Tape recorder  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Magnetic tape and the tape recorder (Telegraphone) were a major invention in the history of sound recording and reproduction. Paper-based tape was first used but was soon superseded by polyester and acetate backing due to dust drop and hiss. Acetate was more brittle than polyester and snapped easily. This technology, the basis for almost all commercial recording from the 1950s to the 1980s, was invented by German audio engineers in the 1930s, who also discovered the technique of AC biasing, which dramatically improved the frequency response of tape recordings. Tape recording was perfected just after the war by American audio engineer John T. Mullin with the help of Crosby Enterprises (Bing Crosby), whose pioneering recorders were based on captured German recorders, and the Ampex company produced the first commercially available tape recorders in the late 1940s.

Magnetic tape brought about sweeping changes in both radio and the recording industry. Sound could be recorded, erased and re-recorded on the same tape many times, sounds could be duplicated from tape to tape with only minor loss of quality, and recordings could now be very precisely edited by physically cutting the tape and rejoining it.

Within a few years of the introduction of the first commercial tape recorder, the Ampex 200 model, launched in 1948, American musician-inventor Les Paul had invented the first multitrack tape recorder, bringing about another technical revolution in the recording industry. Tape made possible the first sound recordings totally created by electronic means, opening the way for the bold sonic experiments of the musique concrète school and avant garde composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen, which in turn led to the innovative pop music recordings of artists such as Frank Zappa, The Beatles and The Beach Boys.

Tape enabled the radio industry for the first time to pre-record many sections of program content such as advertising, which formerly had to be presented live, and it also enabled the creation and duplication of complex, high-fidelity, long-duration recordings of entire programs. It also, for the first time, allowed broadcasters, regulators and other interested parties to undertake comprehensive logging of radio broadcasts. Innovations like multitracking and tape echo enabled radio programs and advertisements to be pre-produced to a level of complexity and sophistication that was previously unattainable and tape also led to significant changes to the pacing of program content, thanks to the introduction of the endless-loop tape cartridge.

The vinyl microgroove record was introduced in the late 1940s, and the two main vinyl formats -- the 7-inch single turning at 45 rpm and the 12-inch LP (long-playing) record turning at 33⅓ rpm -- had totally replaced the 78 rpm shellac disc by the end of the 1950s. Vinyl offered improved performance, both in stamping and in playback, and came to be generally played with polished diamond styli, and when played properly (precise tracking weight, etc.) offered longer life. Vinyl records were, over-optimistically, advertised as "unbreakable". They were not, but were much less brittle and breakable than shellac. Nearly all were tinted black, but some were colored, as red, swirled, translucent, etc.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Tape recorder" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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