Tagged: voice

Minifon wire reel (1959 – 1967)

The Minifon name was applied to a range of miniature wire recorders introduced initially by the German company Monske & Co GmbH in 1951, and then produced by Protona GmbH from 1952 until 1967, although they were also sold under the Telefunken, ITT and EMI brands.

The recorders ran on batteries, and could record over 2 hours on a single reel of wire (later models allowed for 5 hours of recording). As the reels turn, the recording/playback head moved up and down so the wire was spooled evenly on each reel.

They were popular for covert recordings, and an accessory microphone that was made to look like a wristwatch was available. Minifon recorders were sold in overseas markets such as the US and UK.

In 1959 the Minifon Ataché was introduced, using a tape cartridge for the first time, but the wire-based recorders continue to be produced until Protona ceased production of all Minifon models in 1967.

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Memocord (1965 – mid 1970s)

Memocord was a line of portable tape recorders for voice recording and dictation, introduced by the German Assmann company around 1965. The recorders and cassettes were produced in Austria by the Stuzzi company that had previously used the Memocord name for their own portable recorders using small open reels of tape.

The cassettes for the Assmann Memocord look a little like Compact Cassettes and consist of two reels in a clear housing so the amount of tape remaining can be seen. The cassettes protrude from the recorder, and this is so that on most (but not all models) they can be used to control the recorder; by pressing one end of the cassette, it plays, and by pressing the other end, the tape is rewound. This means most models of recorder only had one tape control button, and this is for recording. It also meant that there are some differences in shape between cassettes as the protruding end does not need to be the same.

Up to 90 minutes could be recorded onto a Memocord cassette.

There were several models of Assmann Memocord, and they appear to have been made until around the mid-1970s.

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Mivoice Speakeasie (early 1930s)

The Mivoice Speakeasie home recorder was an acoustic system for voice or music recording, available in the early 1930s. It used aluminium discs onto which the recording was made. Aluminium was used as a recording medium from the late 1920s until the 1930s when acetate recording become widespread.

Most recordings on bare aluminium are likely to have been destroyed during the Second World War, when scarce aluminium was in demand to support the war effort.

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Graphophone / Dictaphone cylinder (1887 – early 1950s)

The Dictaphone was one of two competing wax cylinder phonograph systems for voice dictation, the other being Edison’s Ediphone system. The use of cylinders for voice recording pre-dated their use for music when, in 1887, Alexander Graham Bell, his cousin Chichester A. Bell, and Charles Sumner Tainter put into production a wax cylinder system for recording and reproducing speech (Edison then switched from tinfoil to wax cylinders in response in 1888).

Until 1907 the Dictaphone system was known as the Graphophone.

The main difference between the two rival systems was the recording method, with Edison using ‘hill and dale’ recording, while the Graphophone used lateral (side to side) recording. The cylinders could have a layer of wax shaved off, to enable re-use.

By the mid-1940s, new dictation technologies were rapidly being introduced such as Dictaphone’s own Dictabelt, Edison’s Voicewriter, the Gray Audograph and the SoundScriber, and both Edison and Dictaphone stopped supplying wax cylinders in the early 1950s.

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Mail Call Letterpack (late 1960s)

The Mail Call Letterpack was a magnetic tape recording format for voice recordings, introduced by Smith Corona in the late 1960s.

It was an endless-loop cartridge system, based on the PlayTape cartridge but using a single track and mylar tape. The inventor of PlayTape, Frank Stanton, envisioned it as a replacement for written memos and letters, and marketed it to Smith Corona.

The recording/playback units were advertised at ‘less than $70.00 a pair’. The cartridges themselves (called ‘Letterpacks’) were offered in 3, 6, or 10 minute lengths, were reusable, and sturdy enough to be sent in the post.

It was not a success.

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Steno-Cassette (1971 – )

The Steno-Cassette is an analogue tape cassette format introduced by Grundig in 1971.

It was widely used in Germany for dictation, and is still currently available.

