History of Recording

History of Analog Recording, from before Edison to the current day.

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History of Recording

Postby Arny » Thu Oct 08, 2009 4:43 pm

Well this is a tall one for me, but at 73 years, having started recording in the 50's among other jobs, doing demos for Joe Meek.
At 13 years of age, I collected Lonnie Johnson, Django, & Eddie Lang records, as well as very early American Country
recordings of Jimmy Rogers, Carter Family, Browns Ferry Four, and the Delmore Bros.
in 1951 I heard my first Les Paul recording I could not believe what I was hearing, I had to collect his whole works, I still have those 78's now.

While listening to Les Paul he influenced me into recording and how it should be done so I got my first second hand recording Magazine.
My Mothers brothers who were all pro musicians bought me my first guitar, without me knowing it was coming.
I tried to explain, "had Les played a Saxophone I would have still purchased these records".
"Listen to that sound mum" I would say.

Well since those early days of my recording career, I have collected every bit of info that I can lay my hands on and I guess it will help me through this task.
But I hope to get a little help from you my friends, there will be times when like all of us I will make a mistake, if so,
please pick me up on it.

Finally my grammar is not the best and my spelling is British, so be a little forgiving over these matters and if something is not clear then let me know, and perhaps someone who understands what I am trying to write about helps me out by offering another way to explain.

It will be great if we share our knowledge on this thread, so lets have your views and comments as well of course your historical knowledge, as I most likely only have about 10% of what is required to make this thread complete

Thanks for reading

Best Regards,

Tony.
My First Mag.JPG
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Re: History of Recording

Postby Arny » Thu Oct 08, 2009 5:44 pm

"History of recording" as opposed to "History of Analogue Recording".

Do we start when Analogue came on the scene if so we do miss out on a couple of interesting points

The first recording that I can re-call was when they say Moses brought the 10 Commandments Tablet
down from the Mountain.
I quote
Further evidence has been found on Mt. Karkom in the Negev, where remains of encampments, an altar with 12 pillars, and a 4,000-year-old rock engraving that bears a striking resemblance to the tablets containing the 10 Commandments have been unearthed. Perhaps the most startling is the conclusion set forth by biblical scholars that Moses himself may have been the scribe who set down the story of Exodus.
Whether viewed as a scientific mystery or an archaeological adventure, this video is enthralling and thought-provoking. It may just be that Cecil B. DeMille was right on the money when he filmed "The Ten Commandments."
Reviewed by ROBERT S. ROTHENBERG Publisher and Editor-in-Chief


Well we now move on a few years and we now have the secretary who records on a piece of paper in shorthand her boss's letters.

Then a few more years when at last a machine has been invented but it is still not a recorder, it was designed mainly for
courthouse use where what all say has to be recorded, and the person carrying out this task has to be praised for their speed alone, as well as an understanding the written word.
The machine was called a Stenograph
Stenograph.jpg
Double click to enlarge
A top person could work this with one hand at amazing speed (Guaranteed no dropout problems)

I came in after this when I first became a Tape Recorder Engineer, I was repairing dictating machines which these machines were now replacing the shorthand typist.
But most courts still use the person & the Stenograph for sheer reliability.
One of the Offices I used to Visit for servicing still had wax cylinder recorders, after dictation the cylinders went onto
another machine like a bulk eraser and it was a heated element that would wipe the Wax Flat again ready for the next dictation recording.

So now we are analogue

I quote this from an Ampex Valve 300 series manual
Quote
There is no definite beginning to the history of magnetic recording but we can be certain that credit for building the first magnetic recorder belongs to Valdemar Poulsen. This Danish telephone engineer who is often referred to as the "Father of Magnetic Recording" designed the microphonograph which was an invention of great scientific significance. In this apparatus a steel wire was moved with considerable velocity between the poles of a small electromagnet. By using this device a conversation could be permanently_ recorded for reproduction at any time.

In the early 1900's many scientists were attempting to use magnetic tape in preference to the earlier idea of wire. About 1927 a German inventor named PFleumer was experimenting with powdered coatings on tape. So far as we know he did not use magnetic oxide but coated his tapes with powdered metallic materials. Development continued and finally about the year 1939 the Germans produced a tape using a durable plastic backing. This began a new era in the improvement of magnetic tapes, culminating in the superior fidelity we all know.

