|For Immediate Release ||Pender M. McCarter |
Marvin Camras: Engineering's "Magnetic" Pioneer
WASHINGTON, D.C. - You probably never saw Marvin Camras on the evening news. Nor did you hear his voice booming from the stereo. Chances are, you didnt even spot his name on a credit card or an American Express commercial. Camras was no media superstar, yet he was the man who made possible today's $5-billion electronic communications industry. That's because he developed magnetic tape recording-the technology behind audio cassettes, videotape, computer floppy disks, and even credit card magnetic strips.
Camras developed an interest in electronics while a youngster growing up in Chicago. At age 18 - to help his cousin practice singing - he first recorded sound on magnetically-charged piano wires. Shortly thereafter, Camras discovered that using magnetic tape eased the work of splicing and storing the recordings. His patent on the process was licensed to General Electric in the mid-1930s, and within a few years, 130 companies around the globe were using his inventions to manufacture recording devices.
Camras studied engineering at what is now the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he is still on the faculty as a research professor. While an undergraduate, he was invited by his professors to refine his discoveries as part of the staff of the school's research foundation.
During World War II, Camras pursued military applications of the magnetic recorder, developing the famed "Model 50," a portable machine that the Allies used to play recorded, amplified battle sounds at decoy locations during the Normandy invasion. His wartime patents of a ferric oxide magnetic tape, and a method for reducing noise and distortion by using high-frequency bias, are still standards in consumer tape recorders.
In 1950, Camras unveiled a prototype videotape recorder, which led to the widespread use of videotape, the end of live television, and the eventual development of the videocassette recorder now found in most American homes. He received more than 500 patents, which have been licensed to over 100 manufacturers worldwide. His many honors included induction into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 1985, and the National Medal of Technology in 1990.