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20 years ago Fisher-Price, the toy manufacturer, released a remarkable piece of plastic that had a long lasting impact. Probably more profound than even their marketers imagined.
A camcorder, albeit it black-and-white, that used ordinary everyday audio tapes. With the ability to record sound AND vision.
Light weight and handy, what it lacked in picture quality it made up for in mobility. But while the imagery might be regarded as cheap and nasty it lent an air of gritty (and grainy) special effects. The user could record about five minutes per side when using a 90 minute audio tape.
It's now a much sought after collector item which is still fun to use and also an interesting piece of videography history.
Photo credit: Me
The Fisher-Price PXL-2000 (also known as the PixelVision by Fisher-Price) was a toy black-and-white camcorder produced in 1987 that used an ordinary compact audio cassette as its recording medium.
When the PXL-2000 was available in retail outlets, it came in two versions—one with just the camera and necessary accessories (power supply, blank tape, etc.), and another which came packaged with a portable black and white television with a 4.5 in (114.3 mm) diagonal screen, for use as a monitor. There were also extra accessories sold separately, such as a carrying case.
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Revival in popularity
The PXL-2000 has seen a revival in popularity since the early-to-mid 90s among independent, experimental/avant-garde, and underground filmmakers, due to its unique low-resolution pixelated black & white image, with a lower frame rate of around 15 frames/s, akin to 8 mm or super 8 movie film (upconverted to the standard 30 frames/s in the camera). The image is also "gutterboxed", meaning it has a black border around all sides of the picture.
PXL-2000 cameras are still popular in the filmmaking scene-in fact, some individuals offer modifications for the PXL-2000 to output composite video (the PXL-2000 only has an RF output selectable to either US television channel 3 or 4 in its unmodified stock condition), to interface to an external camcorder with a composite video in, or a VCR. The cameras themselves are still in demand, fetching prices as high as $200-500 on auction sites like eBay.
Do you have one? Do you want one?