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Saving the Unseen 1984 Steve Jobs Mac Demo: Behind the Scenes

Video setup
Glenn Koenig

To preserve a U-matic tape about a 1984 Mac, you need a U-matic VCR and some 21st-century Macs.

Last weekend, when I shared the unseen January 1984 Boston Computer Society meeting at which Steve Jobs and team demonstrated the Mac, I mentioned that Glenn Koenig, the BCS’s videographer, had saved it for all these years in a now-obsolete tape format: U-matic. Glenn shared a few fun photos of the setup he used in his video studio to get the meeting off that fragile tape and into a format everybody can enjoy.

Here’s a selfie Glenn took of himself with the precious original tape. As you can see, U-matic, which Sony began developing in the late 1960s — originally for consumers, though it turned out it was most popular for corporate and education use — involves a cartridge that’s a lot bigger than a VHS or Betamax.

Glenn Koenig

This is the industrial-strength U-matic VCR which Glenn used for the transfer. It’s been a long time since Sony made new ones; this is a second-hand BVU-950, dating from the late 1980s, which Glenn bought for $249 on eBay. He spent another $180 to get it serviced — and yes, there are still places you can go to get a U-matic deck fixed.

Sony BVU-950 VCR
Glenn Koenig

You may have noticed a Mac Pro peeking up from the bottom of the last photo above. Glenn used it to digitize the video coming off the U-matic tape. Once the video was digital, he used the iMac in the photo below to edit it.

Glenn Koenig

Even though there’s nothing the least bit surprising about someone using Macs to digitize and edit video, isn’t it still awfully cool that Glenn did the job with the 21st-century descendents of the Mac which he shot Steve Jobs showing to the Boston Computer Society in 1984?

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