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The Museum Of Audio History

Preserving, Teaching And Showing Audio's History

Historical Film:: “Success Story - Ampex.” Documentary film about Amex, a pioneer in audio and video tape recorders. This documentary from the 1950s explains the history of the Ampex brand and gives a good explanation of how magnetic tape recorders work.

Ampex was founded in 1944 by Alexander M. Poniatoff. The name, AMPEX, is a portmanteau that stands for Alexander M. Poniatoff Excellence. Ampex's first great success was a line of analog reel-to-reel tape recorders developed from reverse-engineering the German wartime Magnetophon tape recorder. Bing Crosby was an important collaborator in this effort; he had approached both Ampex and rival company Megnecorder to design an American tape recorder to ease editing his radio broadcasts.

Ampex quickly became a leader in audio tape technology, developing many of the analog recording formats for both music and movies that remained in use into the 1990s. They also introduced self-sync multi-track recording, the result of an idea by, and collaboration with, Les Paul.
A Short Presentation combining video and still photographs: In 1925, Louis Blattner, working in Britain, licensed Dr. Kurt Stille’s magnetic wire recorder and created a machine, the Blattnerphone, that instead records onto a magnetic steel tape. Only twelve Blattnerphones were ever made, and they were sold to the BBC in the UK, as well as radio broadcasters in Canada and Australia.

Blattnerphones are difficult to handle, and actually dangerous. The tape spools were heavy (and expensive). The steel tape have been described as being like a travelling razor blade. The tape was liable to snap wherever it was spliced. The result was the razor sharp tape would whip around the room, like a maniacal sword. Rewind sped is twice the the recording/playback speed.

The sound quality of a Blattnerphone is unsuited to music, and the machines were notoriously unreliable. Blattnerphones remained in limited use until the early 1940s.
Historical Film::
Historical Film:: Documentary film produced by RCA demonstrating how records were manufactured. At this time, the technology was “78 rpm” records, usually made from shellac.

The RCA Corporation was founded in1919 as the Radio Corporation of America, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Electric (GE). In 1932, GE divested its control of RCA as part of the settlement of an antitrust lawsuit. During the 1940s, when this film was made, RCA was the largest manufacturer of radio receivers, record players and professional audio equipment if all types. RCA also established the first national radio network, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), which by the 1940s had expanded into two networks, NBC Red and NBC Blue. Both networks combined dominated the broadcasting market, to the point that RCA was forced to divest itself of NBC Blue, which became The American Broadcasting Company, ABC.

Because of RCA’s overwhelming dominance in media and manufacturing, this film represents the state-of-the-art of record manufacturing at that time.
Historical Film:: “The Sound And The Story,” a 1956 promotional documentary by RCA demonstrating stereophonic sound. RCA one of the first companies to manufacture stereophonic records, and stereo systems. Stereo had actually been developed in the 1930s by Bell Laboratories. The Great Depression of the 1930s and The Second World War delayed the introduction of stereophonic sound to consumers until the mid-1950s.
Historical Film: “RCA Presents: Living Stereo,” a 1958 promotional documentary by RCA demonstrating stereophonic sound.
Historical Film: Documentary about the manufacture, operation and uses of the transistor by AT&T. Invented in 1947 by Bell Laboratories scientists John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and Robert Shockley. As the film shows, AT&T’s interest in the transistor was for its use in telephone networks. Their apathy toward other uses of the transistor quickly led to the rise of other competitors during the 1950s, especially Japanese manufacturers of pocket radios and other inexpensive audio equipment.
Historical Film: A promotional documentary showing the history and manufacturing of Wurlitzer jukeboxes.

The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company was an American company started in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1853 by German immigrant Rudolph Wurlitzer. They began by importing stringed, woodwind and brass instruments from Germany for resale in the United States. In 1880, Wurlitzerbegan manufacturing pianos, then quickly expanded to make band organs, orchestrions, nickelodeons and the once-popular pipe organs played in theaters during the days of silent movies.Eventually, Wurlitzer acquired several other companies who made kitchen appliances, carnival rides, player piano rolls, and radios. They also operated a chain of retail stores where the company's products were sold.

As technology advanced, Wurlitzer manufactured electric pianos, electronic organs, and jukeboxes. Their jukeboxes and vending machines became their best-known and most-successful products, eclipsing their musical instruments. Wurlitzer jukeboxes are highly prized for their beauty, innovation and sound.
Historical Film: Documentary about the manufacture, operation and uses of the vacuum tube (valve) made by AT&T.

World renowned at that time as the finest manufacturer of all types of electronic equipment, the AT&T organization was composed of AT&T itself, a long-distance telephone company; The Bell System, responsible for local telephone service; Bell Laboratories, a pure research-and-development think tank; Western Electric, the manufacturing arm; and Westrex, a division of Western Electric specializing in movie theater equipment, PA system, broadcast sound equipment, and movie sound equipment.

The AT&T organization had invented stereophonic sound, high fidelity sound, “talkies” (movies with synchronized soundtrack), the transistor, and much more. In the 1980s, a lawsuit by the United States federal government declared AT&T an illegal monopoly, breaking it up. Bell Labs became Lucent Technologies, Western Electric and Westrex disappeared, The Bell System became several “Regional Bell Operating Companies”, RBOCs, and AT&T became a long stance and cellular telephone provider.

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