Western Electric/Dictaphone Mystery Machine

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afterlife.antiques
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Western Electric/Dictaphone Mystery Machine

Post by afterlife.antiques » Mon Jun 10, 2013 11:11 am

Hi! Firstly, I apologize if this isn't the greatest place to ask this because it has to do more with the military than music/sound, but I figure presenting it to a bunch of people who know something about electronics and recording couldn't hurt. I own an antique shop and, therefore, go to a ton of estate sales; I recently dug this machine out of someone's basement. I know it was used during or shortly after WWII at Truax Field (air field base) in Madison, Wisconsin. I think it was possibly used in some capacity to record or train air field controllers, as it came with a headset and the two metal spools have very wide (6-7inches, probably) magnetic recording tape wound around them. The placards both have the Western Electric and Dictaphone Corp. names on them, and the model numbers include KS-16658-L1 and KS-16659-L1. It does turn on, but I was unwilling to mess around with it more for fear of damaging it and/or blowing up my shop.

You can see photos of the machine here: http://imgur.com/a/0NNyy

Again, apologies if this isn't pertinent to this message board, but I'm at a loss trying to get some information about this thing. Thanks in advance for any clues you're able to give me!

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shedshrine
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Post by shedshrine » Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:16 pm

I have no idea what that thing is or how to use it, but I have a feeling Thomas Dolby would be all over it.

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Post by emrr » Fri Jun 14, 2013 11:57 am

It's a looker for sure, no idea about it though.
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Post by biasvoltage » Sat Jul 13, 2013 4:58 pm

this guy stops by my office, he says, hey, can I borrow your dictophone?
I says no, you gotta use your finger like everyone else

ah whaddaya know from funny.

I guess it works better spoken and not written out.

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Post by dino » Mon Jul 15, 2013 6:28 am

If nothing else, it has some cool looking knobs. Gotta love them chicken heads. It looks like it might have tubes and trannies in it. If so, it might just be worth your while to part it out.
A while back I acquired one of those 1950's quack medicine self electrocution machines which had a cool Bakelite?? case, and a few off-white chicken heads on it. The case fits an SM7 and accessories perfectly. Looks so retro-cool. Wish I had a vintage mike to put in it.
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Post by Gregg Juke » Mon Jul 15, 2013 6:54 am

Yes, it definitely would look good flanked by a couple of Tesla coils in Frank-uhn-schteens's la-bore-itory, but I wonder what it actually is? I did some Internet poking; I can't find anything like it. Pretty cool looking machine, but I think you're right-- without finding the right World War II-specific museum or collector, it would probably be worth more separated into individual parts.

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Nick Sevilla
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:24 am

It's a dictaphone.

A recording device for secretaries to use in the office.

Here is a modern version of this:

http://en.akihabaranews.com/10690/legac ... dictaphone
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

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Post by Gregg Juke » Mon Jul 15, 2013 9:19 am

Hey Nick,

I know it was made by Western Electric, but I'm pretty sure that's not a Dictaphone. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictaphone ) My dad used to use a Dictaphone back in the "late-Mad Men" days (60's and 70's); it didn't take-up the same amount of space as a walk-in closet.

It's recording and reproducing something, but most likely not some General's letter to Brigade Command. Didn't the OP say it was from an air-base? Maybe it was some kind of mechanical/electronic flight log or communications recorder?

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Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Jul 15, 2013 12:56 pm

Gregg Juke wrote:Hey Nick,

I know it was made by Western Electric, but I'm pretty sure that's not a Dictaphone. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictaphone ) My dad used to use a Dictaphone back in the "late-Mad Men" days (60's and 70's); it didn't take-up the same amount of space as a walk-in closet.

It's recording and reproducing something, but most likely not some General's letter to Brigade Command. Didn't the OP say it was from an air-base? Maybe it was some kind of mechanical/electronic flight log or communications recorder?

GJ
Greg. It is a Dictaphone. In the bottom most picture, on the placard. It says "Dictaphone Corporation". It can't get more Dictaphone than that.
This may have been used to record a General's voice for reproduction over a loudpseaker system, like in some important announcements that might have been made at bases. Rather than have the General say it every hour or so, he would record it on this device, then it could be trotted from hi office to the communications center, and even onto other bases.

That use is undoubtedly different than the "normal" use of a dictaphone, for secretaries to playback dictation or interviews etc. I bet a WWII museum might have some knowledge on this stuff...somewhere. The reason we don't see this particular device on the internets, is probably because it was a military issue one... and those tended to be destroyed at the end of their lifecycle more than kept.

Here is another placard of a commercial Dictaphone:

Image
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

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Post by vvv » Mon Jul 15, 2013 4:32 pm

I say you contact Thomas Dolby and ask him.

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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Mon Jul 15, 2013 10:11 pm

I'd turn the Dolby off and record the signal hotter. That early Dolby sucked balls.
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Post by vvv » Tue Jul 16, 2013 4:20 am

Good to know you were never blinded.

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Post by Darlington Pair » Wed Jul 17, 2013 6:55 am

I'm willing to bet that this is an early Dictabelt recorder, if you pull out those cylinders there will most likely be a belt with grooves cut into it.

I have two of these... http://www.cuttingarchives.com/vintage- ... s/16478806

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Post by Gregg Juke » Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:05 am

Could be. And that's what I meant-- there is something going on in there, and yes, it has the "Dictaphone" nameplate on the side, but it's not just a simple Dictaphone, whicvh even back in the early part of the last century were relatively "table-top" in size...

Speaking of which, what's the deal on this one, DP:

http://www.cuttingarchives.com/vintage- ... s/16478809

It looks like you modified that to take RCA ins somehow (???)...

GJ
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Post by Gregg Juke » Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:07 am

Oh, duh-- that is, I made the assumption that that is your website, but it might not be. So if you do know what's up with that particular Edison model, give me some insight!

GJ
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