An Extensive & Noteworthy History

Ampex Data Systems Corporation builds cutting-edge data management and data security solutions today, by standing on our foundation as a world leader in data recording and storage for over 75 years.

Ampex Electric and Manufacturing Company was one of the first Silicon Valley companies and was formed by Alexander M. Poniatoff in San Carlos, California in 1944. The name AMPEX consists of Poniatoff’s initials, with “EX” for “excellent” to form the unique brand.

The company’s initial, national success came when Bing Crosby grew tired of his radio show interrupting his golf game. Crosby inked a deal with Ampex to record the show on an Ampex Model 200 reel-to-reel tape machine so it could be broadcast via tape delay. This served as the catalyst for Ampex’s unrivaled success in the Hollywood and entertainment recording industries for the next several decades. Notable milestones included an unknown truck driver named Elvis Presley recording his historic first single, “That’s All Right” using an Ampex 521 reel to reel in 1954, and, in 1956, the introduction of the Ampex VRX-1000 (later renamed the Mark IV), hailed as the first practical videotape recorder.

Ampex would go on to win several Emmy’s, an Oscar, and a Grammy for its groundbreaking innovations. The company’s culture of innovation would also foster revolutionary innovators like Ray Dolby, of Dolby Digital. Ray’s first job as a teenager was at Ampex, and later he would help build the VRX-1000. Also, Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, helped develop the technology behind Oracle while working for Ampex in the ‘70s.

Today, Ampex stands on the same foundation of superior innovation with its industry leading line of ruggedized data management systems for aerospace and ground vehicles and supporting laboratories, a technology which began in 1950 when Ampex built the first “dedicated” instrumentation recorder, the Model 500, for the U.S. Navy.

In 2014, Delta Information Systems, Inc. acquired Ampex, combining Ampex technology with the power of the Delta family of companies including Delta Digital Video, GDP Space Systems, and Acroamatics, Inc.


Ampex’s BLUE technology wins four 2019 Cyber Security Excellence Awards.

Ampex’s Cyber and Electronic Analysis, Development, and Integration Laboratory (CEADIL) wins North America’s Cyber Security Team of the Year Award


Ampex Intelligent Systems (AIS) begins R&D of its BLUE technology for onboard cyber security/encryption and artificial intelligence/machine learning for aerospace platforms and downlinked data applications.


Ampex Data Systems Corporation establishes Ampex Intelligent Systems (AIS) and opens a new facility in Colorado Springs, CO. The AIS facility includes a Cyber and Electronic Analysis, Development, and Integration Laboratory (CEADIL). The CEADIL provides state-of-the-art development of cyber security/encryption solutions and artificial intelligence/machine learning with an emphasis on aerospace platform and downlinked data applications.


Delta Information Systems, Inc. completes acquisition of Ampex Data Systems Corporation


Ampex receives a Grammy award for technical achievement honoring its achievements in audio recording technology and products.


Ampex receives its 12th Emmy award for its invention of slow-motion color recording and playback. Also honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards are the members of the engineering team that created the videotape recorder when they worked for Ampex — Charles Andersen, Ray Dolby, Shelby Henderson and Fred Pfost, and the late Charles Ginsburg and Alex Maxey.


Ampex introduces scalability to the DST 712 library system, allowing multiple DST 712 cabinets to be connected via a simple cartridge pass through mechanism. Multiple libraries can be configured for almost unlimited capacity.


Fox Television Network becomes the first network to store its primetime television programs as data files on DST media and library systems.


Ampex introduces the new double density DST data storage product line, offering the highest capacity data storage system in the industry. The DST 812 robotic library can now store 12.8 terabytes of data, the entire Library of Congress, in 21 square feet of floor space.


Ampex introduces the DIS™ 120i and DIS 160i dual port, data/instrumentation recorders, making it possible for the first time to capture real time instrumentation data and then utilize the same recorder to process the data in a computer environment through its second port using SCSI-2 protocol.


Ampex wins a Monitor Award for outstanding technical achievement from the International Teleproduction Society for the DCT 700d Digital Tape Drive.


Ampex introduces DST, high-performance computer mass storage products able to store half the Library of Congress in 21 square feet of floor space.


Ampex introduces DCT, the first digital component post production system using image compression technology to produce unsurpassed quality images. The system includes the finest videotape recorder ever made, The DCT 1700d.


Ampex wins an Emmy for its ACR 225 Commercial Spot Player.


Ampex wins an Emmy for its development of D-2 video recording technology.


Ampex introduces D-2, the first composite digital video recording format.


Ampex receives a Monitor Award for outstanding technical achievement from the International Teleproduction Society for the Zeus™ Advanced Video Processor.


