Thread Number: 71316  /  Tag: Other Home Products or Autos
Got me a pair of Ampex VR-1200 Quadruplex VTR's
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Post# 943787   6/16/2017 at 13:13 by mspatoray (Northeast Ohio)        

They say you can find anything on eBay, and this seems very true! About a month ago I found and purchased a pair of Ampex VR-1200 Quadrauplex videotape recorders, these 1100 pound beasts are the state of the art in broadcast videotape recording (in 1967). The pair where used at a college television station, and are in very good condition for their age, they are also very clean.

One of the recorders is set up as Color/B&W record and B&W playback, the other is set up for color and B&W play/record, they are both also equipped with Editec video edit controllers.

My plans are to get both VTR's running again, restoring the Color record/B&W playback model to its original 1967 configuration with vintage Conrac monitor and Tektronix waveform monitor. The Color R/P version will be restored to working condition and the monitoring equipment will be upgraded with a Trinitron color video monitor and a modern Tektronix Waveform/Vectorscope combo.

Electronics, Mechanics, compressed air and vacuum systems, what more could one want :)

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Post# 943792 , Reply# 1   6/16/2017 at 13:22 by firedome (Binghamton NY & Lake Champlain VT)        
"what more could one want?"

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a mainframe or minicomputer with multiple vacuum controlled tape drives maybe?
Quad CPU Data General Nova 3/4 system: Canadian weather forecasting, circa 1977!

Very cool, if esoteric, find!
Gotta love all vintage electronics!

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Post# 943882 , Reply# 2   6/16/2017 at 20:19 by cornutt (Huntsville, AL USA)        

I remember seeing some VTRs at WTVF in Nashville circa 1982, and the tech who was showing us around talking about how much maintenance it took to keep them going. My hat is off to anyone who can make one of these work. Where do you get tape?

Post# 943886 , Reply# 3   6/16/2017 at 20:36 by mspatoray (Northeast Ohio)        

Nice DG Nova's! The computer museum I do work for has 2, along with lots of other big iron! I have included a link to the museum's facebook page.


The main thing with quads is they had to be kept very clean, or they would break down a lot, the heads had to be kept very clean, the filters in the machine had to be cleaned often and the compressed air that was supplied to the machines had to be kept very clean and dry or issues would happen.
Some designs where better then others. the VR-1200 is considered one of the easier to maintain machines, and may of the mechanical parts (other then heads and tape transport parts) where off the shelf parts and can still be purchased at Greinger, the rebuild kits for the vacuum pumps can still be purchased from Gast.


Post# 943925 , Reply# 4   6/17/2017 at 02:33 by tolivac (greenville nc)        

WOW!!!!Remember these machines from KBHE Ch#9 in Rapid City,South Dakota!They had one 1200 and one VTR 100 that used tubed Re/Pb amps.Good luck in getting those going-brings back memories of the first station I worked in as an "Engineering Volunteer" in high school days.Spent weekend nights with a best friend at the site-transmitter site-the "station" was an office downtown.Had to pick up tapes at the office and take them to the site on Skyline Drive in the hills in Rapid City.Was fun-one night the 1200 had a tape-head crash! learned how to replace the heads-- by doing it!

Post# 943967 , Reply# 5   6/17/2017 at 10:09 by vacerator (Macomb, Michigan)        

Those are historical units that maybe should be in a museum. probably are already?

Post# 944066 , Reply# 6   6/18/2017 at 03:23 by arbilab (Ft Worth TX (Ridglea))        
What more.....?

Ampex ACR25, most magical machine I ever worked on.  Or even saw up close for that matter.


I know things about VR 1200/2000 even the designers didn't know at the time.  Like:  Whilst the capstan was milled to very close tolerance, the motor and flywheel pulleys were not.  Thus it was possible for the capstan velocity and phase loops to stall in an unresolvable awkward equilibrium of lock yet not locked.  Anyone who had 6 of these machines usually had one that could not be trusted to lock in auto.  Unless the operator set the capstan oscillator to offset the mechanical offset.  Few had the knowledge to do this and even fewer had the time loading spot reels.


What I know of broadcast television today, it's no fun at all.  There's nothing to "know".


Link added.  Next to last comment below image is mine.


This post was last edited 06/18/2017 at 05:40
Post# 944076 , Reply# 7   6/18/2017 at 06:16 by tolivac (greenville nc)        

Remember seeing an Ampex ACR25 at Ch#5 (Fox) TV in Wash DC in the 70's didn't see it work,though-wanted to the cart machines were fascinating to watch in action.Never worked on those-just a brief acquaintance with the VTR's-then I went into radio.Or focused on the transmitter sides of radio and TV.Hope these historical machines can be rescued from the scrappiles and put into working museams so folks can see how they worked.Like as today for many movie theater 35 and 70mm projectors going to the scrappiles.Oh yes the other TV stations in DC at those times used RCA cart machines-did see those work.

Post# 944079 , Reply# 8   6/18/2017 at 07:13 by Frigilux (The Minnesota Prairie)        

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Will they hold a king-size comforter, LOL?

Seriously, congratulations! Those behemoths are an integral part of broadcast history and I'm glad you're up to the task of restoring them. Did Quadruplex technology replace the kinescope method of rebroadcasting?

