For December, 1977

Editor/Writer, Ampex Corporation

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Ampex Audio and Video recorders writer: ATR-700, AG-440, MM-1200 audio legends, AVR-3 quad video (the size of two refrigerators), TBC-1 (four rack spaces, now one chip), and the as-always-too-little-too-late VPR-1 & -2 helical videos. Sony won, btw.

We used to hand off our stuff to typists (all women) who mothered the writers (all men) before editing. The writing pool would qualify for a sitcom. Every one a character on the order of a Ted Baxter. The Ampex organization was awful, but my bosses Paul Hardman and Charlie Lowman were good men. I interviewed with Paul, who stumped me with triangles (op-amps) I had never seen before as all my experience (prior to college and training ) had been with tubes. So he started me as an editor.
Charlie was a little weird. It wasn’t his antenna-bejeweled Airstream convoys; I could take that. Rather, he presented occasionally that an honorable way to die might be electrocution while working on equipment in the service of some army or corporation. Or perhaps falling off an icy radio tower in his original Canada (with a faraway look “. . . we lost three men that day.”) . Some manufacturingly macho self-stupidity that would make a good story. A decade later I saw Paul in a deli. He had been smashed by a car, suffering chronic intense pain and disability. No electricity involved. Mundane story. I easily imagine his former partner laughing off this sad news with disinterest.

It was a career counselor within Ampex that first broke the news to me that no one got anywhere on 40 hours per week. Accordingly, I began taking night and weekend classes at Stanford (Calculus, HP-21MX assembly) and Foothill (DC theory and Microprocessors). In the back row of 8086 assembly class Mike Mitchell and I used to speculate on what it would take to program a microprocessor-based synthesizer of some power. {Seer Systems actually created the first one fifteen years later, on the 80486.)

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