Ampex wins two Emmy awards: one for its Zeus™ Advanced Video Processor, and another for the VPR-3 Videotape Recorder.


Ampex receives a Monitor Award for outstanding technical achievement from the International Teleproduction Society for the VPR-5, the first helical scan portable VTR. The VPR-5 also wins an Emmy.


Ampex introduces the DCRS digital cassette recorder, offering compact cassette storage with the equivalent of 16 digital or 8 DDR instrumentation reels on one cassette.


Partial-response maximum-likelihood (PRML) data decoding technology has its first use in Ampex’s DCRsi™ recorders. This technology is now commonly used in high performance computer disk drives and other high density magnetic data storage devices.


The ADO® Digital Effects System also receives a Monitor Award for outstanding technical achievement from the International Teleproduction Society. The ADO® also wins an Emmy.


Ampex introduces ADO, which creates digital special effects, allowing rotation and perspective of video images, changing forever the way television material will be manipulated and created. Ampex wins an Emmy for its ESS™ Still Store.


The Ampex Video Art (AVA™) video graphics system is used by artist Leroy Nieman on air during Super Bowl XII. AVA, the first video paint system, allows the graphic artist, using an electronic pen, to illustrate in a new medium, video. This innovation paved the way for today’s high quality electronic graphics, such as those used in video games.


Ampex wins two Emmy awards: one for Type C format development and one for the company’s AST® Video Tracking system, the first automated scan tracking for variable speed effects, making slow motion possible directly from tape for the first time.


Ampex introduces Electronic Still Store (ESS), which allows producers to store digital video images for later editing and broadcast.


Ampex introduces the VPR-1, helical scan, Type C, 1-inch, videotape recorder. With it comes AST, the first automated scan tracking for variable speed effects, making slow motion possible directly from tape for the first time. The VPR-1’s successor, the VPR-2 (1978), becomes the industry standard for video recording.


Ampex introduces the ACR-25, the first automatic robotic library system for the recording and playback of television commercials.


Ampex starts it’s own record label, Ampex Records. Its biggest hit was “We Gotta Get You A Woman” by Todd Rundgren (as “Runt”), reaching #20 on the charts in 1970.


Ampex introduces Videofile, still in use today at Scotland Yard for the electronic storage and retrieval of fingerprints.


American Airlines, in association with DOT Records/AMPEX, produce “Flying With A Musical Flair” (Popular Program #49). This reel to reel tape was played and sold to passengers of American Airlines.


The introduction of the Ampex VR-3000 revolutionizes video recording — its briefcase size makes it the first truly portable VTR. It is used at the ‘68 Summer Olympics in Mexico City to follow the world’s cross-country runners for the first time in Broadcast history.


Ampex wins an Emmy for its VR-2000 color Video Tape Recorder.

Ampex developed the “instant replay” videodisc recorder at the request of ABC in 1966 for the “Wide World of Sports” program. CBS had earlier experimented with a modified Ampex VR-1000B videotape machine for replays during the Army-Navy game Dec. 7, 1963, and had tried a “freeze action” videodisc in August 1965 developed by the MVR Corporation of Palo Alto. This MVR single-frame recorder had been demonstrated at the July 1965 SMPTE meeting in San Francisco, capable of recording 20 seconds of black-and-white video as 600 single frames on a shiny aluminum magnetic disc coated with nickel cobalt. MVR built the model VDR-210CF for CBS to use for football games, instantly playing back short action sequences in normal motion, or freezing the motion at a single frame.

Ampex used a new approach, spinning a metal disc at 1800 rpm with a series of recording heads moving across the platter making 30 video tracks per second to record 30 seconds of normal motion. Each track held one video frame. If the heads were slowed down, less than 30 tracks were played back at 1800 rpm, creating the slow motion effect. If the heads were stopped as the platter continued to spin at 1800 rpm, a freeze frame was created. John Poole at Ampex was the project manager, having developed the metal disc for the Videofile Information System at Ampex that would be commercially introduced in 1968. This system retrieved doument images stored on videotape and duplicated them on disc recorder workstations so office personnel could view the documents in “instant replay” stop-action format. In March, 1967, the Ampex HS-100 color video magnetic disc recorder was used for rapid playback in normal, slow, or stop action, for the “World Series of Skiing” program from the U.S. Ski Championships in Vail, Colorado, marking the beginning of instant replay on commercial television.

