Reel to Really? Austin Healy Sprite One Ampex Nil
Ampex reel to reel tape recorders were the work horses of my early radio days, very basic by todays’ standards but state of the art back then.
They were huge free standing machines on casters so they could be moved about relatively easily. One of their characteristics was a super smooth take up thanks to a giant flywheel.
You could set the flywheel turning with a twist of the fingers and it was so beautifully balances that it would continue spinning for ages.
We would often have contests to see who could get it running the longest.
If you threaded the audio tape around it and wound it on like a cotton reel then hit the rewind button it would build up incredible momentum and run for 15 minutes.
Someone claimed (late at night after a few drinks) that he could double the best time. We all scoffed, so he set out to prove his claim.
He wound the tape as per usual but instead of hitting the rewind button he cut the tape…wheeled the Ampex machine over to the door…grabbed the end of the tape and went out through the door and attached it to his Austin Healy Sprite parked outside.
He then jumped in gunned the engine and in a wheel spinning frenzy took off down the 3AW courtyard.
The flywheel began spinning at a fierce pace, but then, the unthinkable, the tape unravelling furiously got caught up and the Ampex machine was dragged through the door and down the flight of ten stairs.
The Sprite came to a screeching halt and so too did the Ampex in a hundred pieces.
But amazingly that flywheel kept on spinning to a new World record.