Alexander Matthew Poniatoff established this company in San Carlos, California, in 1944 as the Ampex Electric and Manufacturing Company. The name came from his initials plus "ex" to avoid using the name AMP already in use. During World War II, Ampex was a small manufacturer of high quality electric motors and generators for radars that used Alnico 5 magnets from General Electric
. Ampex's first offices were at 1313 Laurel St. San Carlos California.
Near the end of the World War II, while serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Major Jack Mullin was assigned to investigate German radio and electronics experiments. He discovered the Magnetophons with AC biasing on a trip to Radio Frankfurt which gave much better fidelity than shellac records. Mullin acquired two Magnetophon recorders along with 50 reels of BASF Type L tape and brought them to America where he produced modified versions. He demonstrated them May 16, 1946, to the Institute of Radio Engineers in San Francisco.
Popular singer Bing Crosby, arguably the biggest star on radio at the time, was very receptive to the idea of pre-recording his radio programs. He disliked the regimentation of live broadcasts, and much preferred the relaxed atmosphere of the recording studio. He had already asked the NBC network to let him pre-record his 1944-45 series on transcription discs, but the network refused, so Crosby had withdrawn from live radio for a year and returned (this time to the recently created ABC
) for the 1946-47 season only reluctantly.
In June 1947, Mullin, who was pitching the technology to the major Hollywood movie studios, got the chance to demonstrate his modified tape recorders to Crosby. When Crosby heard a demonstration of Mullin's tape recorders, he immediately saw the potential of the new technology and commissioned Mullin to prepare a test recording of his radio show. Ampex was finishing its prototype of the Model 200 tape recorder and Mullin used the first two models as soon as they were built. After a successful test broadcast, ABC agreed to allow Crosby to pre-record his shows on tape. Crosby immediately appointed Mullin as his chief engineer and placed an order for $50,000 worth of the new recorders so that Ampex (then a small six-man concern) could develop a commercial production model from the prototypes. Crosby Enterprises was Ampex's West Coast representative until 1957.
Les Paul, a friend of Crosby's and a regular guest on his shows had already been experimenting with overdubbed recordings on disc. When he received an early Ampex Model 200A, he determined that it could be modified by adding additional recording electronics and record and playback heads. He brought the idea to Ampex to implement, creating the world's first practical tape-based multitrack recording system.
In 1952, Ampex was approached by movie producer Mike Todd, who wanted to develop a high fidelity movie sound system using sound magnetically recorded on the film. The result of this development was the Todd-AO motion picture system, which was first used in movies such as Oklahoma and The Robe. In 1960, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Ampex an Oscar for technical achievement as a result of this development.
1952 also brought the development of prototype video tape recorders that used a spinning head and relatively slow-moving tape. In early 1956 a team led by Charles Ginsburg produced the first videotape recorder. A young, 19 year old engineer Ray Dolby (who later established Dolby Laboratories) was also part of the team. Ampex demonstrated the VR-1000, which was the first of Ampex's line of 2 inch Quadruplex videotape recorders, on March 14, 1956, at the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters in Chicago. The first magnetically-recorded time-delayed network television program using the new Ampex Quadruplex recording system was CBS
's Douglas Edwards and the News on November 30, 1956.
In 1959 Richard Nixon, then Vice President, and Nikita Khrushchev held discussions at the Moscow Trade Fair, which became known as the “Kitchen Debates” because they were mostly held in the kitchen of a suburban model house. The discussions were recorded on an Ampex videotape recorder, and during the debate Nixon pointed this out as one of the many American technological advances.
In 1967, Ampex introduced the Ampex VR-3000 portable broadcast video recorder, which revolutionized the recording of high-quality television in the field without the need for long cables and large support vehicles. Broadcast quality images could now be shot anywhere, including from airplanes, helicopters and boats.
The Quadruplex format dominated the broadcast industry for a quarter of a century. The format was licensed to RCA
for use in their "television tape recorders." Ampex's invention revolutionized the television industry by eliminating the kinescope process of time-shifting television programs, which required the use of motion picture film. For archival purposes, the kinescope method continued to be used for some years; film was still preferred by archivists. The Ampex broadcast video tape recorder facilitated time-zone broadcast delay so that networks could air programming at the same hour in various time zones. Ampex had trademarked the name "video tape", so competitor RCA called the medium "TV tape" or "television tape". The terms eventually became genericized, and "videotape" is commonly used today.
That same year, Ampex introduced the HS-100 video disc recorder. The system was developed by Ampex at the request of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) for a variety of sports broadcast uses. It was first demonstrated on the air on March 18, 1967, when “ABC’s Wide World of Sports” televised the “World Series of Skiing” from Vail, Colorado.
In 1966 and 1967, Ampex FR-900 drives were used to videotape the first images of the Earth from the Moon, as part of the Lunar Orbiter program.
In 1970, Ampex started its own record label, Ampex Records. Its biggest hit was "We Gotta Get You A Woman" by Todd Rundgren (as "Runt"), reaching #20 on the charts in 1970. Ampex also originated two subsidiary labels, Bearsville and Big Tree. The label ceased around 1973 and the Bearsville Records and Big Tree labels were sold to Warner Bros. Records and Bell Records, respectively. Later on, Big Tree was picked up by Atlantic Records.
In 1978, the Ampex Video Art (AVA™) video graphics system is used by artist Leroy Nieman on air during Super Bowl XII. AVA, the first video paint system, allows the graphic artist, using an electronic pen, to illustrate in a new medium, video. This innovation paved the way for today's high quality electronic graphics, such as those used in video games.
By the 1990s Ampex focused more on video, instrumentation, and data recorders. In 1991, the professional audio recorder line of business was sold to Sprague Magnetics. The Ampex Recording Media Corporation was spun off in 1995 as Quantegy Inc., and is now known as Quantegy Recording Solutions.
On March 30, 2008, Ampex Corp. filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. The company later emerged, and now, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Ampex Data Systems Corporation, offers high-capacity, high performance digital storage systems capable of functioning in demanding environments on land, at sea or in the air. Ampex products are principally used in defense applications to gather digital images and other data from aircraft, satellites and submarines. These products are also used in flight and sensor test applications.
Close Up of Vignette:
Convertible Subordinated Debenture Bond, specimen, late 1900’sPrinter: Security-Columbian Bank Note Company Dimensions:
8” (h) x 12” (w)State: CA-California Subject Matter: Modern Technologies
| Audio and Video Equipment
| Sports and Entertainment
| Specimen Pieces Vignette Topic(s): Allegorical Featured
| Allegorical Nike
| Eagle Featured
| Globe Featured Condition:
No fold lines, punch hole and stamp cancels in the signature areas and body, very crisp.