1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Anything not specifically related to NBTV, but at least of some technical nature that might be of interest to NBTV members. Items for sale and links to retailers do not belong here.

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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Harry Dalek » Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:03 pm

Steve Anderson wrote:Yep, here's a pdf of VERA, the BBC's first Video Electronic Recording Apparatus. The tape speed was 120ips (inches per second) and the immense tape reels could only hold 15 minutes of video and audio. It was first used on-air in 1958. 120ips is 32 times the speed of the average domestic audio recorder at the time (3.75ips), or 64 times the speed of a Compact Cassette developed in the early 60s (1.875ips).

I also have two mp4 video files covering the same subject but they're too big to upload here, around 25MB each. If you wish a copy of them send me an e-mail with your e-mail address and I'll send them on. Make sure your in-box has at least 50MB of space free and can accept single files of at least 25MB each.

Steve A.


Yes thats right VERA ,i have seen early Amercan recordings .
i only have Gmail 25mb i think may be better if you wish to upload it to a youtube but i use avc video converter to shrink the quality size in many formats may be also to big for our message box ,i recall Andrew says there as an upgrade in but that might be message numbers more than that .
But yes i am interested sure others would be i have not seen that PDF i will have a read.
There was a magnetic video record in the 60s 70s for a short time by passes the problem of the tape in a way running at high speed not such a problem with a disk better idea as they did for the optical systems but i don't think it would of still have had much recording or play back time
I am sure i found it on this site this is same idea also the see hear video recorder
http://www.cedmagic.com/history/instant ... -deck.html
http://www.cedmagic.com/history/rca-hea ... layer.html
Now thats a reel to reel tape recorder :!:
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The electromagnetic spectrum has no theoretical limit at either end. If all the mass/energy in the Universe is considered a 'limit', then that would be the only real theoretical limit to the maximum frequency attainable.
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Steve Anderson » Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:16 pm

If anyone has Dropbox, even the free version, that's better. I think the free version gives you 1GB of storage, the paid subscription I'm on it's 1TB of storage...I think that's the cheapest subscription rate.

Steve A.
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Andrew Davie » Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:24 pm

Steve Anderson wrote:I also have two mp4 video files covering the same subject but they're too big to upload here, around 25MB each. If you wish a copy of them send me an e-mail with your e-mail address and I'll send them on. Make sure your in-box has at least 50MB of space free and can accept single files of at least 25MB each.



I just checked - the forum itself has NO limit on maximum file size. Have you actually tried uploading here? I have no issues with this sort of use of the forum. You can send via personal message on the forum, if it's not for public consumption.
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Steve Anderson » Sat Jun 03, 2017 11:34 am

Seems not, the browser times out saying,"The site can't be reached" when I push "Add the file". I tried at least three times. (Chrome).

As they are already compressed (mp4) there's no point in zipping them. Or even splitting them (Disk Spanning) in Winzip, but that's a pain.

I know the 'Maximum file size' is set to zero in the ACP which should be a limitless setting but no go. This has happened to me in the past.

The files were from the 'net, so presumably in the public domain. I would provide the link if I could remember where I got them.

Steve A.

I've found the site, but it's down for maintenance, for how long, who knows?

http://www.apts.org.uk/
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Steve Anderson » Mon Jun 05, 2017 4:41 pm

The motor is now totally free, almost frictionless, now I have to clear my workbench and desk of all the stuff I have been working on over the past six weeks or so...

I haven't decided if I'm going to gut this or not, but I've started looking at potential replacement electronics. Rather than reinvent the wheel I've pilfered a head pre-amp circuit published in Studio Sound, Sep. 1970. All I have done is replaced the original transistors with more modern and slightly quieter versions. I've also reduced the size of one capacitor which was overly large. It's designed for tape heads with an inductance of 200mH to 1H.

I've not built it as yet so the voltages are from the author's circuit. I don't see any reason why it shouldn't work as advertised. The simulator tends to agree.

Steve A.

Regarding the posting above, the small (file-size) diagram attached was no problem at all, as they usually are.
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Harry Dalek » Mon Jun 05, 2017 8:34 pm

I Suppose as is you could record NBTV and SSTV some thing about reel to reel tape recorders much nicer machines than the tape munching audio cassettes ..but i must admit i do have a very good one they finally managed towards the end to make the machines more reliable...
BTW in the circuit i see R10 with the other values what does ips stand for ?
Off Topic i found these on Vera
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f1GDQDB0Ss
panorama intro from the vera
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYghmIDwRyI
The Secret Life Of Machines - The Video Recorder (1991)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOULWR4h4Io
The electromagnetic spectrum has no theoretical limit at either end. If all the mass/energy in the Universe is considered a 'limit', then that would be the only real theoretical limit to the maximum frequency attainable.
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Andrew Davie » Mon Jun 05, 2017 8:50 pm

Harry Dalek wrote:BTW in the circuit i see R10 with the other values what does ips stand for ?


At a guess, it's the tape speed - inches per second.
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Steve Anderson » Mon Jun 05, 2017 9:10 pm

Andrew Davie wrote:At a guess, it's the tape speed - inches per second.

Correct Andrew, though I'm a totally a metric person, for some reason I still think of tape speed in ips (Inches Per Second).

7.5ips = 19cm/s
3.75ips = 9.5cm/s
1.875ips = 4.8cm/s

The conversions are an approximation.

The 1.875ips/4.8cm/s EQ is not applicable to Compact Cassettes though. They have different EQ curves based on tape oxide formulation...both for record and playback.

Steve A.
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Steve Anderson » Mon Jun 05, 2017 11:15 pm

Good find again Harry, yes, they are a good introduction, but they're not quite the same as the full versions I have. Also the lead-ons to videeo tape and Cassette technology is interesting too. The problem I always had with cassettes was not being able to clean and demagnetise the heads and other transport components due to the cramped mechanical arrangements required.