Valdemar-poulsen-c1898.jpg

371px-US_Patent_661,619_-_Magnetic_recorder.jpg
Double click to enlarge

I will try to post some pics of some of the early recorders around the late 40's early 50's

In the meantime just after the war US forces remained in Britain for a long time and some courted British girls, my cousin June married an American GI.
Through this courting, I as a young lad would often come across these balloon type things in the park or woods, which my Mother embarrassed by my question, explained they were a safety device called a "Durex"

Here is an excerpt from one of my Early Recording Mags where 3M's decided to change their name because of this.
3M's anounce.JPG
Double click to enlarge
Sorry but I can't think of another way to mention this advice. .... :roll:..... :oops:..... :D ...... :lol:

Best Regards,

Tony.
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Re: History of Recording

Postby THEMIXFIX » Thu Oct 08, 2009 6:50 pm

Tony:

This is SO excellent, I can't believe it!! :o :shock: :ugeek:

If you'd like, I can change the Forum to just the "History of Recording". :oops:

I can't believe you still have your FIRST recording magazine!! :shock: :o

I have HUNDREDS of old recording magazines (maybe my first one is in the pile), if you, or anyone else is interested...
:ugeek:
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Re: History of Recording

Postby Arny » Fri Oct 09, 2009 1:43 am

THEMIXFIX wrote:Tony:

This is SO excellent, I can't believe it!! :o :shock: :ugeek:

If you'd like, I can change the Forum to just the "History of Recording". :oops:

I can't believe you still have your FIRST recording magazine!! :shock: :o

I have HUNDREDS of old recording magazines (maybe my first one is in the pile), if you, or anyone else is interested...
:ugeek:


Dear Bob,
Yeah check it out and Post it on this Thread thats a great idea lets all do that
Wanted YOUR FIRST RECORDING MAG.
Then we can consult our news of the past remember most of my History will be based around Britain, so I need some help from your side of the Pond.

Best Regards,

Tony.
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Re: History of Recording

Postby dbbubba » Sat Oct 10, 2009 2:52 am

Arny wrote:
THEMIXFIX wrote:Bob:

Remember most of my History will be based arround Britain, so I need some help from your side of the Pond.

Tony.


I was going to say something smart ass about that, but thought I'd better not!

It's not like you are going to give a Japanese description. :?
That'd be, "Well, we decided to do it the cheapest way possible. While we were at it we tried to figure out howwe could make everything still work, but be as much of a compromise as possible."

Can you say "Adjust the HIGH FREQ. RECORD by fiddling with the bias until it's almost right, but not as close as if we had an actual high freq. record pot"?

DB
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Re: History of Recording

Postby Arny » Sat Oct 10, 2009 2:35 pm

dbbubba wrote:
Arny wrote:
THEMIXFIX wrote:Arny Wrote
Bob:

Remember most of my History will be based around Britain, so I need some help from your side of the Pond.

Tony.


DB Wrote
I was going to say something smart ass about that, but thought I'd better not!

It's not like you are going to give a Japanese description. :?
That'd be, "Well, we decided to do it the cheapest way possible. While we were at it we tried to figure out how we could make everything still work, but be as much of a compromise as possible."

Can you say "Adjust the HIGH FREQ. RECORD by fiddling with the bias until it's almost right, but not as close as if we had an actual high freq. record pot"?

DB


Dear Danny,
Why not PM me, I'm always interested in anything smart ;)

I can only assume that the final paragraph is a question, I only hope what I write, is the answer ?.

The short answer is YES you can set the Hi Frequency by under biasing, BUT this way, it will also effect the Lo EQ, and most likely the Mid, it really depends on the required frequency response of what you are about to record.
So therefore if one has a Hi EQ Pre-set as well as Level and Bias when setting up Record, they will end up with a flatter more acceptable frequency response than having no Hi-EQ Pre-Set.

I have copied your question and my reply and the Ampex Forum as I feel your question might be interesting to others, I hope that is OK.

Best Regards,

Tony.

Here is the long answer that I wrote about Biasing
There has been many posts discussing the many interesting ways of setting up BIAS.
Well here are my findings over the years for what they might be worth to anyone.

First of all a lot of Engineers think of BIAS as effecting the top response, but it also effects the Lower end, and Mid, there can not be an exact guide to setting it up, because head wear has a great effect on how one sets it up.

I also find it amazing how many engineers are setting up 30ips AES using 10kHz as the over-bias frequency.
But then I find it unbelievable how most Mixer manufactures think that 40 Hz to 15kHz is all that is required from the Desk Oscillator in the control room, charging up to £200,000 for the desk and then sticking a £25 oscillator in it !! ?.

