Although the chapter had closed on the U-matic and Betamax developments, the engineers of the 2nd Development Division had little breathing room before facing their next challenge. Their insatiable pursuit of dreams continued. When Betamax had first appeared on the market, Ibuka gave employees a new challenge. "Develop something new, so Betamax will seem like something from the past," he had said. This was in 1977, and the development of a next-generation format proceeded at a brisk pace. In the race to surpass both U-matic and Betamax, the fast and furious focus was on technology that enabled smaller and denser recording.
Under Kihara, the race to develop the technology fell principally on Minoru Morio, who had been transferred from the Television Business Department. Morio and other members of the development team were amateurs as far as VCR technology was concerned. However, their strength was their ability to not be affected by past experiences. Kihara wanted Morio to create a VCR half the size of the Betamax in all aspects. This meant the development of a machine one-eighth the volume of the Betamax. To this, Ibuka asked, "If Sony will develop a new VCR format, then why not aim for a ten-fold increase in recording density?" Just as he had done during the development of the Betamax, Ibuka simplified the target in order to make it achievable.
The next generation videocassette should be smaller than the Sony Diary. Morio's team was given the target of creating a videocassette tape approximately the same size as an audio cassette tape--something that would be easy to carry. In early 1979, Sony began working earnestly to achieve this goal, establishing the Project 80 Team and giving it the task of developing a next generation VCR for the 1980s.
In January 1980, Iwama submitted a proposal for a new product--a single unit video camera recorder employing a new type of semiconductor called the CCD (Charge Coupled Device). Since the early 1970s, Sony's main research center had been conducting research on this type of semiconductor. By incorporating a CCD, it was possible to develop a video camera more compact in size than could be achieved with a traditional image pickup tube design. As a result, the CCD was being considered as a replacement for the pickup tube, in other words as a new "eye" for the video camera (see Part 1, Chapter 4
In January 1980, the first color video camera employing a CCD was developed for use in commercial aircraft. Sony's engineers desperately wanted to incorporate the CCD in the 8mm VCR. The next four months would involve many sleepless nights and missed meals as the Project 80 Team worked tirelessly to achieve this goal.
After four months of feverish activity, Sony announced the "Video Movie," a single unit camera and recorder. In July 1980, press conferences were held simultaneously in New York and Tokyo, with Morita and Iwama attending the respective events. The new system comprised of a color video camera employing a CCD and an 8mm wide tape weighing approximately two kilograms. Additionally, the videocassette tape was approximately the size of a matchbox and had a recording time of 20 minutes. Previously, the term "portable video system" referred to a 10 kilogram Betamax VCR connected to a video camera via cable. The giant leap in technology represented by the new single unit system was obvious.
There was an additional reason for holding the press conferences, and that was to call for the establishment of a common VCR format and request that manufacturers cooperate in developing a universal industry standard. In reality, the "Video Movie" was still a "concept product." Sony had decided to wait five years before launching it publically. During that time, Sony would develop and promote this new system with other manufacturers in order to avoid the Beta versus VHS battle. Forging ahead with a product that could be incompatible with others did not meet the needs of the expanding and growing market. With the lesson learned from the Beta/VHS episode still fresh in their minds, Morita and the Sony employees all worked to develop common standards.
In September 1980, Hitachi released a single unit camera recorder that was followed by a product from Matsushita in February 1981. Sony, with Hitachi, Matsushita, JVC, and Philips formed a committee to draft standards for the 8mm VCR. By March 1982, this committee had evolved into a group of 122 companies (which later increased to 127), known as the 8mm Video Conference. Progress on finalizing standards was slow but steady. Sony bided time, preparing to commence production once an agreement was reached.