Assistant Engineers would have just loved this machine!

by Peggy McAffee
(Los Angeles, CA USA)

I was an assistant in the early 80's at Amigo Studios in Burbank, CA and one of the maintenance techs who had previously been at Criteria in Florida had one of these prototype machines in the shop. He showed it to me one day and shared the story of it's development and the challenges they faced as well as the industry's culture changes that came with so many tracks being available to the artists.

There was a funny cartoon at that time in REP magazine that gave a satirical look at this where there was a tired and sweating engineer labeling tracks on the tracksheet next to a giant tape head and he said "track 21 - dripping water L, track 22 - dripping water R" and this was considered outrageous at that time!

But back to my story about this machine? In addition to the technical difficulties they were experiencing with the physics of the transport and the tape, he said, there was a huge issue that really put the kibash on it once they were getting it ready to release. They had Ampex make a few batches of 456 3" tape stock for the release....He reached down and handed me one, and I dropped to my knees trying to keep it from falling!! The roll weighed about 20lbs! He laughed and said, try dealing with that in a 16 hour session with lots of reels of work! .....We assistant engineers would have all had to be buff big time weight lifters just to get the job done!

Peggy McAffee

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