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AES Historical Committee


Welcome to the Website of the Audio Engineering Society Historical Committee ("AES HC", or just "HC" for short)


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The AES Historical Committee is an international forum open to all who wish to investigate and learn about the achievements of those pioneers whose innovative ideas and inventions have contributed to audio's rich past. Dedicated to the preservation of over a century of audio history, the Committee is developing a broad-based history of audio engineering and the audio industry. AES membership is encouraged but not required

Visit the Historical Committee Web Store

If you have questions about the history of audio engineering, search this site or its links or for patents from all countries; check out the Audio Engineering History and History of the AES. Join our E-mail reflector and post a historical question to it -- many of the people who made that history are here, and can answer your questions.

We would be glad to have you volunteer to help us with our projects -- AES membership is encouraged but not required.

Bill Wray and Gene Radzik
Co-Chairs, AES Historical Committee

2006-11

Last Revised 2014-07-09jm


What's New on this website?


Searching--

This Site and Its Links -- Use the Search Box at the top of this page.

Patents of All Countries

Author's Affiliation Index of AES Publications: Know the author's company but not the author's name? Look here!


Practical Audio Preservation

Do you need help preserving programs on obsolete audio media? Click here for links to sites with preservation information and techniques.


Historical Committee Activities at AES Conventions

Exhibits, talks, presentations, etc at the AES Conventions.

Agendas for Committee meetings: What's planned for the meetings.

Reports of Committee activities for the previous half year.

Minutes of the Committee meetings.



Audio Engineering History

The Craft of Recording Through History

Links to Other Historical Sites, and Museum Coordination project

Timeline of Audio Engineering, from cylinder to DVD

Audio Patents, the plan for a project to improve access to the patent literature.

Auditory Perspective, the classic Bell Telephone Labs "stereo" paper from 1934 (4.5 MB file)

Book Listings and Reviews in the AES Journal, 1990...2002, Index of

Books & video tapes now available on audio engineering history

The Thiele-Krause Archive for Audio-Visual Media Technology (currently off-line)

Historical Developments in Audio Engineering 1877...1977, a summary paper by Daniel von Recklinghausen, with 81 references to papers and patents

Historical Issues of the AES Journal,  The contents pages for "The Phonograph and Sound Recording After One-Hundred Years" (1977-10) and "The AES: 50 Years of Contributions to Audio Engineering" (1998-01)

History of Audio Engineering as Told Thru the AES Journal: The "non-technical" part of the Journal that's not contained in the "Electronic Library"

Forensic Audio Engineering: The complete "Watergate" report, formally called "The EOB Tape of June 20, 1972: Report on a Technical Investigation Conducted for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, by the Advisory Panel on White House Tapes May 31, 1974", that is the basis for much of present-day forensic audio engineering.

Recording Studios, A Thirty-five Year History and Evolution  (1980) by "Bill" Putnam.

Standardization Activity of the AES (1982) by Langdon, Queen, McKnight, and Campbell --the History Before 1982


Dr Steven Schoenherr's "Recording Technology History"

The most awesome (and I don't use that word lightly) website for "Recording Technology History" was created and maintained for many years by Dr. Steven Schoenherr, Professor of History at the University of  San Diego. (His site was formerly "history.sandiego.edu/gen/recording/notes"). So I was distressed recently when I found that it was "404" -- not found. On digging around a little, I found Dr Schoenherr, and asked if we might host his site at the Audio Engineering Society's "Historical Committee" site. He replied:

"Thank you for taking over the hosting of this website. I started the Recording Technology History site in Dec. 1994 at the University of San Diego when the Department of History went online. At that time, there were only 2 other history departments in the world listed in the Yahoo index of History Institutes (Saskatchewan and Rochester). With the help of students, I integrated web pages into my history classes and found the web to be useful in presenting primary documents, both text and audiovisual. I also used the web pages to publish my research on Bing Crosby, William Randolph Hearst, Charles Sumner Tainter, newsreels and film sound. Primary documents and images and recordings were published on the web site from Bell Labs, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and the Edison National Historic Site. The history department web site outgrew several servers, reaching a high point in May 2002 of 180,000 hits per day. I retired in 2007 after teaching 30 years at the University of San Diego, and am happy to pass on the Recording Technology History site to a new server at the AES."

This page has a number of out-of-date URLs, and a very few errors. We will be updating the URLs, and correcting the errors. To see Dr.Schoenherr's original page, go to Schoenherr

Jay McKnight, Chair Emeritus, AES Historical Committee, 2012-08-22, corr. 2013-09-23

Digital Audio Engineering

SIGSALY -- The Origins of DSP and Compression, by Jon D. Paul. Some pale gleams from the past; a historical perspective on early speech synthesis and scramblers, and the foundations of digital audio

Digital Audio Engineering Standardization History at the AES: The history of the development of the AES digital audio standards, as given in the AES Journal minutes and reports of the Digital Audio Standards and Technical Committees between 1977 and 1984, and in Bart Locanthi's 1986 summary of the Committees' work.

