From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad
Richard Hess gave us a lot of information that needs to be constantly
repeated, or myths will survive.
I did an attempt at myth-busting in a Letter to the Editor of the JAES, while
Jack Mullin was still around:
"Comments on -The History of Magnetic Recording- and Author's Reply"
JAES Volume 29 Issue 7/8 pp. 524-525; August 1981
The Author had been John T. Mullin, who wrote:
"Magnetic Recording for Original Recordings"
JAES Volume 25 Issue 10/11 pp. 696-701; November 1977
but apparently it has not helped a bit: I argued that the development of the
procedure was no secret, that scientific Journals like Akustische Zeitschrift
that were subscribed to outside Germany were freely available, and that the
procedure was patented. The inventors Weber and his boss von Braunmühl were
jubilant in the press releases. I think that the fact that this knowledge was
apparently not present when German radio stations were taken proves
difficulties in disseminating the information among the Allies.
Apart from bringing home Magnetophons in pieces, as Mullen famously did, the
British Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee and the Field Infomation
Agency, Technical rounded up scientists and engineers in Germany 1945-47,
interviewed them and copied and translated copious amounts of documents for
publicly available reports, many of which are now forgotten, in all areas of
endeavour. All US patents belonging to the Axis powers had been confiscated
from (if I recall correctly) 1941 and were available for the war effort at a
license fee of US$1 (one). After 1949, when Western Germany was created, all
these permissions to use became null and void.
The two most important documents relating to the present discussion are:
"The magnetophon sound recording and reproducing system"
B.I.O.S. Final Report No. 951
based on several trips 1945-46
"Plastics in German sound recording systems"
B.I.O.S. Final Report No. 1379
based on an expedition lasting a month in 1946
These are essential reading, and they are in English. But there are several
P.S. Lorenz AG was completely independent from AEG, which later became
related to Telefunken (and Lorenz became part of Standard Electric). The
Magnetophon GmbH was formed as a 50/50 ownership company by AEG and I.G.
Farbenindustrie (which in itself was an industry conglomerate of dye and
chemical industries, including Agfa).
Richard Hess wrote:
> For the record, the full name of AMPEX's founder
> is Alexander M. Poniatoff. It is my understanding
> that AMPEX came from Poniatoff's initials plus
> the first two letters of the word EXcellence.
> At 03:27 AM 2009-01-02, Michael Biel wrote:
> >Second, that Hitler story is laughable. Hitler
> >would "be" where ever the broadcast announcer
> >said he was!!! Besides, Hitler was not making
> >many speeches during the war. The sound quality
> >of distant radio reception would mask any
> >differences between a speech recorded on tape and a speech recorded on
> The version of this story that I heard was that
> Mullin and other Signal Corpsmen heard late night
> orchestra broadcasts of some length and thought
> that the sound quality was better than any
> long-form transcription device they had so they
> were interested in learning about this German
> technology after the war. They thought the
> recordings sounded live, but wondered if even
> Hitler would schedule musicians to play in the middle of the night.
> I concur with Tony that early AM radio sounded
> much better than what we hear today. I recall
> owning a tube Zenith AM/FM radio that was
> reasonably high-fidelity in the 1950s--even on
> AM, and having my first exposure to the "Texaco
> Metropolitan Opera Radio Network" via WOR on the AM band.
> >Lastly, the entire first season of Philco Radio
> >Time was recorded and edited on DISC. Tape was
> >only used for mastering and editing starting in
> >the second season, and even then the tapes were dubbed to disc for
> The first show recorded on tape was broadcast
> 1947-10-01 (which was the start of the 1947-1948
> season). While the original tape went missing
> from the Ampex Collection prior to it being
> transferred to Stanford (it would be on a 14"
> Ampex NAB-hub reel in all likelihood), excellent
> 2nd generation copies remain. One of those has
> been digitized and delivered to the Stanford Ampex Collection.
> No one at ABC wanted to risk going with tape
> live-to-air due to the fragility of the early
> tapes with multiple splices as well as having
> only two of Mullin's modified Magnetophons to
> play them on. Mullin shipped the transports and
> heads home but did not bother with the
> electronics as he saw improvements that he could
> make right away. Mullin's electronics have one
> additional tube as compared to the original AEG
> electronics with AC bias that he left behind.
