The Beocord 84U represented Bang & Olufsen’s initial involvement with the wire recorder medium and was in fact the company’s very first machine. But the history of wire recorders is a long and interesting one.
In 1878 Oberlin Smith, an American mechanical engineer proposed the idea of recording telephone signals onto a steel wire. Although no actual prototype was built Smith’s idea cemented the concept of magnetic wire recording. Two decades later the Danish inventor Valdemar Poulsen explored Smith’s ideas further and developed his ‘Telegraphone’, able to record telephone messages in the absence of the called party. In effect this machine was to become the world’s first answering machine. The Telegraphone’s wire ran at a brisk 250 cm/second to create a viable flux field sufficient enough to drive a magnetic reproducer, since this was well before the advent of any form of electronic amplification. The idea of an electronic amplifier was not developed until 1911 when Lee DeForest, working with the US Federal Telegraph Company, developed such an amplifier to allow for the recording of high-speed radio telegraph messages received on a type of receiver called the ‘Tikker’. And, using his 1907 Audion tube, the world’s first practical electronic amplifier was created.
Further developments followed with the US Army & Navy using improved technologies in war-effort wire recorders which were later licensed to manufacturers. Dozens of licences were sold to US, European and Japanese companies. The years following the Second World War were the medium’s hay-day with many manufacturers developing their own retail versions. However, with the arrival of magnetic tape around 1948 the days of wire recording - with its fast-travelling skin-piercing wire - came briskly to an end.
Consumer wire recorders were marketed for home entertainment or as an inexpensive substitute for commercial office dictation recorders. In this manner, the Beocord 84U was sold for home usage and designed in a similar manner to static radios of the time in that it was not portable in the true sense of the word and contained its own built-in loudspeaker.
Beocord 84U was one of the exhibits at the Bang & Olufsen Exhibition in Bangkok, 2 October 2000.