Sadly you don't always get what you hoped for from old recordings. This is my sad tale.
I found some reel-to-reel tapes from the 1960's, which based on the label I thought contained a series of my grandfather's relativity physics lectures. When I paid to get them converted to CD I found they were just a series of old programmes record off the radio. No recording of my grandfather exists anywhere, so he is gone forever. I've never been so disappointed.
I need a time machine to fix this, but ironically he didn't leave me a recording of the relativity physics needed to make one. Of course if I could build a time machine from that information then one theory states that "cosmic censorship" may have occurred, which deleted the recordings to prevent a paradox!
Hi Nicholas -- I'm real sorry to hear that -- I can only imagine the disappointment -- but it was worth trying "just in case"
I wish I could hear my mom and dad talking from when they were young
Strange to think that folks today grow up with every expectation of being able to see videos of themselves throughout their lives...
It is even a challenge to play back the old reel-to-reel tapes sometimes, since the cloth belts used as take-up reel clutches in some of those Webcor machines are hard to find replacements for. My 3-motor tape decks are much simpler, but they don't handle 1 7/8 IPS tapes.
I also found a stack of tapes, in an old house being demolished. One of them sounded a whole lot like Aretha Franklin singing at somebody's birthday party. Unfortunately there is nothing available to verify that.
Listening to a wire recording is more challenging because those magnetic heads have a tendency to wear out, and the wire is a bit of a challenge to work with. The "new type" plastic leader that should be on the reel in the picture did make threading the machines much easier. And a playback amplifier can be a simple 3-tube package, not hard to duplicate at all.
I see wire recorders from time to time in antique shops. I'm not sure that they're worth repairing. The sound quality is pretty bad, which is why the tape recorder blew them away almost overnight. If you have a supply of wire recordings that may be of value, I can't imagine that it would be difficult to build a player from modern parts. You could probably even compensate for the distortion caused by the wire twisting.
I've often thought of building a piano roll player since old piano rolls are everywhere and the pianos are hell to move and restore.
Great idea! The scanning bar could easily detect the holes. There's plenty of free and open source software to do the rest.
I was interested in hearing the music, but it might be fun to have a "Max" mannequin playing a piano - Hawaiian shirt and all!
it was 'only' in the late 90's that a company I was with was replacing wire recorders in a military system for a solid state version.
wire recordings were preferred over plastic tape, as thay were all but indestructible.
Oh do I remember the day when the take up spool 'broke loose' and the wire shot all over the office. health and safety had no procedures for wire recorders.... after that , it was kept behind a screen.
out of interest, if you have a wire to read, you "can" do it with a magnetic pick up and a computer. 'just' draw the wire at a constant speed, record, and correct for speed on the computer.
I think the use of magnetic wire lasted a lot longer than most people would think. At my previous employer, we purchased a state of the art CNC milling center from a European company (in the late 80’s early 90’s). It had magnetic wire programing. There was a spool in the control cabinet with what I assume was the default program settings.
Wow -- I'd never even thought of using them for CNC machines -- but it makes sense -- about 15 years ago I went to a PCB manufacturing facility here in town to get a few boards made and they still used paper tape to control their CNC machines (like the drills and suchlike)
My dad used wire recorders back in his military days. I've never personally seen one and your photo of the wore spool is the first I've seen of that. I do have some old reel to reel tapes that have voices of my parents when they were quite young and may have my grand parents on them.
I found an old tube reel to reel player but haven't gotten around to getting it up and running yet. I suppose I should soon or the tapes may disintegrate.
Out of curiosity, any idea of the typical range of strength of magnetic fields stored on the recording wire? Sufficient enough to deflect a compass needle? Activate a sensitive reed relay?
... and aren't certain types of insects sensitive to magnetic fields?
Well, I personally loved Pratchett's idea for his Discword computer, "Hex". So an online search to see if I could find more details turned up this image, which appeared, briefly, in the "Hogfather" DVD. Apparently, there's also a guy online, who sells all sorts of Discworld paraphernalia, and provides these as stickers, etc.
After all, who knows... "ant colony optimization algorithms" and all that.
Anyway, for wire storage of audio frequencies I suppose I'd expect the physical extent of the magnetic domains to be rather small, sub-millimeter, even at two feet per second. And so accordingly, the field strengths as well.
But for useful non-electronic storage of binary data, as an alternative to punch-cards or paper-tape, it may not need to be so limited. Especially for several spools geared to run in parallel.
Then, if this type of wire is of an alloy *particularly* suitable for magnetization, then reading back your data might be accomplished with a set of compass needles ( mechanically interfaced through sensitive torque-amplifies ). Or electrically interfaced through the contacts elements of reed-relays.
And, perhaps, mechanically writing data might be accomplished with a device having a set of small hammers with magnetized heads.
A perfect project for folks who have the right tools and too much time on their hands!
We run the www.cryptomuseum.com website. On our (physical) collection we have German and Russian wire recorders, the small ones. Really beatiful marvels of engineering from the past.
It might be a good idea to klick this link for the Protona wire recorder from Austria. This recorder was very widely used by all secret services, including the CIA. It had a secret microphone build inside a watch. The watch has no mechanics and is not running. The story goes that an agent was caught on an airport since he wore 2 watches: The one that worked and the one with the microphone. Anyway, enjoy this link: