I was doodling loopy Ayatollahs, a legion of azure cameraheads were dashing across the globe - recording the back-half of The Seventies in then pristine videotape. One can only guess at the soundtrack to all that polyester newsgathering. I'm thinking lots of Foghat.

The first fully self-contained 19 pound portable camera, the TK-76 sold almost as well as those form-fitting action slacks modeled by the Ron Burgundys of the day. But RCA's bicentennial model camera didn't come without its baggage - namely an oversized record deck swaddled in dusty blue canvas. That's right, when the leisure-suited lenslinger shouldered their day-glo rigs, they saved their other clavicle for a burden of its own - a heavy-ass VCR in a bag. Tethered to the camera by a stiff, twisty command cable, the deck often ballasted out the shooter, until he decided to jog - at which point the swaying heft of all that technology would sometimes take him out at the knees.

But that didn't stop a generation of white men afros and chest medallions from schlepping these hearty units through the Carter Administration and beyond. By December of 1980, more than 2000 TK-76's had been sold worldwide - 1300 in the U.S. and 700 worlwide. If you watched network or even local news in the late 70's, you saw it through the lens of RCA's 'no back-pack' camera. Of course, with an oversized battery belt slung over your shoulder bandolier-style and a buddy man hauling an astronaut's overnight bag along for good measure, who had room for a back-pack?

Hernias aside, the TK-76 enjoyed a glorious run as the industry-standard. But it couldn't last. In 1982 a little Mom and Pop firm by the name of Sony introduced the Betacam - a one-piece camcorder that revolutionized the act of gathering video by unburdening the photog of ancillary gear. Though it saw service well into the 80's, the TK-76 was soon left behind. Today however, this thoroughbred throwback enjoys a legacy unmatched by other models. On eBay, in blogs and most definitively on Barry Mishkind's jaw-dropping glossary of once cutting-edge technology, the TK-76 thrives in cyberspace. Now if we could only do something about those bell-bottom jumpsuits...

3 comments:

turdpolisher said...

Never got the pleasure of hoisting a TK, but I've seen many a photog who has. Their right shoulder sags a little lower than their left, and from the rear they look like an add for scoliosis

Lou Faugerburg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stump said...

The cause of both my back surgeries. I hope I never see another one.