There is a simple rule, starting at 7.5ips, we should over-bias using 5kHz by 3-4dB depending on machine, heads, head wear and type of tape, at 15ips we double the frequency to 10kHz, and at 30ips we use 20kHz.
Why ?
Because to use 10kHz at 30ips means we are trying to over-bias by 1.7dB on a VU !! ? depending on machine and tape.
No, double the Frequency to 20kHz, this will amplify the VU Meter’s movement to an over-bias of 3.4dB.

I have not said how this will effect bass response, I have a Bruel & Kjaer oscillator that I can set to sweep between any two frequencies, in this case I use 20Hz to 125Hz, there are some PC Oscillators free on the Web that will do the same thing.

http://www.nch.com.au/tonegen/index.htm ... zAodJEZg3Q

On the above software (PC or MAC) Set your frequencies 20Hz – 125Hz, Set the software to run in Loop Mode and set the duration required about 5000ms

Now set up your bias as required then set your Lo EQ to a (“Best of”) between 20Hz and 125 should be well within 1B at 15ips and 2.5dB at 30ips, unless you have an Ampex ATR124 then the figures become ¼ dB at 15ips and 1.2dB at 30ips.
Minutely adjust the BIAS while monitoring Off-Tape the Lo sweep it wont be much but every bit counts.

On domestic semi-pro machines i.e. Teac, & Fostex as well as the many other makes, the BIAS is aimed at getting the widest frequency range and to hell what goes on in the middle, try recording a high quality Flute and you will know what I am talking about, I was once asked to engineer a live concert being recorded on a 16 track X 1” machine, I stated that I would need 3 hrs before the show to calibrate, “Oh don’t worry they its all been taken care of,” they said, but I insisted.
Why because I hate a wide response that most times on this type of machine will give me a gutless mid range.

Any way I ran some tones through this machine while monitoring with Stax Headphones it was from 40Hz to 20kHz + or – 3dB, I ran a pure 700Hz tone through it and in the Stax, I could clearly hear that usual off-Tape, fuzzy third harmonics coming in.
To give a picture of the sound, think of a piece of string that the strands have come loose, now if you turn up the BIAS (Over-bias more) you will hear those strands start to disappear and the string becomes more solid. “Job done” I checked the Top Frequency and it was now 35 - 16kHz + or - 3dB, I was satisfied we recorded that evening and they never ever changed the way that machine was biased after that night.

You see we all love those old Valve recordings, but some of the gear could not even reach 12kHz but the mid was great as was the balls of the recording.

I always put tones to tape due to head contour changes over a year, if its an album I am working on I put them on a separate reel twice, once at the beginning of the Session and once at the end, which can be several weeks later.
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Re: History of Recording

Postby THEMIXFIX » Sun Oct 11, 2009 1:38 am

Tony:

Excellent post, as usual!! :mrgreen:

I thought I had machines set up well, by aligning before each session, but, after reading the details of the length you go to when setting up a machine, I'll have to reconsider... :oops:

Bob.
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Re: History of Recording

Postby dbbubba » Mon Oct 12, 2009 2:23 pm

Makes me feel sloppy!

I used just check alignment before the sessions by running a tone sweep.
If anything looked off I'd adjust.
I'd do a full aligment where I TRIED to "dot all the Is and cross the Ts" about once per week.

You see.... I never had an intern that could do the job right.
What am I saying?
I'd go back to re-check the job on almost anyone save for a few people! :lol:
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Re: History of Recording

Postby Arny » Thu Oct 15, 2009 5:18 am

Over the years I have read many books about Recording on top of which, I have been taking British monthly magazines since I was 18 years of age, and there were a few that I collected from 1947, many I still have, so most of what I know is in my head BUT, not being a writer or an author, I have had to go through various books and magazines scanning what is written and of course grabbing pictures from this compilation of material, hoping by doing it this way (Using professional authors and their articles) things will be clearer than if had attempted to write it all down.
Most of what I have laid out is not from one source but from many.

The history of inventions and the developments of magnetic recording is a very human and fascinating story. It has all the facets of a true cloak-and-dagger tale. It is a story of the many hopes and dreams of men who met the challenges to not only create saleable products, but to advance the welfare of their fellow man as well.
We are indebted to them for their contributions to scientific advancement and better living conditions. All of us are now in touch with magnetic recording including television, home video, computers and best of all music.

