From monitoring V-2 rockets to digital video recorders

The history of CCTV – from 1942 to present

CCTV is now something we take for granted. Many premises, streets and even homes are fitted with such technology and it is something we have come to accept and expect.

Businesses and consumers alike can benefit from using it to boost security and to increase their peace of mind.

Of course, the CCTV systems available today are very different from earlier versions. Here is a quick synopsis of the evolution of the technology.

Live monitoring

The earliest documented use of CCTV technology was in Germany in 1942. The system was designed by the engineer Walter Bruch and it was set up for the monitoring of V-2 rockets. It wasn’t until 1949 that the technology was launched on a commercial basis. In that year, an American government contractor named Vericon began promoting the system.

These primitive solutions comprised cameras and monitors and they could only be used for live monitoring. They did not have components that allowed users to record footage.

Primitive video recordings

Later, primitive reel-to-reel recording systems were introduced to help preserve the data gathered. However, the magnetic tapes had to be swapped manually, which was a difficult, unreliable and costly process. Operators had to thread the tape from the reel through the recorder and onto an empty take-up real. Unsurprisingly, such systems were rare. 

The emergence of VCRs

A major development in the history of CCTV occurred when video cassette recordings (VCRs) became widely available in the 1970s. This technology was quickly incorporated into surveillance systems, offering a new way for the cameras to be used.

It was no longer necessary for people to monitor the screens live. Instead, the systems could be set up and left to run by themselves. Users could then review the information recorded as and when they wanted to. This made CCTV much more popular among businesses.

However, it’s important to note that these solutions were far from perfect. The tapes had to be changed on a regular basis or re-written. If users wanted to store information for any length of time, they had to keep a library of tapes. 


Another significant development in the history of CCTV occurred during the 1990s, when multiplexing solutions became available. This technology allows video signals from a number of CCTV cameras to be combined and displayed on one monitor. For example, it means that if a company has four security cameras, each of these video signals is synchronised by the multiplexer and recorded on the same tape.

This step forward made CCTV solutions more efficient and it helped to increase their popularity.

Going digital

Progress in digital technology since the turn of the millennium has led to further improvements. VCRs have been replaced with digital video recorders (DVRs), making CCTV systems simpler and more user-friendly. Multiplexers are now built into these solutions, meaning the kits are easier to install and operate. Digital systems have also removed the need for video tapes, meaning organisations no longer have to stockpile tapes in order to store information.


Coming right up-to-date, it’s possible to purchase network video recorders (NVRs). These systems work by encoding and processing video in cameras and then streaming the footage to NVRs for storage or remote viewing. The solutions are particularly useful for firms with many site locations because they allow users to view various departments at any one time across the network or internet more easily and in higher quality than remote viewing with a DVR allows.

Given the impressive features that CCTV products now boast and the ease with which they can be used, it is no wonder that the technology is in such high demand.

Check out PCR’s latest product guide to home security hardware here

Author bio: Anna Longdin writes regularly about security systems.

Link credit: Big Brother Systems

Image source: Shutterstock

Check Also

Introducing Shape Technologies: the payments-platform-as-a-service provider 

A technology provider to the payments community, Shape’s mission is to get payments businesses to market quicker.  Launching with its …