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Man has been able to store knowledge in form of codes. Coded information is quite helpful especially for the future references. In this paper, we are going to look at the history and technological advancements of the magnetic tape recorder.
Man started carrying out research on the nature of speech and sound early on in the 18th and 19th centuries. He wanted to know whether it was possible to create a mechanical device that can produce them. These included efforts from De Kempelein in 1791 and Scot in 1857, which paved way for the invention of a phonograph by Thomas Edison in 1877. This phonograph was able to record speech and sound on wax or a foil to be played later.
The invention of the telephone served to prove that sound can be produced using electricity. The relationship between magnetism and electricity was discovered in 1820 by Hans Oersted. There followed many inventions including Faradays about the interchangeable nature of magnetism and electricity that showed that electrical current can be produced by magnetic fields. James Maxwell later in 1873 established the electromagnetism theories that are still in use (Magnetic Recording, 2004).
Oberlin Smith published a detailed description on how magnetic recording can be done in 1878. The basic theory showing how magnetic sound recording is done was described. He however, did not build the device. A telephone technician from Denmark, Poulsen also managed to discover magnetic recording principles on his own without knowledge about Smith’s theory in 1894.
He went ahead and built the first magnetic sound recorder which he demonstrated at an exhibition in Paris. It was said that the first voice, that of Emperor Franz that was recorded that day, is still intact today. This recorder was similar to that of Edison. The quality of sound was natural, but the volume was low because sound amplification had not been discovered (Magnetic Recording, 2011, p. 1).
Records show that the “Poulsen’s patents were acquired by the American Telegraphone Company in 1905 and sold as dictating machines” (Magnetic Recording p. 1). The machines received competition from the “wax cylinder phonographs that were louder, reliable and not expensive” (Magnetic Recording p.1).
Two inventions; electronic amplification and AC biasing, revived the use of magnetic recording. AC biasing was useful in producing recordings that were more permanent and with a lower noise when sued with a various magnetic media. Changeable reels were later introduced as an improvement to the steel wire as a recording medium.
Fritz sought to patent the use of “magnetic powders to a film or strip of paper” (Engel &Hammer, p. 1). This led to the discovery of tape recording. Using the magnetic tapes, the radio industry was able for the first time to record program contents that had to be presented live initially (Engel &Hammer, 2006).
The 1930s saw the emergence of commercial competition. Tape based recorder was also developed at this time in Germany. Magnetic tapes were also produced using Fritz ideas.
The recorder and the tapes saw the invention of the magnetophone, thus the first modern reel to reel tape recorder was born. New inventions with large capacities were developed. The use of these materials highly increased recording efficiency. This technology was perfected during World War II when the military employed the use of magnetic recording (Engel & Hammer, 2006).
When World War II ended, there were increased commercial developments in tape recordings. It is recorded that “magnetophones seized during the war were used as models for tape recorders by American manufacturers such as Magnecord, Ampex, and many others” (Engel & Hammer p. 1).
Multiple channel tape recordings brought about the stereo revolution in the 1950s and 60s. This revolutionalized the music industry in the world by enabling the individual recording of instruments and performances that are later mixed to make a final product. The use of television also led to the invention of the video tapes. Magnetic tapes were also very important in the revolution of computers especially in the storage of digital information.
Initially, memory was stored on magnetic drums, then magnetic cores. Using magnetic tapes to store computer memory began in 1951. These later developed into magnetic hard disks, which were more efficient. Improvements in magnetic storage led to digital tapes that include audio and video. Magnetic tape technology has been improved to meet the requirements of digital video (Engel & Hammer, 2006).
The future of magnetic tape technology is still bright although it is being threatened by optical recording. Optical systems have been replacing magnetic tapes since the 1980s because they are easy to manufacture, durable and efficient. The other alternative to magnetic tapes is the solid state non-volatile RAM. They are fast and efficient but limited in memory capacity and also expensive. Recording information using magnetic tapes will go on into the future.
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Magnetic tapes have been proven to be fast, cheap and with enough space. Magnetic tapes are also flexible and cost effective. It is also a fact that many households in the world use VCRs more frequently than DVD machines. The developments being made to come up with various formats of magnetic tapes fit for digital as well as high definition television shows that magnetic tapes are here to stay.
Connection to Humanities
As indicated in the introduction, the ability to store information is a major advancement in the civilization of mankind. Throughout history, human cultures have looked for ways to share and store information. People start storing information by memorizing it. Unfortunately, memory is not always reliable and also does not last for long.
It also works only within a speaking distance. This difficulty necessitated the search for a more reliable way of storing information. Studying the humanities, one learns that information was stored even by the most primitive of cultures. This is seen in preserved carvings, paintings in caves, information that has stayed for years. This information mostly was stored by one individual with the aim of transmitting it to others, or to be recalled later on.
The disadvantage was that the information had to be deciphered by someone knowledgeable. As time went by, civilization also evolved and images and paintings become close to the spoken word, the alphabet was discovered facilitating more interactions through language. The use of symbols to represent sound was a major step towards improved storage of information because it was one of the steps that later developed into the magnetic tape recorders of today (Brains to Bytes, 2002, 1).
Magnetic tape recorders have come a long way in the area of information storage technology. The many advancements being made all lend their beginnings on magnetic tape recorders. And as it has been shown many people still prefer using them because they are cheap, spacious and flexible. Judging from the efforts directed towards magnetic tapes that will fit in the digital world, the future of magnetic tapes is still bright.
Brains to Bytes. (2002). Brains to Bytes: The Evolution of Information Storage. Moah. Web.
Engel, F. & Hammer, P. (2006). A selected history of magnetic recording. Google Documents. Web.
Magnetic Recording. (2004). The history of magnetic recording. BBC. Web.
Magnetic recording. (2011). Magnetic Recording/Audiocassette – History of Magnetic Recording. Science Jrank. Retrieved from: https://science.jrank.org/pages/4078/Magnetic-Recording-Audiocassette-History-magnetic-recording.html