Chicago Electronic Memory
What Was A Wire Recorder
Poulsen's patents ran out in the 1910's. After the patent expired, US manufacturers started to manufacture recorders that were based on his invention. US versions developed technical improvements such as electronic amplification which allowed for slower recording speeds. The wire recorder got a lot of publicity when it first came out and private-eyes where quick to start using this technology. Real popularity came after the second world war partly due to the effects of the depression and partly due to initial disappointing sound quality which was greatly improved during WWII with the introduction of the AC bias. Just about the time that wire recorders where catching on as mass-market products, reel to reel tape recorder technology was establishing itself.
Webster Chicago wire recorders where a great improvement over alot of the other wire recoders that where on the market in the USA. Webster Chicago was one of the original wartime subcontractors and made wire recorders for the military. Webster Chicago quickly became the biggest manufacturers of them in the USA.
Wire recorders where short lived. Reel to reel was better and cheaper technology. The wire recorders fizzled out in 1950. By that time the technically superior Reel to Reel tape recorder was quickly establishing itself in the marketplace so the wire recorder was only really sold as a lower cost alternative to the open reel machines and fizzled out about 1950.
Recorders in this time period where big, bulky and heavy. It took a lot to set them up. A private-eye of the time could make top dollar spending half a day setting these up and then covertly recording a situation. In the 1940's ownership of a tape recorder was very rare. In a whole town, there might be less than a dozen of them. Smaller detective agencies often worked with larger ones who could actually afford such equipment. It was common practice to rent them.
Ralph D. Thomas PI Vintage Collection
TAPE RECORDER SHOP!
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