The Steno-Cassette incorporates a tape counter showing the amount of tape available. The tapes are single-sided, and have a capacity of 30 minutes.

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Multiple groove phonograph record (1898 – )

A multiple groove record has two or more parallel sets of grooves on one or both sides, allowing extra or hidden tracks to be added. On a disc that has multiple grooves, which track the listener hears depends on where the stylus is placed.

The first commercial record to use such a technique was a very early Berliner record released in the UK in 1898, ‘Puzzell [sic] Plate’ with two piano solos. Other early releases included ‘fortune telling’ records with different scenarios.

Later examples include the Monty Python album ‘Matching Tie and Handkerchief, issued in 1973. On early pressings, both sides were labled as ‘Side 2’, but one side had a pair of grooves.

The 12-inch single version of ‘Pop Muzik’ by M in 1979 was credited on it’s cover as the ‘first double-groove single’ as Side A and B were on one side.

Multiple groove 12-inch LPs and 12-inch singles continue to be occasionally released.

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Ediphone (1888 – early 1950s)

The Ediphone was one of two competing wax cylinder phonograph systems for voice dictation, the other being the Dictaphone system. The use of cylinders for voice recording pre-dated their use for music, although it wasn’t until 1888 that Edison switched from tinfoil to wax cylinders in response to the rival Graphophone system introduced in 1887 (that later became the Dictaphone system).

The main difference between the two rival systems was the recording method, with Edison using ‘hill and dale’ recording, while the Graphophone used lateral (side to side) recording. The cylinders could have a layer of wax shaved off, to enable re-use.

By around 1910, the Edison system had adopted the name Ediphone, and technical refinements were introduced over time such as electric motors, foot control pedals, and eventually electrical recording in 1939.

By the mid-1940s, new dictation technologies were rapidly being introduced such as Dictaphone’s Dictabelt, Edison’s own Voicewriter, the Gray Audograph and the SoundScriber, and both Edison and Dictaphone stopped supplying wax cylinders in the early 1950s.

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Microcassette (1969 – )

Introduced by Olympus in 1969 for voice recording, the microcassette uses the same width of magnetic tape as the Compact Cassette (3.81mm) but in a much smaller shell. By using thinner tape and half or a quarter of the tape speed, microcassettes can offer comparable recording time to the Compact Cassette. The original standard microcassette, the MC60, gives 30 minutes recording per side at its standard speed of 2.4 cm/s, and twice the time at 1.2 cm/s.

Because of the format’s relatively low fidelity, microcassettes have mostly been used for recording voice, for example in dictation machines and telephone answering machines. However, it has also been used as a medium for computer data storage and music. In the early  1980s, some Walkman-type devices, and even some home audio players for stereo recording and playback were produced, and metal tape (equivalent to Type IV metal tape in Compact Cassettes) was available for higher fidelity.

Microcassette was more suited to data and music recording than the Mini-Cassette as the tape is pulled through by the capstan and has a more constant speed, whereas in the Mini-Cassette, the tape is pulled by the reels.

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Preservation / Migration

SoundScriber tape (1950s – 1980s)

SoundScriber tape was introduced in the US in the 1950s by the SoundScriber Corp. (who also previously introduced the SoundScriber disc recording system) for use in their S-124 recorder-reproducer machine. It was used to record police and fire radio traffic, courtroom proceedings, aircraft radio transmissions, business meetings and by radio stations to log their output. The system captured low-fidelity audio recordings.

The tape itself was made of Mylar, was 2-inches wide (on a 3.75-inch diameter reel) and moved at just 2.5-inches per minute, allowing a single 300 foot reel to record for up to 24 hours. The system used transverse scanning across the width of the tape, making the completed recording difficult to tamper with. The time in minutes from 0000 to 1455 (24 hours, plus a 15 minute overtime allowance) was printed on the uncoated surface of the tape.

Tapes could be erased by use of the accessory Model BE-24 Tape Demagnetizer, which could erase an entire tape in 5-10 seconds.

In some instances, SoundScriber tape was used until the 1980s, but the machines are now extremely rare.

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