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 Post subject: Peatrophones and Cart Machines and Endless Cassettes Oh My
PostPosted: Aug Wed 23, 2017 3:28 am 

Joined: Feb Mon 06, 2012 7:24 pm
Posts: 2434
Location: Gold Country, (Stanislaus National Forest) California 95235
So the university is building a new hospital and moving a lot of departments out to an ever changing series of bungalows so that the old hospital can be upgraded for other uses.

The former use of the basement in the building apart from equipment storage, the morgue and the boiler room was the old Tele-Med system.

For those of you who are unfamiliar - in the days before the Internet or even easy access to a local library - the answers to many frequently-asked-questions were pre-recorded by professional announcers and shipped all over the country.

Brochures were mailed out to subscribers or published in local newspapers along with TV and radio listings and featured a weekly or monthly rotation of new and/or updated messages which could be called up by message number.

Users dialed in on a special trunk line - the same type used for Dial-a-Story and Hear-a-Prayer type applications - an operator would patch the user through - a volunteer would ask for the message number and load the message.

The message would then play, stop, return to its' starting point and your call would be disconnected. If users wanted to hear another message, they just dialed back in.

In 1948 when the service was first launched, the messages were recorded on 5-inch flexible discs in NY or LA on a bank of then-popular Grey Audograph dictation devices and then mailed out to hospitals who played them back on a series of AT&T Peatrophone answering machines which were based on the same technology.

As discs came in a wide variety of sizes, of course longer messages could have been recorded on larger discs - but I presume the thought of the time was to keep everything uniform.

Three years later for exactly one season, the format was recorded on a bank of magnetic disc recorders a-la the Timex - presumably figuring that at the end of the run, message discs could be sent back, erased and re-recorded.

What they didn't realize - and what radio syndication houses would find out three years later when carts would come on the market - was that the magnetic discs were too worn out from overuse to be able to capture a second message after being erased.

Two years after that - the messages were recorded on standard quarter-inch mono tape and pressed onto 7-inch 16 RPM rigid discs which doubled the original time of a message from seven minutes to over 15.

These were played on small could-have-even-been-portable players specially built for the format and housed in a bank of players the same as the Peatrophones had been.

By 1956 rigid discs had given way to flexidiscs due to cost and by 1961 the system had converted over to first full-speed broadcast carts at 7-1/2 and then as head technology and tape quality improved - migrated to the half-speed carts that would soon be picked up by Madman Muntz for in-car stereophonic sound on tape.

This is how they would operate pretty much for the next 20 years after which they migrated first to the same format formerly used as the Playtape and then finally to endless-loop cassette which had the same 15 minute maximum time per message as the earlier formats.

After the first of the year - some friends and I have been invited to dismantle all the banks of all the aforementioned technology and we get to keep it and do whatever we want to with it as a result so they can start migrating hospital departments (MRI etc) back down there from the bungalows.

Hope to get in there to get some pics around Thanksgiving sometime when they take off for eight weeks over the Winter Break. The cart and cassette machines might not be anything worthwhile to bother with - but I'm hoping at least a few of the Peatrophones and the little 16 RPM auto-load phonographs will still be in working order or at least easily restored.

2 kinds of men/tape. Low Noise/Wide Range.
LN=kind. WR=abrasive. Engineers=same thing.

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