Book review: Zeitschichten: Magnetbandtechnik (Layers of time: magnetic tape technology)

(posted on behalf of Albrecht Häfner)

Book review: Zeitschichten: Magnetbandtechnik als Kulturträger, Erfinder-Biographien und Erfindungen. Chronologie der Magnetbandtechnik und ihr Einsatz in der Hörfunk-, Musik-, Film- und Videoproduktion.

[Layers of time: magnetic tape technology as a transmitter of culture; biographies of inventors and inventions. Chronology of magnetic tape technology and its use in radio, music, television, film and video production]

4th edition, July 2020, revised, updated and enlarged. 772 pages, about 800 illustrations and charts

The 4th edition of the “Chronology of magnetic tape technology“ has been published. The first edition was published in 2007 (see IASA Journal no. 32, page 89), starting as a chronological sequence of first ideas, until the introduction of digital systems at the turn of the millennium. This book quickly became a standard work for media historians, curators, archivists, museums, for technicians and engineers in the industry and broadcasters familiar with this technology, as well as for fans and collectors of magnetic tape recorders.  

Two further editions followed in 2012 and 2013 as ebooks, noticeably enlarged. Now, after seven years, the authors and publishers present a version again enlarged and thoroughly revised. This is why today in the internet more and more information, hardly retrievable in the past, can now be found, disclosing often interesting cohesions and allowing further specifications. Remarkable facts unknown so far have been discovered, e.g.:

  • that magnetic tape was used 1935 for recording cardiac sounds, thus facilitating diagnoses.
  • how the US officer Don R. Drenner found in late 1944 at Radio Luxembourg a complete set of Magnetophons, recognizing in a jiffy their brilliant quality and writing a detailed description, contributing as basis for the refinement of magnetic tape recorders in the USA.  

Compared to the first edition the size of text has grown by 22% up to 771 pages, containing 25% more illustrations. The bibliography was enlarged from 3,700 citations up to 4,200. Due to the high sales price and as a result of technical alteration at the publisher‘s organization, authors and editor all came to realise that it is of no use slowing down sales by only lowering the price, but instead offer it as a free downloadable PDF, from:

The authors and editor hope for the readers' understanding that a translation into English would be prohibitive and illusory. Perhaps readily available translation software would be helpful.

June 2023, Albrecht Häfner