EARLY HISTORY
Our recording technology is founded on magnetism and on electromagnetic induction. The earliest description of magnetism is obscure, but a mineral called magnetite, having the composition of FesOa, was known centuries before the birth of Christ. It would attract iron, and would also magnetize a piece of iron if it was rubbed against it.
The sailor's compass could be made from a properly shaped piece of magnetite, free to turn about a pivot. It would turn in the north-south direction and was named lodestone, which means "waystone" or "leading stone"-pointing the way. Another legend concerning the use of a lodestone depicts its use in defense (Fig. 1-1).
The first scientific study of magnetism was made by the Englishman William Gilbert, who published a classic book, On the Magnet. All his experiments had to be carried out using iron or steel samples that were rubbed with a lodestone.

A Typical Legend about lodestone, Ii you go near it remove your armour first
Cartoon-1-.jpg

Poulsen described his invention as the outcome of a simple experiment where he stroked out a line along an iron plate and found that iron filings would gather along the line. The next experiment involved a strung-out piano wire and a primitive Electromagnet connected to a microphone. Poulsen moved the electromagnet along the wire as he spoke into the microphone, and by later connecting the wires from the magnet to the telephone receiver he heard his voice reproduced, (Fig. 1-2). The electromagnet could be either single pole or double pole, as shown, and he later advised how the two poles should be offset to produce a longitudinal magnetization rather than perpendicular. Finally, Poulsen is also credited with applying a dc-current for improvement of the recording = dc-bias.

POULSEN'S INVENTION OF MAGNETIC RECORDING IN 1898.
Fig. 1-2. Important electro-magnetic discoveries (A). Oersted's discovery of electromagnetism in 1820, and an early drawing showing the right-hand rule, (B). Faraday's discovery in 1831 of electromagnetic induction, (C). Poulsen's invention of magnetic recording in 1898.

Valdemar Poulsen's Explanation-.jpg


Valdemar Poulsen's Telegraphone, 1900
Valdemar Poulsen's Telegraphone, 1900-.JPG

The first decades in the twentieth century were tumultuous for the Telegraphone. Numerous companies were formed, and many varieties of the recorder promoted. There were dictating machines message repeaters, telephone answering machines, small disks were tried for tape letters, and so on.. But there was no technology to improve the quality or playing.
The invention and the associated ideas were clearly too early. So companies struggled and either lost money or changed hands. Accusations were voiced against the American Telegraphone Company. People wondered if the president of the company paid to suppress production which the Phonograph and the Telephone companies feared? Or worse, was he or others in a pact with the Germans, who successfully used Telegraphones onboard their submarines in World War II.
The Germans had made message recordings at normal speed and then transmitted them backwards, at a higher speed.

Whatever the cause, leadership in magnetic recording went to the Germans. In the 20's they manufactured and sold recorders with steel tape and in 1928 a patent was filed for coating iron particles on a strip of paper as a recording medium.
In 1935 the German Magnetophone was exhibited in Berlin and made a big hit because it used plastic tape instead of steel. But no more was heard of it unti1 1943.

Edison's Wax Cylinder Recorder, I experianced having to repair these in an Office many years ago
Edison Wax-1-.JPG

EFDSS Cylinder No.56. 1. There is an ale house [Died for love], sung by unknown male vocal soloist. 2. Hornpipes, possibly performed by John Locke (fiddle). Reasonable quality recording but with some surface noise due to cracked cylinder.
These recordings are also of great interest in that the tunes were to influence, and be used in compositions by Vaughan Williams, Butterworth, and Holst.
Recording date: 1908
Recording locations: England
Performers: unidentified (singer, male); Locke, John (violin)
Recordists: Sharp, Cecil J. (Cecil James), 1859-1924.
Wax Cylinda Recording-1908.mp3


Crescent wire recorder and record deck
Recorder And record Deck-.jpg

Made by Crescent Industries, Chicago, USA, in the late 1940s, this is a record player combined with a magnetic recorder using wire. The record turntable doubles as a takeup spool for the wire. It was possible to record from an external microphone or from a record. Playback was via the generously sized speaker at the front of the case. This particular machine in the collection was originally purchased from a department store in Dublin, Ireland. Wire was a very unsatisfactory recording medium as it could not be edited and tangled easily.

Just after that time the U. S. Army Signal Corps, stationed in England, was puzzled over sometimes hearing radio broadcasts of operas and music during the middle of the night (noting no record scratches and other such deficiencies) they thought how strange that German musicians would play music through to the early hours, and then hearing Hitler speaking from different parts of Germany almost within the hour.
The answer was found in 1945 in Frankfurt by one of their officers, John Mullin. He found in a radio station several AEG Magnetophones, all equipped with ¼” plastic tape, some of which later would serve for the Bing Crosby radio shows.

