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Inventor Charles Paulson Ginsburg, otherwise known as the "father of the video
cassette recorder," was born in San Francisco in 1920. He received his bachelor's
degree from San Jose State University in 1948
and worked as a studio and transmitter engineer at a San Francisco area radio
station. He stayed there until 1951, when he received a telephone call from
Alexander M. Poniatoff, founder and president of the Ampex
Corporation in Redwood City, Calif., who believed Ginsburg could help him
with an important project.
In 1952, Ginsberg began working for Ampex. It was there that Ginsberg got
the opportunity to lead the research team that developed the first broadcast-quality
videotape recorder (VTR), U.S. patent number 2,956,114.
The VTR is said to have revolutionized television broadcasting. Tape recording
of television signals dates to just after World War II, when audio tape recorders
were used to record the very high frequency signals needed for television. These
early machines were pushed to their limits, running the tape at very high speeds
of up to 240 inches per second to achieve high-frequency response.
Ginsburg and his team came up with a design for a new machine that could run
the tape at a much slower rate because the recording heads rotated at high speed,
allowing the necessary high-frequency response. The Ampex VRX-1000 (later renamed
the Mark IV) videotape recorder was introduced on March 1956. The machine sold
for $50,000. With the advent of the VTR, recorded programs that could be edited
replaced most live broadcasts. CBS was the first
network to employ VTR technology, starting in 1956. With that, today's multimillion
dollar video business was born.
Ginsberg held the position of vice president of advance development at Ampex
from 1975 until his retirement in 1986. The first video cassette recorder, or
what is popularly known as the VCR, was sold by Sony
in 1971. Its existence was made possible by the advances Ginsberg and his team
made in the 1950s.
Ginsberg was a Fellow of both the Society of
Motion Picture and Television Engineers and of the Institute
of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Over the course of his career he
received the David Sarnoff Gold Medal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television
Engineers, (1957); the Vladimir K. Zworykin Television Prize of the Institute
of Radio Engineers, (1958); the Valdemar Poulsen Gold Medal by the Danish Academy
of Technical Sciences, (1960); the Howard N. Potts Medal of The Franklin Institute,
(1969); the Master Designer Award of Product Engineering Magazine, (1969); and
the John Scott Medal of the Board of Directors of City Trusts of The City of
Philadelphia, (1970). In 1957, he also received an Emmy Award presented to Ampex
by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
In 1990 Ginsburg was inducted into the National
Inventors Hall of Fame, where he was credited with "one of the most significant
technological advances to affect broadcasting and program production since the
beginning of television itself." He died in 1992 in Eugene, Oregon at the age