> At 10:51 AM 2009-01-02, Anthony Baldwin wrote:
> >In Germany this situation changed irrevocably in 1941 when AEG
> >engineers von Braunmühl and Weber stumbled across AC tape bias, where
> >the addition of an inaudible high-frequency tone resulted in a
> >striking improvement in sound quality — something that was radical
> >enough to be discernible in prerecorded German AM broadcasts, if the
> >BBC's Caversham Park wartime monitoring reports are to be credited.
> >In fact, this is not so hard to believe, as the generous bandwidth of
> >national AM channels in the 1930s and '40s offered a far higher level
> >of AM fidelity than we're used to today. Nazi speeches aside, the
> >technical leap forward was most glaringly obvious in prerecorded
> >broadcasts by the likes of Fürtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic,
> >as recent CD reissues have adequately confirmed.
> For a more detailed discussion, please see
> Engel, Friedrich Karl.
> Weber's Technical Innovation at the Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft
> Engel, Friedrich Karl and Peter Hammar,
> Selected History of Magnetic Recording
> There may be additional items of interest at
> >While Jack Mullen may have been able to kickstart Ampex by sending
> >home a couple of these liberated machines in bits via the no-doubt
> >bemused Army Post Office, the final broadcast requirement for tape —
> >superior editability — was only really achieved when the notoriously
> >fragile German acetate-backed "paper" tape could be abandoned in
> >1947-48 in favor of 3M's new, sturdier #111 stock. From that moment
> >on tape was definitely superior to disc as a studio medium, even if
> >Bing's transcriptions were still pressed up as discs.
> That is partially true in that the German tape
> that Mullin brought back was fragile but more in
> the context that he had only about fifty reels
> (most of which survive in various states of
> repair in the Stanford Ampex Collection) and they
> were cut and spliced and recut and respliced
> until 3M came up to speed with tape
> manufacturing. Audio Devices also supplied some
> tape at this time or shortly thereafter (we found
> some spliced in with some of the German tape).
> However, paper tape was abandoned circa 1935 in
> Germany while it was still made for the Brush
> Soundmirror and sold directly by 3M (Scotch)
> until some time in the 1950s in North America.
> Utah recorders in Canada also sold paper tape.
> The German tape from 1935-1944 was an
> acetate-based tape called Magnetophonband Typ C.
> The factory where this was manufactured was
> destroyed in an industrial accident (not a
> war-related explosion) and from 1944 until the
> end of the war, only homogeneous PVC
> Magnetophonband Typ L tape was available. In the
> Typ L tape, the gamma ferric oxide was embedded
> in the PVC matrix and not coated on the basefilm
> like current and preceding tapes. The "Typ L"
> refers to IG Farben's trade name "Luvitherm" for
> their brand of PVC, just as "Mylar" became
> perhaps better known than PET for this later basefilm.
> Most of the Magnetophonband tape has survived
> well. Some of the Typ C is starting to exhibit
> signs of vinegar syndrome, but this has occurred
> mostly with ones stored in the steel film-style
> cans than in the cardboard (press board?) boxes that most of them came in.
> Some of the Typ L tape is showing some structural
> weakness and, as with many plastic films, shows a
> tendency to tear when edge nicks have occurred.
> Sometimes, splices would catch at the tape edge
> and start a long tear at a very shallow diagonal.
> In one case, the tear was about half a metre
> long. Repeated playing of this tape on the
> less-than-completely gentle original Magentophon
> in the Pavek collection has caused some pinholes
> to occur in the Typ L tape where clumps of the
> oxide material have fallen out of the PVC film matrix.
> You may also enjoy reading my paper on the
> playback effort for some of these tapes. As of
> 2008-08, all of these have been delivered to both
> Stanford and the Pavek Museum and we included 101
> (IIRC) different items in the collection, most
> were on the original Magnetophonband. These have
> been ingested into Stanford's Digital Repository
> system. I am not sure about access.
> Hess, Richard L.
> Jack Mullin/Bill Palmer Tape Restoration Project
> Since there was additional material in the Pavek
> Museum collection, including Magnetophonband from
> other collectors, I concatenated the the
> Mullin-Palmer collection, the Mullin family
> collection, and the Pavek collection plus a few
> other related items into one collection for the
> sake of looking at these early tapes. The
> original material for the Mullin-Palmer
> collection resides at Stanford, while the Mullin
> family collection is retained by the family, and
> the Pavek retains its own collection. I have
> recorded the 1947-10-01 show back onto some
> new-old-stock Magentophonband Typ L for
> demonstrations at the Pavek and I need to make
> one or two more copies for them on NOS material I still have from the
> Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
> Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX
> Detailed contact information: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm
> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.