Video tape recorder celebrates milestone

The Redwood City-based company continues to be a player in both audio and video recording.

April 15, 2010 1:41:36 PM PDT
The first demonstration of a video recorder took place on April 14, 1956. AMPEX was a small Silicon Valley company at the time, but on that day in Chicago they beat better known companies, like RCA, to the punch giving the nation's broadcasters their first look at a device that would change media for decades.

AMPEX engineers called their machine the VR-1000; it used a spinning head and ran 2" tape, and would be the first in AMPEX's line of Quadruplex recorders.

The team was led by Charles Ginsburg, and on it was a 19-year-old named Ray Dolby (see picture -- the head of the project, Charles Ginsburg is in the center in the dark suit and that's a young Ray Dolby to his left). Dolby would go on to found his own company in the Bay Area -- Dolby Labs -- and the noise reduction technology that carries his name.

By the end of November of 1956 broadcasters would begin using the new recording system. While AMPEX was lesser known than the electronics giants of the day, it had already made major changes to audio recording in 1948 when ABC broadcast a tape delayed version of "The Bing Crosby Show."

The company was founded in San Carlos by Alexander M. Poiatoff. He came up with the acronym AMPEX by combining his initials and the first two letters of "excellence." The company is still headquartered in the Silicon Valley, in Redwood City.