1956: Ampex VRX-1000 First Commercial Video Recorder

Jan 1, 2011 9:00 AM


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Ampex VRX-1000 with company founder Alexander Pontiatoff

Ampex VRX-1000 with company founder Alexander Pontiatoff

The concept for the videotape recorder hails from Bing Crosby’s audio engineer, Jack Mullin, who brought the first German tape recorders to America after World War II. In 1946, Crosby fronted Ampex the capital to begin building audio tape recorders. Four years later, with the advent of television, Mullin talked to Crosby about the notion of recording TV programs on tape.

In 1952, Ampex began its VTR project, with Charles Ginsburg leading a team that included Charles Anderson, Alex Maxey, Fred Pfost, Shelby Henderson and a 19-year old kid named Ray Dolby. But rather than a fixed-head approach, Ginsburg pursued the now-standard concept of rotary tape heads, proposed by engineer/inventor Marvin Camras. The first production unit (shown on page 16 with Ampex founder Alex M. Pontiatoff) was sold to CBS for tape-delay broadcasts of news broadcasts in November 1956. The VRX-1000 was $50,000 (an enormous sum in the mid-1950s), but the days of live broadcasts were numbered and television production would never be the same.

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