This week's photo of the week is for any of my audiophile, recording studio and Bing Crosby aficionado readers. This is the Ampex Model 200A audio recorder. It is the first American commercial studio grade audio recorder designed specifically to be used by recording studios and radio broadcasters. This recorder was released in 1948 making it 66 years old and still fully operational and able to produce broadcast and studio quality recordings.
On a personal note, this is only the second Ampex 200A I've ever seen and touched first hand. The other was in a small radio station in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, where it is still used. (A side note, Mt. Airy is where the late actor, Andy Griffith was raised and was the model for the fictitious town of Mayberry in the Andy Griffith, Mayberry USA TV show.)
The reason I brought up Bing Crosby's name is because Crosby, acclaimed as the most popular radio star of that period (TV hadn't really begun to build an audience in the late 40's), helped finance the development of the Ampex 200A recorder because he wanted to pre-record his radio program and not be bound by the rigorous time constraints of the broadcasting industry. The only high-quality recording medium of that time was disk recording and there were numerous disadvantages to using that medium as Crosby wanted to use the pre-recording idea. So, the first two Ampex 200A recorders, serial numbers 1 and 2 were delivered to the American Broadcasting Company in April of 1948. And, accordingly, the Bing Crosby show was the first pre-recorded, delayed broadcast radio show in the U.S. (Another side note, in the future, Bing Crosby also helped finance the development of the first broadcast video recorder with Ampex for the same reason.)
The recorder to the left of the Ampex 200A that is only partially visible is an Ampex Model 300, the next studio grade recorder in the Ampex line up. I am very familiar with the 300 and operated several 300's during my Air Force days in Washington, DC. I also had a custom modified 300 that was modified into a 1" tape, 8-track studio recorder in our small basement recording studio in Upper Marlboro, Maryland in the early 1970's. While I embrace and love all the flexibility and capability of digital recording, there is still a glamour attached to these old heavy, bulky "beasts" that those of us who used them will always miss.