A Selected Bibliography of Histories of Magnetic Tape Sound Recording

Compiled by Jay McKnight, Magnetic Reference Lab, [email protected]

The history of magnetic sound recording and magnetic tape has been told in numerous articles in journals and magazines, and in several books. I have listed below the articles that I have in my collection that I consider to be primary references -- that is, those either written by "those who were there", or written by those who did extensive research and interviews with them. These articles and books in turn have many further references to other articles on this subject. This bibliography makes no pretense at being "complete" -- it is just my answer to the question "what books and papers have you read that tell the story of magnetic tape recording". This bibliography does not include books and papers dealing primarily with technical aspects of magnetic recording.

In the present context, I take "History" to mean a tale or story, primarily from the viewpoint of its author. This is to say that I make no judgment if two authors have conflicting views of the same event, because if I excluded every historical paper that might have some minor difference of opinion, we would have no history at all!

The papers in the AES Journal, and the books and video tapes (unless otherwise stated) are available for purchase from the AES.

Papers (in chronological order)

John T Mullin, "Creating the Craft of Tape Recording", High Fidelity Magazine, Vol 26, Nr 4, pp 62...67 (1976 April). Mullin's own telling of the story of his finding the Magnetophons in Germany, sending them back home to the US, showing them to the IRE meeting, working with Bing Crosby and also working with Ampex.

Harold Lindsay, "Magnetic Recording, Part 1", db Magazine, Vol 11, Nr 12, pp 38...44 (1977 December). History and development of the Ampex Model 200A. [5 references]

Harold Lindsay, "Magnetic Recording, Part 2", db Magazine, Vol 12, Nr 1, pp 40...44 (1978 January). More on the Ampex Model 200A. History and development of the Models 300, 3200 (duplicator), Todd-AO, consumer products, 4-track stereo tapes, multichannel recorders, acquisition of "Irish tape", and ATR-100. [18 references]

Peter Hammar and Don Ososke, "The Birth of the German Magnetophon Tape Recorder 1928...1945", db Magazine, Vol 16, Nr 3, Cover photo, pp 47...52 (1982 March).

Peter Hammar, "In Memoriam: Harold Lindsay", AES Journal Vol 30, Nr 9, pp 691, 692 (1982 Sept).

Friedrich Karl Engel, "1888-1988: A Hundred Years of Magnetic Sound Recording", AES Journal, Vol 36, Issue 3, pp 170...178 (1988) [18 references]
Abstract: In the past, the essay "Some Possible Forms of Phonograph" by the American engineer Oberlin Smith, dating from 1888, has been regarded merely as a first indication of the possibility of electromagnetic sound recording. A recently discovered reader's letter proves that Smith constructed a unit with functional transducers, which could at least be used for experimental purpose, and is therefore the inventor of magnetic sound recording technique.

Heinz H. K. Thiele, "Magnetic Sound Recording in Europe up to 1945", AES Journal, Vol 36, Issue 5, pp: 396...408  (1988) [42 references]
Abstract: The 50th Anniversary of the Magnetophon. This jubilee was an occasion for audio engineers to look back on how the tape recorder was born and to see what has become of it.  Its evolution during the years from 1888 to almost 1945 is discussed.

Friedrich Karl Engel, "Magnetic Tape -- From the Early Days to the Present", AES Journal, Vol 36, Issue 7/8, pp 606...616 (1988) [6 references]
Abstract: Cooperation between AEG and BASF -- then IG Farben, Ludwigshafen works -- concerning the Magnetophon sound-recording system began in the fall of 1932.  Formulation of the first tapes and their production are described: first carbonyl iron (1933), then iron oxide Fe(3)O(4) (1936), and finally iron oxide Fe(2)O(3) (1939) on a cellulose acetate base, the latter oxide mixed in since 1943 and, since 1945, coated on polyvinyl chloride film.  A concise survey from the mid-1950s traces development leading up to modern analog tape technology.

Rudolph Mueller, "On Improvements of Magnetic Tape Shown by Measurements on Early and Newer Tapes",  AES Journal, Vol 36, Issue 10, pp 802...820 (1988)
Abstract: Magnetic tapes from the early days of magnetic tape recording are investigated using today's measuring methods.  Comparing mechanical, magnetic, and electroacoustic properties of studio tapes, the steps in development that had to be taken to reach the high-quality standard required for modern analog recording are outlined.  In addition this investigation shows possible areas for the further development of the magnetic tape system.

Peter Hammar, "Jack Mullin: The Man and His Machines", AES Journal,  Vol 37, Issue 6, pp 490...512 (1989)
An illustrated review of "The John T Mullin Collection: The History of Sound Recording", as exhibited at the 85th AES Convention in Los Angeles, in 1988 November. The early history of magnetic recording is summarized, then Mullin's involvement with bringing the German Magnetophon to the US, demonstrating it to US engineers, and working with Bing Crosby and with Ampex.


S.J. Begun, "Magnetic Recording", Rinehart Books Inc, 1949, now out of print, but still available from used-book stores. The very first magnetic recording book (at least that I know of). The history, theory, equipment and applications of magnetic recording as it was in 1949. Steel-wire, steel-tape, homogeneous and coated tape media and recorders. Many photos of historic and "modern" (in 1949) equipment, and many references to the literature up to 1949. In Chapter 1 he describes the history of magnetic recording, and in Chapter 6 he describes 26 of the then-available Magnetic Recorders .

Marvin Camras (ed), "Magnetic Tape Recording", Van Nostrand Reinhold Co, (1985), now out of print, but still available from used-book stores. Camras includes interesting original historical introductions ("Editor's Comments") to these historically-important technical  (as opposed to historical) papers on magnetic tape recording.

Marvin Camras, "Magnetic Recording Handbook", Van Nostrand Reinhold Co, (1988), now out of print, but available from used-book stores. Altho this is primarily a technical book, it begins with a chapter "Magnetic Recording History and Early Recorders". The main chapters have historical introductions and include products of historical interest. And it ends with "Bibliography and References" (13 pages); appendix A "Highlights of Magnetic Recording Development" (41 pages, including 28 illustrations); and appendix B with photos of 39 individuals who contributed to magnetic recording.

Daniel, Mee and Clark (editors), "Magnetic Recording, The First 100 Years" ISBN-13: 9780780347090 Year: 1998 Publisher: Wiley-IEEE Press.

S. J. Begun (M. Clark, ed), Magnetic Recording: The Ups and Downs of a Pioneer, Audio Engineering Society, (2000). The memoirs of Semi Joseph Begun (now out of print, but may again be available from the AES)

Video Tapes

An Afternoon with Jack Mullin (out of print, but may again be available from the AES)

Dale Manquen (producer), A Chronology of American Tape Recording  (8 hours) (out of print, but may again be available from the AES)

Draft of 2001-06-19 12:48
Revised 2001-07-24 16:22
Revised 2002-09-25: Added Begun 1949 book; pages for Hammar and Ososke, 1982.
Revised 2005-08-11: Changed URL for ordering Daniel, Mee, and Clark book.

Revised 2014-08-11 jm


AES - Audio Engineering Society