This is the Ampex TV Equipment Section of
The Broadcast Archive

Maintained by:
Barry Mishkind - The Eclectic Engineer
With the kind assistance of Xen Scott
Latest Update 08/01/2015


This is one of the first video recorders in the world. It was introduced in 1956, at the price of $$$$; originally B&W, although later a color record function was added, the playback was mostly B&W. 

Lytle Hoover recalls: "The VR-1000 was introduced in 1956 at the NAB show. (Goodwill B/C bought serial# 005 from the show and packed it away until WJRT went on-air in 1958. We had the only videotape recorder in the state of Michigan for 1 year before any Detroit stations received one from Ampex or RCA.)"

Xen Scott recalls:  "Within each group of VTR's there were variations and field retrofits so that there were some machines that were one-of a kind. This was particularly true in the rapidly evolving VR-1000 series where retrofitted upgrades were numerous, not only from AMPEX but from other companies like Allen Electronics which made a number of solid state replacements for sections of AMPEX VR-1000's.

"Some were to make them record in color. That was because the original Ampex VR-1000 video modulator/demodulator was a weak, unstable tube circuit design. The Allen replacement was solid state and much more stable. Allen also made a replacement video head switcher circuit. It was solid state but had it's short comings. Ampex gated playback head switching with a tach pulse from the video head assembly. Allen derived the gate signal from the RF playback head signal. Sometimes low RF from the video head would not be enough to develop a gate signal and that would result in no RF going to the video demod. when that head was passing across the tape.

While that may have been true that machines as shipped from Ampex only played in black and white, it was possible to get color playback by adding suitable time base correction and video processing later on in the field. Most machines I had experience with had field upgrades of one sort or another. It was just a matter of how much money one wanted to spend on upgrading an old design as opposed to buying a new machine from Ampex, configured the way you wanted. Occasionally delivery times were a factor. It could be quicker and cheaper to install an upgrade rather than wait for the delivery of a new machine.



"The VR-1000C (shown) was a machine I worked with in the Army at Redstone Arsenal, AL in 1966.

"It is somewhat unusual because it has a number of field modifications that were not all that common. It has Editec, which was the full blown videotape animation accessory. Editec was installed in addition to the basic electronic editor. The basic electronic editor was triggered manually and required the operator to anticipate the edit by his reaction time plus the 19 frames required to sequence on the erase head, video record heads and finally the audio heads. Terminating the edit with the basic editor was also triggered manually. There was no preview capability. Editec added tone control signals on the audio cue track to trigger ingoing edits and exit edits.This allowed edit points to be previewed and adjusted. There was a later version electronic editor which was tone controlled but did not have animation capability. With Editec you could do one frame edits and true animation.

"The machine shown also has a retractable erase head. Not visible because the electronics are in the rack is the experimental Ampex video modulator which had several different selectable recording standards for low band black & white and low band color. At that point there were a couple of different carrier frequencies, deviations and equalizations for color. The machine shown was a hybrid in that the original electronics used tube circuits but a lot of the accessories were transistorized. Also, this machine had an Intersync servo system which made the playback fully synchronous with an external reference. It had Amtec which was the time-base corrector with enough capability for B&W playback. This machine did not have Colortec and could not playback in color although it could make color recordings.

VR-1000 - WTVJ

"The WTVJ image shows the specially high-banded VR-1000 machines used to record the Jackie Gleason Show from Miami. I used them on a 1974 Mike Douglas Show remote. These machines are now at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean because the tape bus they were in fell off a barge while the bus was being transported off shore."


If you have any old photos of Ampex equipment that operated at your TV facility which  you would like to have in our Virtual Museum, please send them along, so we might add them to these pages.


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