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Historical Debate Nazis Did/Didn’t Invent Magnetic Tape

Alex Constantine - July 15, 2009

2008514141518 - Historical DebateThe Nazis Didn't Invent Magnetic Tape
Wall Street Journal
JULY 16, 2009

In his review of Greg Milner's "Perfecting Sound Forever" ("Higher Fidelity," Bookshelf, June 29), Norman Lebrecht cites the "Nazi invention of magnetic tape." The engineer Dr. Fritz Pfleumer adopted a process he had used for, of all things, binding bronze pseudo-gilt powder to the tips of luxury cigarettes, patenting the idea in 1928. The development of the invention by the licensee, Allgemeine Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG, the German counterpart of General Electric), did not reach the market until 1934. But I've seen no evidence that it received special attention from the regime before the wartime broadcasts that led to the mistaken identification.

Third Reich engineers no more originated this technology than Albert Speer dreamed up the expressway or Leni Riefenstahl built the first motion picture camera.

Edward Tenner
Center for Information Technology Policy
Princeton University
Princeton, N.J.

NOTE: Tenner is listed with the American Enterprise Institute Speakers' Bureau.
The Nazis DID Invent Magnetic Tape

From: "The Nazis and Early Radio Technology," by Professor Marvin R. Bensman, J.D., Ph.D., University of Memphis Department of Communications


... In 1893, Valdemar Poulsen, a Danish engineer, used wire to store magnetic impulses that could reproduce sound. In 1921, magnetic tape was first proposed. But it required further electronic development such as the 1924 Western Electric Corporation patent permitting electrical sound recording. In the same year, the loudspeaker supplanted the use of headphones....

In 1930, Germany's I.G. Farben industrial company created the first magnetic tape. When I.G. Farben was broken up after WW II for producing the gas used in the concentration camps, BASF - one of its pieces - continued to manufacture magnetic tape.

Major recording innovations were introduced in the second half of the 1940's. In 1943, both Optical Film and Wire Recorders were used to document the allied invasion of Europe at the Normandy beaches. When the war ended some people acquired home disc recorders. A small group of programs available today from the thirties and early forties were originally recorded on these recorders using 7" discs which ran for 5 minutes a side. The wire recorder was also introduced for home use in the forties. During the war years, the Armed Forces Radio Service preserved a great many programs for rebroadcast to troops overseas. The AFRS disc has a brightness and lack of distortion that is hard to find even among network disc copies. Major recording innovations were introduced in the beginning of the 1940's.

In 1943, both Optical Film and Wire Recorders were used to document the allied invasion of Europe at the Normandy beaches. Home tape machines such as the Brush Soundmirror using Scotch 100 paper tape supplied by the 3M Company were beginning to appear in the consumer market, but fell far short of professional requirements. ...

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