The sound quality was far better than any other machine in these days, and a close examination revealed that the Germans used high-frequency ac-bias. which is today universally used in most recorders. History will have it that W. L. Carlson and G. W. Carpenter of the U. S. Navy discovered and patented ac-bias in 1927, but it was obviously not used to any extent. The Magnetophone ac-bias patent was in 1946 granted in Germany (retroactive to 1940) to H.J. von Braunmuhl and Dr. W. Weber.
Fig. 1-4. Valdemar Poulsen's Telegraphone, 1900.

AFTER WORLD WAR II
The next three decades bring us through a rapid growth period with innovations, products, people, and companies too numerous to list in a few pages. The Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. (3M Co.) finished their first oxide tapes in 1947, under Dr. W. Wetzel. Ampex, founded by Alexander M. Poniatoff, started delivering audio recorders in 1948; Mincom, a division of 3M Co., pushed the state-of-the-art in instrumentation recorders, and demonstrated television recording in 1951, followed by RCA in 1953.
Other early pioneers were Dr. Marvin Camras of Illinois Institute of Research (then Armour Research), Otto Kornei of Brush/Clevite, and S.J. Begun, who wrote the first book on magnetic recording. The result was an industry that flourished with a large selection of sound tape and sound film recorders.
The breakthrough in television came from Ampex where in 1955 Charles Ginsburg and Ray Dolby (father of today's Dolby System) unveiled the rotating head video recorder (the readers of this book are aware of the perfection this technique has achieved today). Instrumentation recording jumped ahead in 1961 when Wayne Johnson at Mincom conceived a tape drive virtually free of timing errors (low-TDE).
Industry standards were always needed to provide interchangeability of recorded tapes. Audio tapes experienced rapid developments from full track recorded tapes to 2, 4, and 8 track on ¼”tape, and now 4 tracks on 0.150" wide tape in cassettes. Such transitions could not have happened in an orderly fashion if it were not for the cooperative work of manufacturers and standard committees. There are today about 20 different standard groups and of these the following played a key role in the past 35 years of developments:
ANSI-American National Standards Institute, CCIR-International Radio Consultative Committee, IRIG-Interrange Instrumentation Group, NAB-National Association of Broadcasters, SMPTE-Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.

Next comes the Ampex Story.

Best Regards,

Tony.
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Re: History of Recording

Postby Arny » Thu Oct 15, 2009 6:22 am

Creating the Craft of Tape Recording
by John T. Mullin
When a GI sent a German tape machine back home to America, he only glimpsed what it would mean to his -- and recording's --future.


