What Happens Next

By RadioGirl

The Heritage Machine

The workshop I was editing in this afternoon contains one of the last two or three reel-to-reel tape machines left in the whole of Broadcasting House.

30 years ago, when I was a trainee Studio Manager at BBC Radio, each studio and editing channel contained at least three of these machines. Tapes could be played back from two of them through an analogue sound desk, and the mix was recorded onto the third machine. Many studios had four or even five, plus a bank of gram decks to play sound effects discs and music on. Tape machines then were just part of the scenery, a tool of our trade.

Today we record, edit and mix everything on a computerised digital system . The craft of "stitching a programme together" by hand using a razor blade and splicing tape is long-dead and of no use to modern broadcasting - known only to old hands like me and mystifying to everyone here under the age of 30. This last remaining reel-to-reel is used very occasionally to play back dusty old recordings from our sound archives.

I love looking at the Heritage Machine. It takes me back to the BBC I joined in the late 70's, less shiny in corporate image and more avuncular and kindly to work for. Long may it remain in its dark little corner of workshop 60E - a paean to a bygone age.

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