This is the Ampex TV Equipment Section of
The Broadcast Archive
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
"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.