Steve A.
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Harry Dalek » Tue Jun 06, 2017 7:01 pm

Steve Anderson wrote:Good find again Harry, yes, they are a good introduction, but they're not quite the same as the full versions I have. Also the lead-ons to videeo tape and Cassette technology is interesting too. The problem I always had with cassettes was not being able to clean and demagnetise the heads and other transport components due to the cramped mechanical arrangements required.

Steve A.


I found it interesting The Vera video recorder you could watch the recorded tape almost at the same time i can't think of Video tape recorder that could do that ..? perhaps its not possible unless it had another video drum head which makes thing very complex where as a play head on Vera is simpler to that ..so it had one up on the other system that killed it ..I hope it still exists some where ...i noticed in The Secret Life Of Machines they have a place in the UK that all this old gear is kept ,i recall another show on early tape recording saying the machine had to be in a room and people operating it in another due to the steel tape being lethal.
Doing a little show and tell a touch dusty but here are my 2 reel too reel machines ,i have never used them ! saved from the reuse shop i liked the size of them even now they still turn up but its one of those things how many of any thing can you keep have to control my hoarding !
This Philips Cassette recorder is the one i mentioned pretty good machine that but yes cassette machines not easy to service the cheap ones you may as well chuck them how poorly they were made tape munchers indeed ..
I should have a look if the first reel to reel is dual speed ,i recall my fathers 60s valve reel to reel had more than one record speed .
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Steve Anderson » Tue Jun 06, 2017 8:31 pm

Most domestic open-reel recorders had at least two speeds, 9.5cm/s and 4.8cms, those that aspired to being higher quality also had 19cm/s. My first tape recorder was a Christmas present from my parents when I was about 14, it had the two lower speeds. Changing speeds was done by simply slipping a screwed sleeve onto the capstan which doubled its diameter. No changes were made in the equalisation or bias, record or playback, so it produced non-standard recordings, well one of the two speeds may have been correct. It only took 5" reels, it wasn't quite a toy but for exchanging voice messages on tape it was adequate. Music was OK if it only played back tapes it recorded. It died quite seriously of over-use, I wore the thing out. Teenagers.

Later professional and some consumer S-VHS video recorders did have a 'confidence playback' arrangement where a playback head followed immediately the record head on the rotating drum. The delay in human terms was insignificant. If you're recording some significant event you really want to know it's getting onto the tape perfectly. Some of the machines I worked with, e.g. the Sony BVH2000 1" C-format series had so many rotating heads I lost count.

My old JVC S-VHS edit recorder had two heads for record, two heads for confidence playback, two flying erase heads for editing, two heads for hi-fi sound...I think that was it. Plus the four stationary heads for stereo longitudal sound, timecode and the control track. Oh, throw in an erase head too.

Steve A.
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Harry Dalek » Tue Jun 06, 2017 9:07 pm

OH thats nice looking Machine Steve !.
I also have 2 Super Vhs pro machines got for 20 dollars old technology is it seems worthless to those only wanting now technology...Like my Umatic video recorder it might be old but its still going fine ...wonder whats the designed life time of these things ,they would want them to brake so we buy new ...
Back to the reel to reel i am interested what you are going to do to yours !
The electromagnetic spectrum has no theoretical limit at either end. If all the mass/energy in the Universe is considered a 'limit', then that would be the only real theoretical limit to the maximum frequency attainable.
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Andrew Davie » Tue Jun 06, 2017 9:42 pm

Harry Dalek wrote:OH thats nice looking Machine Steve !.
I also have 2 Super Vhs pro machines got for 20 dollars old technology is it seems worthless to those only wanting now technology...Like my Umatic video recorder it might be old but its still going fine ...wonder whats the designed life time of these things ,they would want them to brake so we buy new ...
Back to the reel to reel i am interested what you are going to do to yours !


I think Umatic video recorders are actually collectables nowadays!
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Steve Anderson » Tue Jun 06, 2017 9:59 pm

Andrew Davie wrote:I think Umatic video recorders are actually collectables nowadays!

They all are, any analogue format. especially SP U-matics and up to the analogue analogue SP Betacam format (NOT Betamax, the domestic version). Quadraplex machines (Ampex 2" format) go for vast fortunes these days, but they;re bulky, heavy and require a vacuum line to 'glue' the tape to the heads. But if you've got an archive of old material on that format you want to dump to a server, you need one. Not exactly what you may want in your living room though! But I'm sure that there are those out there who would relish the thought!

Ever tried to pick up a couple of 14" reels of 2" tape? I hope your back is OK!

Steve A.
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Andrew Davie » Tue Jun 06, 2017 10:17 pm

Steve Anderson wrote:
Andrew Davie wrote:I think Umatic video recorders are actually collectables nowadays!

They all are, any analogue format. especially SP U-matics and up to the analogue analogue SP Betacam format (NOT Betamax, the domestic version). Quadraplex machines (Ampex 2" format) go for vast fortunes these days, but they;re bulky, heavy and require a vacuum line to 'glue' the tape to the heads. But if you've got an archive of old material on that format you want to dump to a server, you need one. Not exactly what you may want in your living room though! But I'm sure that there are those out there who would relish the thought!

Even tried to pick up a couple of 14" reels of 2" tape? I hope your back is OK!

Steve A.


Our storage formats change so rapidly and become obsolete so quickly. Just last week I sent of 40 or so 5.25" floppy discs from my 1980's programming work to a historian/archivist to see if they could be recovered. Exciting and I hope to see some of my 30 year old source code if all goes well.
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