The Ampex device was another milestone in the history of magnetic recording. Valdemar Poulsen patented the first magnetic recorder, called the telegraphone, using steel wire in Denmark in 1898. George Baird in Britain recorded video programs on magnetic disc in 1927. Fritz Pfleumer in Germany patented the application of magnetic powders to strips of paper or film in 1928, leading AEG to develop the Magnetophone tape recorder by 1935, with cellulose acetate tape from BASF. Clarence Hickman at Bell Labs developed a magnetic telephone message recorder in 1934 that used longitudinal recording with laminated Permalloy heads on cobalt steel wire. Ampex developed a tape recorder for Bing Crosby and the ABC radio network in 1948. Andrew Donald Booth in Britain built the first magnetic drum memory for the Manchester computer in 1948. Ampex introduced the VR-1000 videotape recorder for professional broadcasting in 1956, used by NBC on Nov. 30 to tape delay the news broadcast of Douglas Edwards for the West Coast. In 1959 Toshiba of Japan developed the helical scan videotape recorder, and was joined by Ampex and Sony to produce large 2-inch helical-scan professional recorders. In 1963 Ampex introduced the industry-standard EDITEC electronic video editor allowing frame-by-frame recording control. By 1965, Ampex led the industry with its transistorized color highband VR-2000. in 1967, the briefcase-size portable VR-3000 video recorder was introduced and used at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City to follow, for the first time, the runners in the cross-country race event.


Ampex introduces the VR-2000 high band videotape recorder, the first ever to be capable of color fidelity required for high quality color broadcasting.


Ampex introduces EDITEC, electronic video editing, allowing broadcast television editors frame-by-frame recording control, simplifying tape editing and the ability to make animation effects possible. This was the basis for all subsequent editing systems. Ampex introduces a new computer peripheral digital tape transport, the TM-7. Its design far surpasses previous tape drives, using 80 percent fewer parts and completely eliminating pinch rollers and brake cylinders.


Helical scan recording is invented by Ampex — the technology behind the worldwide consumer video revolution, and is used in all home Video Tape Recorders today.


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents Ampex with an Oscar for technical achievement.


The famous Nixon-Khrushchev “Kitchen Debate” takes place at the Moscow Trade Fair, and is captured on an Ampex videotape recorder.

The Kitchen Debate was a series of impromptu exchanges (through interpreters) between then U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the opening of the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow on July 24, 1959. For the exhibition, an entire house was built that the American exhibitors claimed anyone in America could afford. It was filled with labor saving and recreational devices meant to represent the fruits of the capitalist American consumer market. It was the first high-level meeting between Soviet and U.S. leaders since the Geneva Summit in 1955. It took place in a number of locations at the exhibition but primarily in the kitchen of a suburban model house, cut in half so it could be viewed easily.

The two men discussed the merits of each of their respective economic systems, capitalism and communism. It was recorded on Ampex color videotape, a new technology pioneered in the U.S by the Ampex company; during the debate Nixon pointed this out as one of the many American technological advances.

Both men argued for their countrys industrial accomplishments, with Khrushchev stressing the Soviets focus on things that matter rather than luxury. He satirically asked if there was a machine that “puts food into the mouth and pushes it down”. Nixon responded by saying at least the competition was technological, rather than military. In the end, both men agreed that the United States and the Soviet Union should be more open with each other. However, Khrushchev was skeptical of Nixon’s promise that his part in the debate would be translated into English and broadcast in the U.S.

In Part II, below, Ampex fans will enjoy hearing, at 1:52 “This program is now being recored on Ampex Color tape, and it can be played back immediately and you can’t tell that it isn’t a live program…”


NASA selects Ampex data recorders and magnetic tape, used for virtually all U.S. space missions since.


Ampex wins an Emmy award for the invention of the Video Tape Recorder (VTR).


CBS goes on air with the first videotape delayed broadcast, Douglas Edwards and The News, on November 30, 1956, from Los Angeles, California, using the Ampex Mark IV.


The Ampex VRX-1000 (later renamed the Mark IV) videotape recorder is introduced on April 14, 1956, at the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters in Chicago. This is the first practical videotape recorder and is hailed as a major technological breakthrough.


1954 Ampex introduces the first multi-track audio recorder derived from multi-track data recording technology. Ampex introduces the first magnetic theater sound system, made for Todd/AO CinemaScope.


In a recording studio equipped with an Ampex 521 reel to reel tape machine, an unknown truck driver named Elvis Presley recorded his historic first single, “That’s All Right” at Sun Studios in Memphis.


Ampex introduces the first “dedicated” instrumentation recorder, Model 500, built for the U.S. Navy.


American Broadcasting Company (ABC) uses an Ampex Model 200 audio recorder for the first ever U.S. tape delay radio broadcast of The Bing Crosby Show.


Ampex Electric and Manufacturing Company is formed by Alexander M. Poniatoff in San Carlos, California. The name AMPEX consists of Poniatoff’s initials, with “EX” for “excellent” to form the unique name.