AES Historical Committee

Plan for "When Vinyl Ruled" at the
115 th AES Convention, New York, 2003 October


The premise: The History of Digital Recording (laced with special analog presentations)

In the past we have been successful in filling rooms based primarily on three track Analog history, and to some extent, "if it ain-t broke don-t fix it". Having said that, it occurred to me that PCM recording has been with us now for well over thirty years as a studio-recording format. PCM in it-s infancy can be traced to one Alex Reeves, an employee of Standard Telephone & Cable who received a French Patent in 1938 and in 1939 filed for a patent in his home of Great Britain in 1939. Needless to say back in those days racks upon racks of tubes were needed to code simple voice transmission. The practical side for Pulse Code Modulation would have to wait until the advent of transistors and later integrated circuits.

Here-s a paragraph from a Canadian Acoustical Association Journal from 1989 by Marek Roland-Mieszkowski, M.Sc., Ph.D:
 The process for digitally coding sound by computer was first developed in 1957 by Max Mathews   of Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill   (Mathews, 1963). Other advances in digital electronics and microchips led to the development of the   first digital Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) audio   recorder in 1967 at the NHK Technical Research   Institute (Nakajima, 1983).  This machine was a 12- bit companded scheme (using a compression/expansion of sound to improve dynamic range) with a 30 kHz sampling rate.  Data were recorded on a one-track, two-head helical scan VTR (Video Tape   Recorder).  The first commercial PCM/digital recording session was performed by DENON in 1972  (Takeaki, 1989).
It-s clear that if one only takes into account the music recording end of this lengthy digital heritage, thirty-one years of constant refinement needs to be cerebrated by the Historical Committee of The Audio Engineering Society!

The Plan:

As budgets are extremely tight in our economy at this time and in a sense no matter how successful our presentations in New York and Los Angeles have been, the AES has honored us with copious spaces in or near the general flow of floor traffic and for this I-m thankful. Hence it-s my duty to make a clear informative and entertaining presentation lacking any corporate favoritisms. Having said this, the show will not go without the support of the usual and unusual suspects. Therefore I will unabashedly enlist the aid of all the folks who have in the past and in the present are reaping the benefits of this momentous leap in reproduction and storage. This list will not only include audio hardware and software makers but the computer manufactures from the prevailing two consumer and professional camps. In a non-sectarian environment I feel sure that the participants in this current transformation of the world we work in will willingly heed the call.

The shape of the presentation room will be as follows: The stage and lighting must be almost identical to what we have used in the past, and the walls will again be lined with pictorial displays of appropriate historical gear.  I would recommend changing the playback-monitoring system to a somewhat large-scale vintage JBL in a two-channel format, as I believe the Altec monitors have had a good run. The analog desk will be utilized as a conduit for digital recorders, workstations, and analog two track recorders. The thrust of the workstation approach is to illustrate comparisons of -classic- hardware and their software siblings. For example, Teletronics LA-2A, Pultec, etc. with both company designers and end user engineers taking hats off to the brilliant simplicity of past hardware solutions, while celebrating the time we live in, therefore real hardware pieces will be working side by side with the virtual world.

 Any and all presentations should and will remain -music- oriented, as one of the main purposes of our exhibit floor rooms is two wet the whistle of otherwise passively interested audio fans to delve into something a bit deeper, if they should wish. We will not rob the spotlight from workshops, papers, and clinics. Expect the usual panels in the fields of pop, classical, jazz discussing mixing and matching digital and analog technology. The tradition of featuring engineer, producer luminaries will continue and high quality playback in the form of both analog dubs & digital clones will continue to be a feature for our proven format of three to four presentations per day. The cooperation of the major record companies has again been verified.

I believe it would serve us well to promote solid audio history primers in the form of something like -The ten questions a day card- with multiple-choice answers. Passed out at all of our daily presentations with either our own -When Vinyl Ruled 115th" tee shirts, or swag provided by manufactures. One of the ills of this age is the lack of any hardcore knowledge of the past. We must make the younger participants seek out the reasons why we-ve arrived here today-.

A core group of three has been formed and I will need at least three to four more personnel to be added to make this fly.

David Baker

AES - Audio Engineering Society