Forgotten audio formats: Wire recording – Ars Technica

It’s bizarre but true: wire recording is the longest-lasting capture format in audio history, one that paved the way for reel-to-reel tapes and a host of others–even though most people today, and some techies included, have barely heard of it.

Invented way back in 1898 and patented two years later, wire recording was somehow still getting some limited use as late as the early 1970s, while rockets took man to the moon on an annual basis. In its wake, vinyl, with its 67 years, and CD with a mere 33, look like footling youngsters. In its none-too-brief life, “the wire” also found use in Hollywood, provided a broadcast aid to spying, helped launch digital data capture, and pioneered the new art of bootlegging–sorry, “home recording.”

I knew this existed, but I never encountered it. Interesting explanation of how this works, and how the only live recording of Woody Guthrie was recorded on wire.

Source: Forgotten audio formats: Wire recording | Ars Technica

4 thoughts on “Forgotten audio formats: Wire recording – Ars Technica

  1. A man named Dean Benedetti used to go to Charlie Parker performances with a wire recorder–some of those have since been rescued and transferred to other media. (I think the tracks that wre collected on an early 60s LP called “bird is Free”–“Sly Mongoose,” “This Time the Dream’s on Me” et al.–were originally Benedtti’s wire recordings.) What I remember of the technology is that the wire was tightly coiled on the spools, so that if it broke, the whole thing would immediately sproingg loose into an impenetrable tangle. I imagine there have been people patient enough to untangle these but when I was a kid, users (my piano teacher, an “early adopter” before the term was coined) would just give up and start again with a fresh spool. The introduction of reel-to-reel tape was a huge relief and as far as I know nobody ever wanted to stay with wire after that.

  2. A man named Dean Benedetti used to go to Charlie Parker performances with a wire recorder–some of those have since been rescued and transferred to other media. (I think the tracks that wre collected on an early 60s LP called “bird is Free”–“Sly Mongoose,” “This Time the Dream’s on Me” et al.–were originally Benedtti’s wire recordings.) What I remember of the technology is that the wire was tightly coiled on the spools, so that if it broke, the whole thing would immediately sproingg loose into an impenetrable tangle. I imagine there have been people patient enough to untangle these but when I was a kid, users (my piano teacher, an “early adopter” before the term was coined) would just give up and start again with a fresh spool. The introduction of reel-to-reel tape was a huge relief and as far as I know nobody ever wanted to stay with wire after that.

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