IEEE Milestone: Ampex Videotape Recorder


Milestone: Ampex Videotape Recorder, 1956

Dedication Date: June 10, 2016

Since the advent of public television there has been a need to record TV programs. Some of the reasons for this were: editing and the need to archive program content for delayed transmission to accommodate time zones.

At the beginning of public television in the middle of the 1940s until 1956 the only means available for the recording TV content was to film it. The method used was to pick the un-delayed televised program off the transmission line and display it on a TV monitor while pointing a movie camera at that monitor, thus making a film record of the program. Next, the film was rushed to a film-developing lab for rapid development and returned to the TV station where the film would be edited and at the appropriate time projected into a TV camera and that video signal broadcast into the surrounding area for local TV sets to receive. Some time zones might have only one hour to record, develop and transmit a program whereas other zones might have three hours for that process.

In 1951, Ampex Corp. started a video recording project. Five engineers and one machinist produced a beautiful TV recorder, which was shown at an NARTB (National Association of Radio and Television Engineers) convention in Chicago, on April 14, 1956. The first production recorder was completed and put into service late in 1956. The format used in it became the standard throughout the world for the next twenty years. Ampex dominated the broadcast VTR business for a number of years to come.



β€œIn 1956, Ampex Corporation of Redwood City, California, introduced the first practical videotape recorder for television stations and networks to produce and time-shift broadcasts, replacing impractical ‘kinescope’ movie film previously used to record TV. The Emmy-award-winning Ampex ‘VTR’ analog-video standard ruled broadcasting and video production worldwide for twenty years.”

Green Library
Stanford University
Palo Alto, CA