Many of you might know the story of how Bing Crosby (the crooner) was involved with the formation of Ampex. George Peterson offers a really wonderful article filled with details.
Bing Crosby chose to live in Hillsborough, California.... located on the San Francisco Bay Area. Rumor has it, he wanted to be close to golf courses and he was. Lots of golf course. It also happened he lived next door to one of my piano students back in the days when I was driving to teach lessons. I never saw him but there were rumored sightings in Burlingame where his wife would frequent the local garden store where a high school buddy worked.
Rumor also had it that he didn't want to fly back to New York for his radio show so investing in a tape company in Redwood City, CA, could make his life much easier. George Peterson offers an in depth account of what happened. George (as I remember) was the Sr Editor of Mix Magazine for a very long time. He's also a historian on the film industry. George, is knowledgeable and amazing.
Update.. A music lover has sent in these links with the actual reasons Bing got involved.
For pictures and comments... check out George Peterson's facebook page.... It's a public post.
Otherwise... here's a condensed version of the fun facts you'll find.
AUDIO ARCHAEOLOGY #39
A DIFFERENT KIND OF TBT
Another Installment of Audio History — This week, it’s...
MODEL 200A TAPE RECORDER (1948)
The story of the 200A—the first tape recorder from Ampex — is inextricably linked to the history of the German Magnetophon, which we covered in Audio Archaeology #25. After World War II, an engineer by the name of John Mullin brought two older Magnetophons back as war souvenirs, modified them for HF bias and demonstrated them to singer Bing Crosby.
- Helped in part by the U.S. government’s declaration that all German and Japanese patents were invalid, the Magnetophon decks were studied by Ampex, under the leadership of Alexander M. Pontiaoff — the “AMP” plus “ex” for “excellence” in the name “Ampex” — which launched its own recorder program.
- Crosby was excited about tape recording technology and ordered twenty 200A machines in advance, which provided a huge chunk of capital for the fledgling Ampex Corp.
- The Ampex engineering team for the 200A included Harold Lindsay and Myron Stolaroff, who kept many of the Magnetophon’s basic features such as 30 ips operation and a B-wind design, in which the tape was wound with the oxide facing out. Unlike the portable Magnetophon, the Model 200A tape had a huge polished black wooden console and heavy anodized-aluminum fixtures and fittings. Recording one track across the full width of the 1/4-inch tape, the 200A was capable of performance that was flat within 0.5 dB from 30 Hz to 15 kHz.
- In October 1947, the first 200A prototype was demo’ed at Radio Center in Hollywood; the enthusiasm by those who heard this wonder machine was apparent, and Ampex moved forward into regular production, with units serial #1 and #2 delivering in April 1948 in time to record and edit the 27th Bing Crosby show of the 1947-’48 season. A 200A retailed at $4,000 — nearly as much as a house at that time — but the convenience of editing and the ability to time-delay performances appealed to Crosby (shown below with two of his Ampex 200A’s), who no longer had to perform separate shows each week to reach different time zones. Weeks later, ABC ordered 12 more recorders and other broadcasters soon followed.
- In all, only 112 of the Model 200A recorders were made (the $1,500 Model 300 followed it), but the impact of the benefits of tape-based production was felt throughout the world. And don’t worry… we will be covering a lot more developments from Ampex in future installments. Stay tuned!
Have a wonderful day, all!