... In the beginning (part 1)

It may seem like tape recorders have been around forever, but compared to many electronic devices, it is a fairly recent technology. The first documented use of magnetic tape recorders was in Germany in the early 1940s.

Called the Magnetophon, during WWII this device confounded the Allies, who could not understand how German stations were apparently on the air twenty-four hours a day and could play all-night symphonies, or how Hitler could be in Düsseldorf in the morning, Berlin in the afternoon and Munich at night, giving “live” speeches.

The quality was so good that it had to be live, the Allies thought, for recorded broadcasts in the early 40s were usually played back on records or wire recorders and the quality was quite poor.

An American GI named Jack Mullin, who was stationed in London and had experience with sound recording, was fascinated by these broadcasts. Mullin, along with a Lt. Spickelmeyer, were sent to Germany to investigate reports that the Germans had been experimenting with high-frequency energy as a means to jam airplane engines in flight.

Near Frankfurt, they stumbled upon the studio from which the broadcasts originated, and found the answer to their questions as to how Hitler could be in so many places at the same time.

Mullin disassembled the Magnetophon (pictured here) and sent it back home to California as war memorabilia.

Back in the US, he reassembled it, and eventually approached a business owner – Alexander Michael Poniatoff – with the idea of recreating the Magnetophon.

Mr. Poniatoff had supplied aircraft motors for the military, but with the war over, he needed a new product line.

Alexander M. Poniatoff used his initials, A.M.P, added the suffix "EX" for "excellence” and, based on Jack Mullin's “war memorabilia,” created the AMPEX Model 200. The first magnetic tape, reel-to-reel audio tape recorder was created in the US.

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