Ongoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: Cool History of Audio Tape, Part 3

Modern audio tape as we know it began with cigarettes. An Austrian named Fritz Pfleumer–the guy who invented the plastic drinking straw–was trying to come up with a cheap and classy alternative to the strip of real gold that was used as a band around the tips of cigarettes. (Yes, they did things differently in the 1920s.)

As he pondered this, he realized that he had come up with a solution to the problem of magnetic audio recording. Instead of using magnetized wire or bulk reels of steel tape, why not put some magnetized particles on a strip of paper?

After experimenting with a variety of magnetizable particles and glues to hold onto the strip of paper, he sold it to a couple of German companies who manufactured a device called the Magnetophone. Ten years later, the Magnetophone became a powerful weapon for the Nazis.

More on the history of audio tape next time. Find part 1 of the Cool History of Audio Tape here and part 2 here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37474 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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