In 1944 I like thousands Of other GI’s just before D Day, I was in England. Because of my background in electronics, I was assigned to the Signal Corps, troubleshooting a problem the Army was having with radio receivers that were picking up severe interference from the radar installations that blanketed Britain.
I became so intrigued with what I was doing that I would work until two or three in the morning. I wanted music while I worked. The BBC broadcasts filled the bill until midnight, when they left the air. Then, fishing around the dial in search of further entertainment, I soon discovered that the German stations apparently were on the air twenty-four hours a day. They broadcast symphony concerts in the middle of the night, music that was very well played, and obviously by very large orchestras.
I had some experience with broadcast music and knew what "canned" music sounded like. The American networks wouldn't permit the use of recordings in the early 1940s, because they claimed the quality was inferior,. You could always spot the surface noise and the relatively short playing time of commercial 78-rpm discs. Even transcriptions had some needle scratch and a limited frequency response. There was none of this in the music coming from Germany. The frequency response was comparable to that of a live broadcast, and a selection might continue for a quarter of an hour or more without interruption.
In Germany at that stage, of course, Hitler could have anything he wanted. If he wanted a full symphony orchestra to play all night long, he could get it. Still, it didn't seem very likely that even a madman would insist on live concerts night after night. There had to be another answer, and I was curious to know what it was.
As the Allied armies moved on Berlin, my unit was reassigned to Paris and lodged in a building that had been a maharajah's palace. It was quite something. Each of us had a big room of his own, with lots of space to store equipment in. We were given the job of rooting out technological developments-particularly those with military applications-that the Germans had made in electronics during the war. That meant taking trips into Germany from time to time.
On those trips, I kept finding battery-operated portable magnetic recorders: about a foot long and eight inches wide with tiny reels. All of them used DC bias, which meant fairly poor signal-to-noise ratio, limited frequency response, and distortion in the high frequencies. But that didn't matter, because they were intended for dictation in the field; bare intelligibility was the prime criterion. We found so many of these recorders that we started dumping them in the maharajah's courtyard. When I left Paris there was quite a pile of electronic hardware out there, rusting in the rain.
In July 1945 a Lt. Spickelmeyer and I were sent to Germany to look into reports that the Germans had been experimenting with high-frequency energy as a means to jam aeroplane engines in flight. Our mission was to investigate a tower atop a mountain north of Frankfurt. There, in an enormous basement room, were two gigantic diesel engines and generators, apparently designed to pump out high-frequency energy to resonate the ignition systems of enemy planes. Nothing ever came of it. While we were poking around I met a British army officer who was there on the same mission. The subject of music and recording came up, and he asked if I had heard the machine they had at Radio Frankfurt. When he told me it was a Magnetophon, the term that Germans used for all tape machines, I assumed it was similar to the recorders we had been junking in Paris. He raved about the musical quality of this recorder and urged me to listen to it, but I thought he simply didn't have a very good ear.
On the way back to my unit, we came to the proverbial fork in the road. I could turn right and drive straight back to Paris or turn left to Frankfurt. I chose to turn left. It was the greatest decision of my life.
The radio station actually was in Bad Nauheim, a health 'resort forty-five miles north of Frankfurt. The station had been moved into a castle there to escape the bombing of Frankfurt, and it was then being operated by the Armed Forces Radio Service. In response to my request for a demonstration of their Magnetophon the sergeant spoke in German to an assistant, who clicked his heels and ran off for a roll of tape. When he put the tape on the machine, I really flipped; I couldn't tell from the sound whether it was live or playback. There simply was no background noise.
The Magnetophon had been used at Radio Frankfurt and at other radio stations in occupied Germany by the time I stumbled onto it, but there was no official word that such a thing existed. The people who were using it to prepare radio programs apparently were unaware of its significance. For me, it was the answer to my question about where all of that beautiful night-music had come from.
Lt. Spickelmeyer and I went to work photographing all the manuals and schematics. I saw to it that the Signal Corps got two Magnetophons. When we came upon more, I kept two for myself. During my last few months in the Army, I took these machines apart and sent them home to San Francisco in pieces. Regulations specified that a war souvenir had to fit inside a mailbag in Paris or it couldn't be sent. I made little wooden boxes for the motors, shipping each one separately. In all, it came to thirty-five separate items.

Any one of those boxes could have been lost or damaged, but all of them arrived safely. Reassembly, early in 1946, must have taken me three or four months, including the assembly of the electronics, which I wired anew with American parts.
One of the Magnetophons

Magnetophon.JPG

Once I got the units together,, I started showing them to audio professionals. The chairman of what was then the Institute of Radio Engineers (now the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) heard about them and asked me to give a demonstration at the May 1946 IRE meeting in San Francisco. With Bill Palmer, my business partner in those days, I had recorded some music at NBC and at station KFRC in San Francisco. The station had a pipe organ, which was particularly effective for showing off the Magnetophons.
In the audience for the first San Francisco demonstration was Harold Lindsay, who, a few months later, was retained by Ampex. That company had been making aircraft motors during the war but was now looking for a new product preferably in professional sound. The tape recorder seemed to be a natural.
In June 1947, before Ampex really got involved, I was invited to give another demonstration-this time for Bing Crosby. He had been with NBC until 1944, doing the Kraft Music Hall live.
He's a very casual person, and he resented the regimentation imposed by live broadcasts. Some weeks he wasn't in the mood and hated doing a broadcast. At other times he was ready to do two or three at a crack. He didn't like having to keep an eye on the clock and being directed to speed things up or draw them out.
The obvious solution was to record the shows. But NBC had told Crosby flatly that it wouldn't air a recorded show on the network: It never had, and it wasn't about to start. So Crosby took a year off, and when he returned it was with Philco on the new ABC network. ABC and Philco had agreed to let him record. But because the process involved recording and re-recording on transcription discs, quality did suffer-at times to the point where the sponsor threatened to cancel the show because, during that first year at ABC, the audience rating was falling off. Philco blamed the poor audio. Crosby's voice didn't always sound very good after two or three transfers.
During the 1946-47 season ABC's engineers recorded each show in its entirety on 16-inch transcription discs at 33 rpm. If everything went perfectly, there was no problem-they simply would air it as transcribed-but that seldom happened.
Almost invariably, there was editing to be done. That meant copying some discs onto new ones, making adjustments as they went, maybe substituting a song that had gone better in rehearsal for the final take. Since they recorded everything in rehearsal as well as what took place before the audience, there were plenty of bits and pieces to work with.
Sometimes it was necessary to make what were called predubs. Say they wanted to use three cuts from three different discs, all within a matter of a few seconds. That didn't allow enough time to get each one cued up during re-recording. So they would make little pre-transfers, or predubs, making copies until all the cuts were added. The final record, therefore, might be two or three generations removed from the original.
Bill Palmer and I had been using tape for soundtrack work (he already had a going business in the film industry before we joined forces), where magnetic recordings were far better in quality and more easily edited than the optical tracks that were standard for films at that time. We were introduced to Murdo McKenzie, the technical producer of the Crosby show, through our Hollywood contacts. And after our demonstration we were invited back to record the first show of the 1947-48 season. Crosby's people didn't say, "You have the job." They only wanted to see how tape would compete with the disc system they had been using. When I taped that first broadcast, they asked me to stay right there after the show and edit the tape, to see if I could make a program out of it. I did, and they seemed to like what they heard.
Once the Crosby people bought the idea, they had to find a place for me to work ' The American Broadcasting Company had been the Blue Network of NBC until, a short time before this, the government ordered NBC to sell it. NBC and ABC were still in the same building at Sunset and Vine in Hollywood. Crosby broadcast from what had been one of the major NBC studios.
Prior to the break up, there had been what they called a standby studio, scarcely larger than a hotel room, with two little control rooms at one end. One was the Blue control room, the other was for the NBC Red Network. There was nothing in this studio but a piano, a table, and two microphones. If one of the networks lost its feed from the East, as they did once in a while, somebody could dash into the standby studio to play the piano. An engineer would run into the control room for whichever network was out, and it was on the air again with local programming.

