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Sufficeintly retro technology is indistinquishable from science fiction

I came across this lovely bit of lost knowledge while cleaning out the space last week:


Wire recorders were a big deal in the 40's and 50's. They work by storing sound magnetically on a thin steel wire. The sound is great. The recording playing in the clip was taken off WSB radio almost 70 years ago and recorded to the wire. It sounds as if it was fresh off the air.

So why did this interesting spinning box go away? Several reasons. First, when you can cheaply make tape or vinyl, who wants to sell the latest top 40 hits in several hundred feet of steel wire? No one.

Next, hear that recording? Good, because that is the last time that particular wire will ever play. On the rewind it became tangled and unusable. Further research shows that this was a typical issue for users.

Finally, newer, better, and cheaper tech came out that spelled death for the wire recorders. Sure it survived a little while as a dict-a-phone or in radio studios, but in the end wire lost to tape.

Now if I can only find out who brought this in so I can give him/her/it credit...

5 comments:

benbradley said...

Oh, that is SO COOL! Much like Edison cylinders (which I suspect were more popular and more of them survived), I've only read about wire recorders, ISTR there's been discussion on rec.audio.pro, and I saw one used in some movie, perhaps "The Great Escape."

And I have my fair share of LP's and 78's.

Has anyone ever hooked up that Thorens turntable in the chill area? What model is it?

jeffro said...

Ahh... the irony of resurrecting a reel re: resurrection, after 70 years! And then, to lose it again, forever - that's a magic moment!

Steven said...

I've been looking for one of these for quite some time. I have 5 or 6 reels of wire that was made for that machine. Is it working?

kive said...

Sounds like something Tripp might have been responsible for bringing in.

Matt and Toni Rings said...

Combine a wire recorder with a ribbon microphone, and you have that neo-retro sound that would be great for the vocals or a guitar track in a song.

;)

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