The Advent VideoBeam 1000 Projection System
In the early 1970s, the biggest consumer TVs were 27-inch direct-view CRT sets, so people must have been blown away the first time they saw TV projected on an Advent VideoBeam 1000’s 7-foot screen. The first Betamax videocassette recorders were still a couple of years away in 1972, and broadcast and cable TV were the only viewing options.
While Advent was already known for its founder Henry Kloss’ incredible speakers, he was more interested in pioneering home-video projection technology. I recently spoke with Walter Allen, Advent’s chief video engineer, and he confirmed that the technology was developed in house, with the projector’s CRTs manufactured at the Advent factory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Audio came from a speaker mounted in the VideoBeam 1000’s projector base, and its sound was bounced off the screen. Allen recalls that working with Kloss was exciting and deeply rewarding, because he had so much more control over the final design than he would have if he’d been working for a “real” TV manufacturer like RCA or Zenith.
Advent’s technology didn’t come cheap. The VideoBeam 1000 initially sold for $2,500, but the company lost hundreds of dollars on every sale (speaker profits offset the losses). Considering the costs of developing and manufacturing the advanced technology, the high retail price didn’t seem all that outrageous at the time. Allen told me the price would have been a lot higher if it weren’t for the significant cost savings made possible by fixing the distance between the projector and the screen (the projector couldn’t be refocused). Kloss wasn’t frustrated by this limitation; he had always insisted that the VideoBeam 1000 be sold as a plug-and-play system, with only a minimum of user adjustments.
The company ceased production in the early 1980s, when other brands jumped into the fray and Advent’s sales declined. But the VideoBeam 1000 was the first of its kind, blazing a path to the new world of home theater.