Do you recognise this? Then you are clearly of a certain vintage. It's a Uher - a portable (though not very) reel-to-reel audio recorder. And once upon a time BBC radio reporters swore by - or was it swore at - these sturdy monsters.
I came across this splendid specimen at the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai, where I am teaching - about the last place in the world where I would have expected to find one.
When I joined the BBC at the beginning of the 1980s, the Uher was radio standard issue. It used five-inch tape spools, which when you were recording lasted for just fifteen minutes. And if you used the fast forward and rewind buttons too much, your batteries went flat in double quick time.
Uhers were heavy - there must be radio veterans around who still have a sagging shoulder - but they were stout and the sound quality was excellent. What's more, in the pre-digital era when audio editing meant leader tape and razor blades, you could take the tape straight from the Uher to edit. When reel-to-reel began to be replaced by audio cassettes in the mid-1980s, you had dub from cassette to tape for anything but the most basic editing.
Here's A. Kamal, technical director at the college, with the Uher - which he used in journalistic action while covering India's 1971 war with Pakistan. The machine has the dents and scrapes that you would expect of such a war veteran. Once while covering the war, he fell into a stream - he got doused but he managed to keep the Uher out of the water.
Kamal told me that he was working for Indian TV at the time, and some models of Uher were designed to 'sync' audio with pictures recorded separately. At one point, Uhers were also used to record high quality sound for feature films, again using this 'sync' facility.
You are seeing the Uher against the backdrop of the stunningly modern new auditorium at ACJ, designed to allow performers to be heard clearly without the use of microphones. So it's ancient and modern in the same shot.
Uhers sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay but Kamal told me he had just sold this Uher for a single solitary rupee. If you give things away, he said, people feel they have no value.
Happily, the new owner is a Chennai audio buff who collects - maybe hoards is a better word - all sorts of vintage audio equipment. This wonderfully battered old Uher is in safe hands!
As you’ll not be putting these headphones in your ear canal, they are indeed very comfortable for a longer time
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