Little Bits of History

Can I See That Again?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 7, 2013
Instant Replay technology in 1963

Instant Replay technology in 1963

December 7, 1963: CBS-TV uses Instant Replay technology during a broadcast of an Army-Navy football game. This was the first use of the technique, useful in reviewing questionable calls by a referee. The debate over first use comes when the instant is added to the replay. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation claims to have invented Instant Replay when director George Retzlaff used a “hot processor” to develop kinescope film in order to review a hockey play. There was a lag to the instant – but it was only 30 seconds. Slow motion review had also already been used, but the film had to be developed as slo-mo and that created a delay.

With videotape technology developed by Ampex, the instant could be truly instantaneous. The process was first used in 1962 during a heavyweight championship fight between Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johannsen. It was first used on Network Television on this date by CBS Sports director, Tony Verna. The National Football League (NFL) first permitted limited use of Instant Replay in 1986 and modified the rules again in 1999.

In the NFL, each team can challenge a call twice per game (three is special cases). Only certain types of plays can be reviewed and the team calling for review must still have a time-out available. Challenges must be used prior to the two minute warning. A coach signals his wish for a challenge by throwing a red flag onto the field. The referee has 60 seconds to review the play and decide if an error was made. If the play stands, the team loses a time-out. If the call is overturned, no tine-out is forfeited. After the two minute warning and during overtime play, only the replay assistant, a non-partisan observer in the control booth, can call for review.

College football has incorporated the use of Instant Replay with similar but not the same rules as pro ball. Canadian football began using Instant Replay in 2006. Basketball has different needs and Instant Replay is used for buzzer beaters and also for personal fouls resulting in fights on the court. Ice Hockey also uses the technique but only when the on-ice referee calls for a review. In Major League Baseball, it is only the umpire who may ask for a chance to review a play. Tennis, rugby, cricket, rodeo, and NASCAR have used Instant Replay on a limited basis. Thankfully, this is not yet available for in-home use.

“I totally blew that call. In fact, it wasn’t even close. But don’t worry, I’ll penalize the other team for no good reason in the second half, to even things up.” – from an advertisement

“That is the object of replay, to get the call right, not to decide whether you can review this or whether you can review that.”  – Ron Wolf

“I don’t know how we could use it to improve the job that umpires do, … The human element in sport has always been a big part of the game. I’m a football fan, too, and I hate instant replay in the NFL. Football games are taking four hours.” – Bud Selig

“I don’t really complain about the refs too much. We’re all human. They don’t get to see instant replay on every play. The biggest thing is not to make a crucial call to change the outcome of the game.” – Andre Dyson

“Books had instant replay long before televised sports.” – Bern Williams

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: During the game, the instant replay was only used once and did not include a slow motion option. The machine used for the replay weighed 1300 pounds and there were technical issues. After finally being able to see the replay, the announcer quipped, “Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again!” However, the technology improved and it has been credited with the increased popularity of American televised football. Prior to this, it was difficult to follow the game on small black and white sets. However, the technology uses feeds from several different cameras and angles and gives a much better view of the entire field as well as individual players. Brutal hits shown in slo-mo become dance-like and the miracle of a forward pass can be fully appreciated. It also gave the viewer something to watch as the game legged between actual plays. With all this technology, ABC was able to make a success of Monday Night Football.

Also on this day: The Blue Marble – In 1972, the crew of Apollo 17 took a world-famous picture of the world.
Fireproof – In 1946, the Winecoff Hotel burned.
Cicero – In 43 BC, the Roman statesman was assassinated.

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