"The Dawn of Commercial Digital Recording ", (2008 Spring) by Thomas Fine. Although wide-spread digital commercial recording is only about 30 years old, much mythology and many claims of  "firsts" have sprung from the mists of time. This article seeks to set the record straight.


Disk (mechanical) Recording

Audio Record, a trade publication of Audio Devices, Inc., of which several volumes are available from its start in 1945 July until 1952. Hopefully more material of this kind will turn up. Audio Devices, Inc. was a licensee of Pyral lacquer disc technology from 1938, but created a very strong in-house research team, developing not only Audiodisc, Audiopoints (stylii) and Audiotape products, but also played a major role in the huge upheaval from 78 rpm to 33 1/3 and 45 as well as early tape development and recording. Audio Devices, Inc. was one of the big magnetic tape suppliers from late 1948 to about 1970 along with 3M, Reeves Soundcraft, and Orradio Industries (Ampex).C.J LeBel was a vice president of Audio Devices, Inc.and a f ounding member of the AES, and its first president. In 1947 he took over a series of regularly featured technical articles in Audio Record, and they are among the most level-headed I have read. There are also magnificent listings of disc cutting and very early tape recording equipment with prices and thumbnail descriptions. You will also find reports on recording projects and recording studios, in particular in broadcasting and educational institutions.    [Thanks to George Brock-Nannestad for calling our attention to this publication.]

History of Disk Recording, (1985) by John G. Frayne. (with 9 references).


Magnetic Recording

"Standard Tape Manual" compiled by Bob Morrison. Bob had a long and distinguished career in magnetic tape recording - from 1952 working at Ampex, then managing the Ampex Standard Tape Lab in the 1960s, to founding his own company, Standard Tape Laboratory (STL) in 1970. In 1978 while at STL, Bob compiled and self-published his "Standard Tape Manual -- A data book for the audio tape recordist, engineer, or designer", which is his telling of the theory and practice of magnetic recording as of 1978. We are now pleased to make a scan of this manual available online.

Popular Misconceptions about Magnetic Recording History and Theory—Things You May Have Missed over the Past 85 Years, by Jay McKnight

Calculating the Short Wavelength Response of the Magnetic Recording and Reproducing Process -- A Historical Review, by Jay McKnight

Ampex Museum & Historical Collection at Stanford University

Stanford Libraries' Ampex Model 200A Magnetic Tape Recorder, Restored by Larry Miller ("All About the Ampex Model 200A")

AC-Bias at Bell Telephone Labs, 1936-1939, by Jay McKnight

Develpment of Coated Tape and the Magnetophon in Germany in the 1920s thru 1950s

Analog Magnetic Tape

3M Tape types, Index to and scans of all 46 issues of 3M "Sound Talk," etc.

Agfa, BASF, and IG Farben Tape Types

Before 1943, History of Audio Engineering and Magnetic Recording

Bibliography of Histories of Magnetic Tape Sound Recording, Selected

"Tape Degredation Factors and Challenges in Predcting Tape Life", a link to Richard Hess' ARSC Journal paper. Squealing tape, and what can and can't be done about it to play those tapes, including a new method.


Motion Pictures, History of Audio Engineering in

Finding His Voice (1929). An animated cartoon synchronized to voice and sound. A Western Electric Sound System picture." An excellent layman's explanation of how sound on film works. The equipment shown is an accurate drawing of how motion picture sound equipment looked in the late 1920s.

SMP(T)E Issues Available Online Much of professional analog audio engineering was developed by or for the sound systems for motion pictures, and was published in the Journal of the Society of Motion (later: and Television) Engineers. The Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers and its successor, Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, (J of SMPE, and J of SMPTE, respectively)  from 1930 to 1954 are now available online.

Audio Engineering in Motion Pictures, including EW Kellogg's 44-page review paper, with 406 (!) references, from the 1955 J SMPTE.

"A Brief History of Early Motion Picture Sound Recording and Reproducing Practices", (1985) by John K Hilliard

"[History of] Motion Picture Sound Recording", (1976) by John G Frayne.

"Motion Picture Sound Engineering":  The Science and Technology Council [of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] occasionally uncovers, and makes available at no charge, publications of historical interest to researchers and moving image enthusiasts.  Motion Picture Sound Engineering is the first of these free downloadable publications. This must be the "great-granddaddy" (1938) of all of the really technical books on audio engineering. See the rest of the introduction here, and download the whole book (40 MB PDF file) here.