John. T. Mullin, center at magnetophon, gives the first demonstration of professional-quality tape recording in America for the San Francisco chapter of the Institute of Radio Engineers on May 16, 1946. Mullin's partner, William Palmer, is second from left. The unusual doughnut-shaped nine-celled folded-horn speaker in a four-foot-square enclosure, dubbed "the tub," was made by Western Electric.
Magnetophon demo.jpg

Once the networks split and ABC had adopted the principle of using recordings on the air, there was no need for the standby studio. So that's where they set me up. I installed my machines, moved in a sofa and a couple of chairs, and it became a little living room. It was a delightful place to work.
Mullin, with Bing Crosby, listens to a Tape Edited Show being played back via the Magnetophon.
Bing & Mullin.JPG

Crosby's taping schedule was determined by two factors: when he was available, and when Bill Morrow, the writer, could come up with the material. Sometimes we went right up to the wire. At other times we would be. two months in advance. We might do three shows in a row-one a day particularly if we were in San Francisco, where Crosby liked to work because of the audiences.
Bing.JPG
Scripts.JPG

Murdo McKenzie was a very meticulous man. It was his responsibility to make sure that a studio was available, that the musicians would be there, and that Morrow would have the script. After the show was recorded, it was Murdo's responsibility to satisfy Bill that his script had been handle properly. And if there was anything at all that indicated where I had made a cut, I would have to rework it until it was inaudible-either that or abandon it. Sometimes it would take me a whole week to put a show together after Bing had performed it. I had two recorders and fifty rolls of tape to work with-just what I had sent home from Paris. With those fifty rolls I was able to do twenty-six Crosby shows-splicing, erasing, and recording over the splices.
There were no textbooks on tape editing in 1947, so I had to develop my own techniques. There was no such thing as actual splicing tape, as we have it now. I began with a cement very similar to that used in film editing. The problem with it was that you could hear the splice-a sort of thump-if there wasn't complete silence where it occurred. I then switched to ordinary Scotch mending tape,. along with a pair of scissors and a can of talcum powder. Mending tape was fine for the first day or so, but before long the adhesive would begin to bleed. sticking one turn of tape to the next. Then the tape would break, and we would have a real mess. Before I used a roll, I always went through it and rubbed powder on the back of every one of those splices. That would get me by for a while, but soon they would be sticky again.
When the show was finally assembled on tape, it had to be transferred to disc because nobody including me had confidence that this newfangled thing could be relied on to feed the full network. When someone asked me what would happen if the tape were to break, I didn't have an answer. Since each roll ran for twenty-two minutes (at 30 ips), a half-hour show took two rolls and required the use of both machines. I would have no backup if the machine that was on the air failed.
We continued to record all of the material from the afternoon rehearsals. Crosby didn't always know his songs very well, and he might start one and blow it. John Scott Trotter, the music director, would play the tune on the piano. When Bing got it, we would record two or three takes.
In the evening, Crosby did the whole show before an audience. If he muffed a song then, the audience loved it-thought it was very funny-but we would have to take out the show version and put in one of the rehearsal takes. Sometimes, if Crosby was having fun with a song and not really working at it, we had to make it up out of two or three parts. This ad-lib way of working is commonplace in recording studios today, but it was all new to us.
The BASF tape I was using had the iron particles imbedded in the plastic instead of coated onto it, and since the tapes were not of a consistent thickness the sound quality and volume would change from one roll to another. The thicker the tape, the louder the low frequencies. So, having put together a show with various rolls, it was necessary for me to take them apart again afterward and sort the pieces by thickness. I didn't dare throw away an inch of that German tape, because I didn't know where I could get any more.
The salvaging of the tape is a story in itself. Many a night I stayed in my studio, doing just that. In those days, the building was supposed to be closed after hours. The guard would try to throw me out, but unless I stood my ground there would be no tape for the next day's recording session.
In order to get some sleep, I made use of the Buzz Bomb Effect. In England during the war, if a buzz bomb came our way, we woke up. But if it created a Doppler effect, that meant that the bomb was going over to one side, and we stayed asleep. That kind of sensitivity will develop after a while. So I would put a low frequency tone onto the tape, with the machine set to monitor this tone, and lie down on the couch for a little sleep. When the level of the ' tone changed, I'd wake up, stop the machine, take the tape apart, sort out the new piece onto the correct roll, and go back to sleep.

