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80 Years of the Tape Recorder


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A recorder actually dates back farther then that to the Telegraphone invented in the late 1890s. It used a magnetic wire instead of tape. It was good enough to work for dictation and telephone recording.

 

The two things that made tape viable was the magnetic tape and biasing the tape signal to remove noise. The Germans borrowed just about everything else from the Earlier wire recorders.

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I remember our first reel-to-reel recorder at home. It was a portable device. But I remember most our first cassette tape recorder. That opened up an entirely new world.

And honestly, it was the first time music sharing started. Back then, NO ONE thought twice about recording our favorite album to tape to enjoy in the new cassette players in cars (our first car with tape was a 1973 Ford Thunderbird). We also NEVER thought twice about recording an album and giving it to a friend.

Unfortunately the industry decided it was a crime AFTER the advent of computer file sharing. Perhaps it wouldn't have been such a big deal if they had cracked down with the tape recorder years earlier ...

Yet I digress.

 

Tape recorders - good memories

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The two things that made tape viable was the magnetic tape and biasing the tape signal to remove noise. The Germans borrowed just about everything else from the Earlier wire recorders.

 

Those are two pretty gigantic improvements over wire recorder technology. Biasing in particular would make a huge difference in the quality and fidelity of the recorded signal in terms of improved frequency response and lowered distortion and noise... and the Americans, Japanese and Germans all had bias patents by 1940. Everyone already knew the advantages of using a bias current for magnetic recording even prior to WWII, at least in theory. The Germans were just the first to put it all together in a working machine that exhibited noticeably superior audio performance.

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There was one company who did develop a high fidelity wire machine that used bias but like everything, it all comes down to the market and what sells. The thing wire did have going for it was long recording times. You can get allot of wire on a set of reels, but again, its strictly mono. We would never had multi tracking if it weren't for tape.

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I remember our first reel-to-reel recorder at home. It was a portable device. But I remember most our first cassette tape recorder. That opened up an entirely new world.

 

And honestly, it was the first time music sharing started. Back then, NO ONE thought twice about recording our favorite album to tape to enjoy in the new cassette players in cars (our first car with tape was a 1973 Ford Thunderbird). We also NEVER thought twice about recording an album and giving it to a friend.

 

Unfortunately the industry decided it was a crime AFTER the advent of computer file sharing. Perhaps it wouldn't have been such a big deal if they had cracked down with the tape recorder years earlier ...

 

Yet I digress.

 

 

 

Tape recorders - good memories

 

 

 

the industry decided it was a crime and tried to crack down in the 80s. The government said no. Hence the "fair use" doctrine.

 

 

 

But cracking down earlier wouldn't have changed anything. The technology is what it is. Once the ability existed to make easy digital copies of music and transfer them over the Internet, it wasn't going to be stoppable.

 

 

 

 

 

Kodak essentially invented digital photography and tried to sit on it in order to preserve the film business. That didn't work out so well for them in the long run.

 

 

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I miss tape - there, I said it

 

It was expensive, fussy and oh, so linear

 

we hada Sony TC650 r to r in the 1970s and it sounded so good

 

I don't miss it at all... because I still use it. :)

 

I still have the following decks in perfect working condition, and thousands of dollars of NOS tape in 1/4" and 1/2".

 

Tascam TSR-8 1/2" 8-track

Tascam 32 1/4" half-track

Tascam 22-2 1/4" half-track

Revox B77 1/4" half-track

Akai GX-77 1/4 4-track stereo

Realistic TR-3000 (Made by TEAC and basically the same as the TEAC X-3)

 

I bought my Akai GX-77 new in 1987 at an Air Force Base Exchange. The glass heads where touted as lasting forever, and so far so good. I've replaced the heads on all the other machines.

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I still have mine but I don't miss the time it took to rewind, recue, or maintain them. I don't miss having to spend money buying tape for them either.

 

I can say tape teaches you very valuable lessons which few young musicians will ever learn.

 

Back in the day, Pro Tape gear and recorders cost a butt load of money. You had to be the best of the best to ever get to use top quality gear because only the best could afford to rent a studio or even get booked into one. I guess if you had the money you could rent out a lower end studio, but they weren't normally owned by a major label.

