The Bing Crosby VTR
The pictures and the text extracts are from a book produced by 3M to celebrate 25 years of videotape.
Bing Crosby Studios VTR Bing Crosby Studios VTR deck
Bing Crosby Studios VTR Bing Crosby Studios VTR deck

Sound recording on coated-plastic tape was improved during the second world war to the point where Hitler’s radio broadcasts, replayed from AEG Magnetophon equipment, no longer indicated his location. It was now impossible to distinguish between a live and a recorded AM audio transmission. Several Magnetophon recorders left Germany as reparations in 1945 and influenced designers throughout the world. Alexander M. Poniatoff, an American manufacturer of electric motors, attended a Magnetophon demonstration given by John Mullin (later active in developing the Crosby VTR) and immediately recognised its potential. His company, Ampex, was already planning the production of audio amplifiers and loudspeakers.
When the late Bing Crosby suffered a drop in radio popularity in 1947, the poor quality of disc-to-disc copy-editing was blamed. Crosby’s 30-minute show was usually assembled from a 60-minute studio production cut straight to 78 RPM gramophone records by the American Broadcasting Company. The singer was unwilling to accept his sponsor’s (Philco) suggestions that the programme be transmitted live but did agree to originate a show experimentally on the locally accessible Magnetophon. This recording was made in Los Angeles with doubtful ABC staff insisting that the final edited tape be transcribed to “sturdy and dependable” disc. Encouraged by the improved quality and by good audience response, Crosby was told of Poniatoff’s activity in designing an audio tape recorder. Bing Crosby Enterprises duly placed the 20-unit minimum order Ampex was prepared to accept, at $40,000 per unit, selling the recorders in turn to ABC.
High-definition TV broadcasting in the USA had begun in 1939 and the commercial prospects of video recording were obvious. John Mullin, now working for Bing Crosby Enterprises as chief engineer:-
“Our thinking ... as far back as April of 1948 was that if video information could be handled in the same manner as high quality sound recording by the use of magnetic tape, mechanical techniques would be simplified and optical steps would be eliminated."