Magnetic recorder

Invented way back in 1898 and patented two years later, wire recording was somehow still getting some limited use as late as the early 1970s, while rockets took man to the moon on an annual basis. In its wake, vinyl, with its 67 years, and CD with a mere 33, look like footling youngsters. (Read more)

Gregory F. Maxwell/Wikimedia Commons

The wire is pulled rapidly across a recording head which magnetizes each point along the wire in accordance with the intensity and polarity of the electrical audio signal being supplied to the recording head at that instant. By later drawing the wire across the same or a similar head while the head is not being supplied with an electrical signal, the varying magnetic field presented by the passing wire induces a similarly varying electric current in the head, recreating the original signal at a reduced level.

Wiremaster wire recorder advertisement. Image © Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording

Magnetic wire recording was replaced by magnetic tape recording, but devices employing one or the other of these media had been more or less simultaneously under development for many years before either came into widespread use. The principles and electronics involved are nearly identical. Wire recording initially had the advantage that the recording medium itself was already fully developed, while tape recording was held back by the need to improve the materials and methods used to manufacture the tape. (Read more)

The telegraph is sometimes called the Victorian Internet; voice recordings became the major communication channel of the 1950s long before chat sessions and email.

To read about “wirespondence”, see next page.