 

When you did get time to record, it was all about getting quality tracks with the least amount of effort. If you worked for a major band that had a recording gig and you couldn't play your parts through "solo" note for note, and you keep screwing up your parts tracking for whatever reason, its was highly likely you'd be looking for another gig. It wasn't uncommon for a studio to charge $300~$3000 an hour, and every hour you waster because you're unprepared is coming out of the other band members pockets.

 

When you're the cause of other people loosing money, I guarantee you you'll be told to get your act together or you'll be out of the band. I learned that lesson well because of all the tape recording I did. I still tend to play all my leads and parts through from beginning to end because of that and rarely if ever use multiple tracks to edit parts together. To me there's something lost when you break concentration and I'd rather have the emotional momentum with a few notes that aren't perfect over something picture perfect with all the life sucked out of it.

Edited by WRGKMC
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this brings back memories

there is a tape out there with me singing at age 4

anyway, check out the movie in the link below for some tape recorder history

 

http://www.dw.com/en/80-years-of-the-tape-recorder/av-18650653

 

By the way, in my haste I forgot to mention... great link! Over the years I've come to expect great things from Deutsche Welle. I miss the wealth of info they used to have online from their Radio Training Center "Infothecue." Thankfully I downloaded all of the guides in pdf before the table of contents and most other sections were taken down. I miss being able to reference links when discussing audio. A few of the links are still out there in bits and pieces.

 

http://www9.dw-world.de/rtc/infotheque/magn_recording/magrec.html

 

http://www9.dw-world.de/rtc/infotheque/stereo/stereo_rec-content.html

 

http://www9.dw.de/rtc/infotheque/digital_signal/digital_signal_transmission-content.html

 

 

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I still have mine but I don't miss the time it took to rewind' date=' recue, or maintain them. I don't miss having to spend money buying tape for them either.[/quote']

 

Yep, 'tis a labor of love indeed... but since I use analog and digital in a hybrid system I've simply added more maintenance rather than exchanging analog maintenance for digital maintenance as most others have. So in addition to keeping my analog machines in tip-top I've had all the hardware/software problems that come with maintaining digital recording environments... hardware failures... crashing hard drives, bad RAM, dead fans, etc, and all the OS and software upgrades, bugs and fixes to stay on top of. I wish I had all the time back I wasted and am still wasting on that too. ;)

 

I can say tape teaches you very valuable lessons which few young musicians will ever learn.

Yep... agreed.

 

 

Back in the day' date=' Pro Tape gear and recorders cost a butt load of money. You had to be the best of the best to ever get to use top quality gear because only the best could afford to rent a studio or even get booked into one. I guess if you had the money you could rent out a lower end studio, but they weren't normally owned by a major label.[/quote']

 

This is why I'm glad the home recording movement came along when it did... still in the analog age. My first real bit of recording gear that I bought was the TEAC 144 cassette Portastudio, followed by the 244 and finally the Tascam 246, which I still have in perfect working condition. We did great things with that so-called semi-pro gear. And now that Tascam is a subsidiary of Gibson I'm sure no one will mind if I mention what great customer service Tascam has. I can still get many parts for my vintage Tascam decks directly from Tascam Parts... most recently a brand new rec/repro head for my vintage 1989 TSR-8. ;)

 

 

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This whole thread has been pure joy for me. I still have an Akai RTR that still works wonderfully. I mastered all my earlier stuff to it, and when I decided to resurrect that stuff several years ago it performed flawlessly. Cranked it up again last month and my 20 year old son was fascinated with it...Lol...He said it was "Really cool to see things move". I still have a Tascam 234 and Tascam 122. They are both locked up however. But I loved playing with tape. Making splices and loops with it.

Digital is where it's at and has been for years, I suppose will be for quite sometime. But man it was fun playing with tape. I still have a tape I worked hours on getting the splice right where the Allman Brothers "Mountain Jam" flowed perfectly into "Whipping Post"...

 

20 years from now....This whole body of tech will be in the dustbin...With only us Old Codgers to talk about it. And Tape Recorders only found in Museums.

 

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