Volume Indicators ("vu meters")

Early History of the Evolution of the Volume Indicator, (1984) by John K. Hilliard. An original contribution, finally published.

A New Standard Volume Indicator and Reference Level, (1940) by Chinn, Gannett, and Morris. The classic IRE paper on the development of the "vu meter". Includes the history of volume indicators, the engineering factors in designing the meter, and the text of the original standard.

Some Questions and Answers on the Standard Volume Indicator ("vu meter"), by Jay McKnight. A personal interpretation of the Chinn et al paper.

"Measuring the Dynamics of a Standard Volume Indicator (SVI)", by Jay McKnight. A "How to do it" paper.


Personal Histories

Obituaries ("In Memoriam"),  Index and links to the Journal pages.

 

John Herbert Orr, by David Morton.This historical study examines part of the career of Alabama native John Herbert Orr (1911...1983).Orr is perhaps best known for his OrRadio Industries, Incorporated, of Opelika, Alabama, a company that manufactured magnetic recording tape after World War 2. While a radio technician in Europe during the war, Orr studied advanced recording tape manufacturing methods developed by the Germans. When Orr returned to the United States, he used this knowledge to establish his own tape manufacturing company in eastern Alabama. Because Orr used this German technical knowledge and avoided most research and development costs, he was able to establish his manufacturing business with a minimum investment.

Oral Interviews, including Oral Histories are available for purchase at the Historical Committee Web Store. Also see the "AES Celebrates 60th Anniversary".

Talks and Papers, including some "Afternoon With..." Ray Dolby, Cyril Francis, Ross Snyder, Robert Callen, John Hilliard, Bill Putnam, John Frayne, Harry Bryant, Paul Klipsch, Carson Taylor,   Texts of Interviews and Talks


Company Histories

Ampex Corporation

 

Sel-Sync and the Octopus: How Came to be the First Recorder to Minimize Successive Copying in Overdubs" by Ross Snyder. Early in 1957 Arnpex Corporation delivered the first multi-track professional audio recorder to be equipped with a scheme called Sel-Sync to the recording artist Les Paul. Paul nicknamed it The Octopus, for its eight channels. It has become something of a landmark in recording history, since it appears to have been the first tape recorder to make possible performances consisting of many parts - these to be recorded not in real time - now greatly reducing the compromise of quality that was formerly imposed by the necessity of extensive successive copying of copies. This article recalls the invention of Sel-Sync.

"History of the Early Days of Ampex Corporation"  by John Leslie and Ross Snyder

Ampex History Project Description

Stanford Libraries' Ampex Model 200A Magnetic Tape Recorder, Restored by Larry Miller ("All About the Ampex Model 200A")

"Ampex Factbook 1970" This Factbook gives details on the company from 1944 to 1969. It was published by Ampex Corporation in 1970, and tells about the Corporation, the Divisions and Subsidiaries, the Principal Technologies, Historical Highlights and Product Development, Financial Record, Personnel Growth, Management, Facilities, and Field Offices. It is a searchable PDF file.

Another Company? If you have the history of another company, please tell us so we can post it.

History of the Audio Engineering Society

AES Celebrates 60th Anniversary presents oral history to complement the written history below in "How the AES Began" and "Histories of the Founding of the AES".

How the Audio Engineering Society Began, and Volume 0 of the AES Journal -- 1947...1952. Letters in 1947 and 1948 to "Audio Engineering" (AE) magazine suggesting the formation of an Audio Engineering Society, plus an index of all of the AES papers published in AE ("Volume  0" of the Journal) before the Society started publishing its own Journal in 1953. With links to all of these AES papers.

 Histories  of the Founding of the AES: Then-Executive-Director Don Plunket's tabulations of   Officers and Governors, Conventions and Conferences, and Awards

AES Members, 1951   Found & scanned courtesy of Del Eilers.

Japan Section of the AES, History of

E-Mail Reflector

Using the AESHC E-mail Reflector   Instructions for configuring email clients to send plain ASCII email and not HTML

Historical Committee Administration

Operating Structure: The Committee's charter.

Guidelines: Committee purpose, officers, membership requirements, and meetings.

Officers and Project Leaders. Current Projects listed, with their leaders names and email address links.


Revisions --
2006-09-17,
2007-03-08, --07-19, --07-27, --08-23, --08-24,--09-20, --09-27, --10-17,
2008-01-01, --01-06, --04-14, --04-23, --06-10, --06-12, --09-18, --10-01, --11-17,
2009-11-29,
2010-06-27/30, --07-29,
2012-08-13, --11-03, --11-04, --12-10, --12-13, --12-25 jm
2013-09-23 jm
2014-05-06, --06-04, --07-09 jm,
 
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AES - Audio Engineering Society