Ampex is a brand name that isn't mentioned much in terms of current video technology, but their history is full of notable innovations, though most are aimed at commercial-grade video production and editing. But 50 years ago, Ampex opened a consumer and educational division (Google books preview), with the pinnacle of their home entertainment offering that year was the Ampex Signature V, a 9-foot-long system that weighed 900 pounds, allowing the home user to record a television program for the first time (while being able to simultaneously watch another, no less). This complete audio/video system was marketed through Neiman-Marcus for $30,000. That price also included professional installation and a plaque bearing the owners name (Google books preview). The system was affectionately called "Grant's Tomb" after Gus Grant, the marketing manager who came up with the idea. According to a user on the Videokarma forum, only 4 were ever made, and only one was sold. [more inside]
A clip of the Edsel Show (Oct 1957) is the oldest surviving broadcast video recorded electronically to videotape, a turning point in an era where TV shows were preserved on film (Feb 1958) and kinescope (Sep 1960). Kinescope was achieved by training a film camera on a television monitor, showing camera cuts just as the audience at home would see it. Some studios were able to print video directly onto the film (Feb 1956) with great results, achieving something close to video. The year 1958 saw the earliest surviving color video clips, such as an address by President Eisenhower (May 1958), An Evening With Fred Astaire (Oct 1958, restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive), and Dinah Shore (Nov 1958). [more inside]
At the mostly abandoned Moffett Field in an abandoned McDonald's, digital archeologists attempt to restore, recover and archive abandoned high resolution imagery and data from previous manned Moon missions, using an abandoned Ampex 2" tape drive found in a chicken coop - the last working machine in the world, restored by the last man alive capable of rebuilding the heads. This is likely only part of their weird story.