Post-War Innovations

The decade after 1945 saw the introduction of numerous new forms of dictation, almost all of them based on magnetic recording. Much has been made in recent years about the importants of technical standards in consumer electronics; the famous "format war" between VHS and Betamax videotape in the 1970s, for example, is often dredged up as the best example of this. There are also those who recall a time in the 1960s and 1970s when there were multiple, often competing, standards in consumer audio- including the stereo and mono, 45 rpm discs and LPs, stereo LPs and quaraphonic LPs, LPs versus 8-tracks, LPs versus reel-to-reel tapes, and then LPs versus cassettes. Most recently, the cassette tape competed head-to-head with the CD, and today the CD competes with MP3. Complicated as that sounds, it's nothing compared to the situation in office dication machines through the 1960s. Besides steel wire and 1/4-inch (7mm) magnetic tape, there were numerous magnetic belts, discs, and even sheets. Tapes came in all sorts of plastic cartridges, and recorded sound at various speeds. In all, there were at least two dozen mutually incompatible formats competing in this period, with no standardization in sight.



A wire recorder by Webster-Chicago from the late 1940s or early 1950s. These recorders, supplied with foot pedals for transcription, attracted many customers who could not afford $400plus (no including regular maintenance and disposables) for a Dictaphone or Ediphone.




One of several magnetic belt dictation systems was designed in Germany and marketed in the U.S. by office equipment company Comptometer










The Mohawk Manufacturing Company sold lots of these "Midgetape" systems, which were apparently the first transistorized tape recorders. Inside was a special cartridge holding a length of 1/4-inch magnetic tape.




The Philips company, famous Dutch electronics manufacturer. Entered the U.S. market in a big way with its "Norelco" products in the 1960s. One item they offered was this inexpensive dictation system, with reels of tape housed in a convenient cartridge. A few years later, Norelco would make an even bigger impact when it introduced its "compact cassette."



The Agavox, made in Sweden, used a large magnetic disc.






Remington marketed this unusual dictation system that captured sound on a sheet of magnetizable paper. When the recording was finished, the sheet was torn off the roll and fed into the transcriber's machine, like a typewriter.








Even IBM jumped into the game in 1960, with a magnetic belt system based on a design by the Peirce Wire Recorder Co., which it had recently bought.