The History of CCTV


It’s often said that in the modern day we live in a so-called ‘Big Brother’ world. If you feel like there’s a CCTV camera at every corner, that’s because there is. From shops and public buildings to personal property and on the roads, there are cameras everywhere. In fact, there is one CCTV camera per 14 people in the UK, making it the most watched country per capita in Europe.

Whilst many people feel like CCTV is an excuse to watch their every move and have no privacy, it serves a very valid purpose. CCTV has been proven to reduce petty crime like car theft. Whilst it doesn’t reduce violent crime, it does make it easier for prosecutors to identify suspects and bring justice to those affected.

So, all in all CCTV is good, but it’s nothing new. Despite what you might think, CCTV actually pre-dates most people alive today.

When was CCTV invented?

Live video capture technology was first used by the Germans in 1942. It was invented by electrical engineer, Walter Bruch, and was initially used by the Nazis to monitor V-2 rockets. Technology was primitive in the second world war and so CCTV wasn’t like it is now. It couldn’t record footage, it initially livestreamed video to a screen that was manned.

 When did CCTV turn commercial?

Following the end of the war, CCTV became commercial, but it wasn’t until 1949 that the USA picked up on its uses. Vericon began installing CCTV under the direction of the government, and the NYPD used the system to try and deter criminals. Whilst the technology was nowhere near to the standard it is now, back then it was considered advanced and was more cost-effective to hiring mobile security patrols.

Upgraded technology

For the first 30 years of its existence, CCTV relied on an operator being on hand to thread the physical tape and swap it with a new one when it ran out. This was a tedious job, but in the 1970’s it all changed. The VCR system was introduced and proved to be far more effective. Whilst the tapes still had to be replaced, it was far easier.

As anyone who grew up around that time will tell you, it wasn’t uncommon to have to record over old videos. They were bulky items and it wasn’t practical to have hundreds and hundreds, so businesses and governments started to record over older tapes to avoid having an endless expanse of tapes.

The 1990’s was when it all kicked off. Multiplexing technology became available which means that businesses or authorities who were monitoring several areas could do so on one screen. This meant space could be saved as seven screens weren’t needed to monitor seven areas. The system was still using VCR tapes, but change was on the horizon.

Digital CCTV

In the early 2000’s, much of the technology we now use became mainstream. Digital became less of a dream and more of a reality, with VCR’s being ousted in favour of digital video recorders. Nowadays, CCTV can be recorded and streamed remotely, so no matter where you are, you can view your property. CCTV cameras are also of much better quality than they initially were, with HD recording and sound recording readily available.

CCTV is now relied upon by police forces and it’s becoming a lot more common in residential properties. From video doorbells to front cameras, CCTV is now a feature of everyday life, something not even Bruch could have anticipated.


We hope you’ve enjoyed this delve into CCTV and learned something new. Do you have CCTV at your property?


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