The 1st Ampex 200A under tests
No1-200.jpg

The first two Ampex Machines (modelled on the Magnetophon) finally appeared in April 1948 and were followed immediately by twelve more for ABC. The ABC order had, in fact, made possible the final financing of the first two-Ampex Model 200, serial numbers 1 and 2, which were presented to me. They went into service on the twenty-seventh Crosby show of 1947-48. Still, ABC insisted on broadcasting from discs until its technical people were sure of their backup capacity and of the reliability of tape. But we retired my Magnetophons, which were getting pretty tired by that time.
As we became more familiar with tape, and as blank tape became available from 3M and others, we found that we could do all sorts of things that weren't possible on disc. One time Bob Burns, the hillbilly comic, was on the show, and he threw in a few of his folksy farm stories, which of course were not in Bill Morrow's script. Today they wouldn't seem very off-colour, but things were different on radio then. They got enormous laughs, which just went on and on. We couldn't use the jokes, but Bill asked us to save the laughs. A couple of weeks later he had a show that wasn't very funny, and he insisted that we put in the salvaged laughs. Thus the laugh-track was born. It brought letters, because those big guffaws sounded ridiculous after the corny jokes.

Mullin in 1950 with two "portable" Model 200 Ampex tape recorders (note the handles) and the first Model 300 to leave the factory. With these three machines, Mullin had available a full range of advanced editing techniques.
1st 200A.JPG

We considered the ability to splice in laughs a technical achievement. We had to trim carefully so that, where we went into or came out of a laugh, the levels would be the same as those on the laugh we were replacing. It was pretty tricky; we had no way of fading in or out.
About two years later, Chesterfields had replaced Philco as sponsor of Crosby's show. One night Bing had a cold. While doing a commercial with announcer Ken Carpenter, Bing said, "If you like smoking “(cough)"and blew it right there. The audience laughed. As soon as the show was over, the ad-agency men were in my control room. In the end, we had to re-record the commercial.
Then there was the time that Crosby was ad-libbing with Bob Hope. Hope loved to take the script that Morrow had written and throw it out into the audience, saying, "Let's go on from here without a script." Crosby didn't like that very much, but they would make a good show of it. On this particular occasion, Hope said, "It's a lucky thing for you that .... II Before the show was over the people from Chesterfields were in demanding, "What can you do about it?" I didn't know what they were talking about. "That reference to Lucky Strike," they explained. We had to replay the tape, find the off ending word, and assure the sponsors that it could be removed.


Much of what we did-things like making up a song out of several takes, "inventing" canned laughter, tight editing to take out offending material has become commonplace. But I had to learn for myself. It was part of a process of discovery sometimes serendipitous that began at that fork in the road outside Frankfurt. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I turned toward Paris. Perhaps, for the tape recorder, the story would have had much the same outcome; for me it would have been quite different.
The End.

Best Regards,

Tony.
http://www.ampex-uk.com
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