Evolution of the Audio Recorder

Evolution of the Audio Recorder
By Phil Van Praag


From Antique Radio Classified
(Copyright 1997 by John V. Terrey - For personal use only.)

At long last there is a comprehensive book and guide about vintage tape recorders. Phil Van Praag's book Evolution of the Audio Recorder covers the whole story of magnetic recording from the history and theory to the restoration and collecting of vintage tape recorders, with particular emphasis between the decades spanning 1940 to 1970.

What is wonderful about this book is that it will appeal to all classes of collectors and audiophiles. Van Praag writes in a style that is not patronizing it is fully understandable to those who don't know a capacitor from a resistor, yet can still hold the attention of the most accomplished electronics technician. His intent is not to write something that is dry and pedantic, but to create a reference work in the first person that makes readers feel they are having a genial discussion with the author about the tape recorder.

Van Praag succeeds in this endeavor, while sprinkling his book with a great number of genuinely humorous remarks and asides. One example is his comment that the Roberts Model 1000 audio recording/video recorder actually was a 3-function machine that is, an audio recorder, a video recorder, and in the author's words, a "hernia inducer."

That the author loves tape recorders is an understatement that becomes clear as soon as one picks up this 540-page book, which begins with the theory of the tape recorder. It then proceeds with fascinating chapters on the history and evolution of recorders, special purpose recorders, service and restoration of tape recorders, as well as a guide to production models and a general price guide. There is also an appendix full of valuable resources for parts and materials and schematic diagrams for tape recorder restoration.

As good as Van Praag's easy flowing text is, the book is an absolute gold mine of tape recorder photographs, pages from contemporaneous electronic catalogs, and reprints of manufacturers' literature. Even if one were illiterate, this book would be valuable and fun to look at just for the hundreds of great reproductions and photographs. In keeping with his easy-to-follow writing style, Van Praag also includes reproductions of several of the most imaginative and artistic electronic catalog covers of the 1940s-1950s, an art form which he correctly claims has long since disappeared.

There is so much to recommend this book that it is hard to speak to any one section. Nevertheless, Chapter 4, which deals with service and restoration, is a chapter that benefits not only tape recorder lovers, but any one of us who collects, repairs or services "vintage" mechanical and electronic equipment. If more of us would just follow Phil's advice to perform the basic check first and resist the temptation to plug our "finds" right in, we could save ourselves the costs of his book many times over.

Finally, if you are a tape recorder enthusiast, a collector, or just an audiophile, you should have this terrific reference guide.

Evolution of the Audio Recorder, is available from the publisher EC Designs, Inc., P.O. Box 33, Genesee Depot, WI 53127-0033, at a cover price of $39.95. However, for a limited time, it is being offered at a discount. Be sure to check with the publisher for ordering information.

(Joseph F. Esdale, 1769 Eastwood, Highland Park, IL 60035)

Joe Esdale, president of Esdale Commercial Sound, Inc., has been an audio and tape recorder enthusiast for over 40 years. His company is a design/build contractor for professional sound reinforcement systems.

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Copyright © 1996 by John V. Terrey - For personal use only.
Last revised: July 14, 1998. Pages designed by Wayward Fluffy Publications