Home Audio Recording – What A Trip!

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Tech History


History Of Home Audio Recording

early record cutter tech historyRecording your voice and being able to play it back actually goes back to the 1930’s, when consumer record cutters became available. They were expensive for sure and not widely available. You put a blank phonograph disc on the machine and a lathe cut the grooves. You could also playback on the device. This technology also showed up at amusement parks – where, for a fee, you could go into a small booth and cut a record.

Around 1946 – wire recorders hit the market. Yes, it was magnetic wire traveling across a head – much like reel-to-reels – only wire. It didn’t last long – about 8 years, but – lots were sold during the post-war era.


About the same time – reel-to-reel recorders began showing up. The Germans had developed magnetic tape to a point – where the fidelity was as good as you could get. Entertainer Bing Crosby took notice and invested $thousands in a company called Ampex. Soon, radio stations and recording studios began using tape. Magnetic tape not only sounded great, but could be edited quickly and accurately. And, it was as hi fi as you could get.

tape deck 1960s tech historyLater in the 1950’s and into the 1960’s – smaller reel-to-reel tape decks (though not nearly the fidelity and quality as larger decks) hit the marketplace. I use to have one of these and – a main drawback was – you couldn’t record music. That was bad news for someone who wanted his music off the radio. Music sounded distorted and was just unlistenable.

In 1963, Norelco developed the cassette and by the late 1960’s, they became affordable. That was good news – because with cassettes, you COULD record music.

1970s reel to reel image teacBy the early 1970’s, small cassette recorders (and larger stereo versions) seemed to be everywhere. Also at this time – recordable 8-track cartridge decks became available. So, now – we had two decent choices. The other choice – was a Teac reel-to-reel – but they were big, bulky and expensive – and used by those who really wanted something that was – the best recording medium of its day. Teac was one manufacturer – there were others – but Teac reel-to-reel (quarter-track tape decks) seemed to be the most popular.

mini cassette 1980sLet’s not forget those small mini-cassette recorders.

This pretty much stayed the same through the 1980’s – with the exception – 8-Track cartridge decks went away. The format was proven to be clumsy and – just didn’t have the staying power. On the horizon though – digital audio cassettes. And – we couldn’t wait for a compact disc recorder to come out.

1990’s – Digital audio cassettes – they sort of came and went. Finally though, we could record using compact discs. The first recorder were very expensive – $19,000 (Denon). Luckily – that came down quickly – and with personal computers – we could begin recording/burning a CD easily.  Remember the prices of those blank/recordable CD’s? In the very beginning they were $10 each!

With the PC era – what about those early audio programs? Mine was SAW-32. It loaded quickly and used machine language.  And, that was pretty much the end of the analog cassette.

What was your first recordable device?


Gary West

Historian Gary West built his first website in 1998 with www.pophistorynow.com. That addressed now forwards to www.mrpopculture.com - an amazing pop culture/news database with 25,000 pages, covering the years 1955-2014. He's also the author of www.technologynewstimeline.com - covering consumer technology from 1952 to the present. West has been a contributor to numerous books, radio-TV shows, CNN & USA Today & the History Channel.

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