My heart punched forward a beat at the sight of simply the name. Nagra. I started in BBC Radio and wore a groove into my shoulder carrying a portable Nagra tape recorder around. And I remember being shown the continuity suite in BBC Radio 4 where Nagras were used to play in clips because they were so quiet and moreover they started instantly. No lurching up to speed, just on, bang, go.
I am choked with nostalgia for this stuff and yet I never knew any of its history. Until now:
Stefan Kudelski didn’t set out to make a sound recorder. He was interested in robotics, and in the 1950s, one of the ways to create robotic memory was to use magnetic tape. As a student, working with that tape, he built a machine that doubled as a recorder. Nobody was interested in the robotics aspect of the project, he said later: “But people were very excited about the recorder that I created. So, I became a manufacturer of recorders. That’s how it started.”
This first recorder, the Nagra, was, in Kudelski’s words, “just a gadget.” The second was “very serious equipment.” But the third one, built in 1961, when Kudelski was 27, was “a good machine.”
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