Post# 944104 , Reply# 9   6/18/2017 at 12:40 by twintubdexter (Palm Springs)        

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Congrats to you. Those are very impressive. As a kid I'd always stare at the Ampex factory when my parents drove by with it's very cool back-lit blue neon sign. I was a high-fi nut even when I was young and knew all about Ampex tape recorders (my friends looked at Playboy, I looked at High Fidelity Magazine). I even knew back then that nearby Hillsborough resident Bing Crosby was a major investor in Ampex. Of course now people say "who is or was Bing Crosby?" 


The next time someone tells me "look at all this junk in your house...console stereos, antique radios, pinball machines, jukeboxes etc." I will show them a photo of your VTR's and say "like a fine painting, some people have an appreciation for nice things".

Post# 944109 , Reply# 10   6/18/2017 at 12:55 by Stricklybojack (San Diego, CA)        

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I worked on a project to convert decades old videos to digital. Coincidentally a former and long time Ampex sales exec was also involved, and I got the lowdown on the company while we toiled to find the equipment we needed..."Ampex stands for Alexander M. Poniatoff Excellence" he would often say, forgetting he had told me that numerous times before.

One memorable story, of many, was detailing his fairly simple sales technique vs arch rival Sony.
While addressing the person responsible for actually operating the equipment and keeping it running he would ask..."so, you have an American phone number for Sony you can call for parts? Uh huh, thought so...well here is Ampex's American number."
Then, "when you do call, do they speak English on the other end? Call our number, I'll wait...when you done say hi to Chuck for me."
Then, "oh btw, here's a parts list for the machine...ask for ANY part." Chuck would inevitably only ask how many of that part they needed and informed the caller that the parts would be on the next flight out. And that was how my friend Kevin would often make another sale thanks to his parts manager buddy Chuck (not his real name) and Sony's apparently atrocious customer service and (comparatively) unobtanium parts.
Sony's advantage was that their machines were much cheaper up front...AND could hold a king-sized comforter!

This post was last edited 06/18/2017 at 13:31
Post# 944122 , Reply# 11   6/18/2017 at 14:34 by firedome (Binghamton NY & Lake Champlain VT)        

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made some great audio stuff as well, had some of their amps in the past and should have kept 'em.

Matt - as to Data General Novas: a Nova 3/12 + dual 8" floppy (top) resides in my basement:

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Post# 944140 , Reply# 12   6/18/2017 at 16:37 by kb0nes (Burnsville, MN)        
Early Ampex

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Joe mentioned Bing Crosby and his involvement with the early Ampex company. Several AEG magnetophon's were brought back from Germany as a spoil of WWII. Bing and the Ampex folks got their hands on them and then Ampex took it from there. Here are a couple photos from units here in Minneapolis at the Pavek Museum. First is an original AEG which still runs fine and they love to demo it. They have a bunch of original tape of Bing Crosby. The tape used had the magnetic material inside the plastic so it doesn't shed with age! The second image is an early Ampex recorder that was from Bing's collection, you can see a photo of him with it.

The Pavek also has a couple Quad VTR's in the back room. They have the ability to transcribe just about any format of audio or video to anything else.

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Post# 944179 , Reply# 13   6/19/2017 at 00:51 by tolivac (greenville nc)        

Another great thing about the older Ampex equipment---it was OVERBUILT so it was VERY reliable and would last a long time.Some say that this was what helped put Ampex down.Their machines just didn't wear out like others did.I have worked on Ampex gear and have great respect for it.Have an Ampex 300 tape machine at home.Haven't used it in years-its behind ROWS of vacuum cleaners-but bet it would still work fine!Have worked on their 3200 series RR tape dubbers.Truely greart machines-better than a newer Accurate Sound that TRIED to replace the Ampex 3200 dubbers.The Ampex machine have the tube electronics-these were great since they were easy and fast to repair.

Post# 944207 , Reply# 14   6/19/2017 at 08:16 by mspatoray (Northeast Ohio)        

Glad you are all enjoying my new "little" toy. I have started the process of replacing all of the rubber insulated AC wiring in the machine. I will then modernize monitor bridge with a 12" Tektronix Super Fine Pitch Trinitron video monitor. I will also be replacing the original Tek waveform monitor with a newer waveform/vectorscope monitor combo.

I have also gotten cabling/adapters to connect a sync/pattern generator to the machine and get BNC composite video out of the machine.

The machine on the left is not set up for color playback at the moment and will have the original Conrac tube based B&W video monitor and tube based Tek Waveform monitor placed in the monitor bridge, and if I do put a Colortec into the machine to allow color playback, I will add a Tek Tube based Vectorscope.

Along with the machines, I also got several video heads, some never used since having been refurbished in 1983. I got both 10 mil heads for 15 IPS and 5 mil heads for 7.5 IPS.

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Post# 944897 , Reply# 15   6/23/2017 at 17:21 by cornutt (Huntsville, AL USA)        

I learned assembly language on a Data General Nova 2. Still remember most of it. Example:

MOVR# 0,0, SZC

tested to see if the value in accumulator (register) 0 was even or odd, and skipped the next instruction if it was even.

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