Alan Dower Blumlein
inducted into the
TECnology Hall of Fame
29 October 2004, San Francisco


Below are the first 25 inductees into the TECnology Hall of Fame, an honor established for those products and innovations that have had an enduring impact on the development of audio technology. The awards were presented on October 29, 2004 in San Francisco, during the 117th Audio Engineering Society Convention.

PRE-1950
1877 Thomas Edison cylinder phonograph
1887 Emile Berliner disk recorder
1906 Triode vacuum tube — Lee de Forest
1926 Bell Labs Vitaphone talking picture system
1929 Nyquist Theorem — digital audio sampling foundation
1931 Stereo patent — Alan Dower Blumlein
1935 AEG K-1 Magnetophon — first tape recorder
1945 Altec Voice of the Theatre A7 loudspeaker system
1947 Neumann U47 — first switchable-pattern condenser microphone
1948 Ampex 200A tape recorder

1950 through 1994
1953 AKG C12 — first remote controlled multi-pattern microphone
1954 EMT first electro-mechanical plate reverb
1962 Teletronix LA-2A tube compressor
1965 Dolby A-Type noise reduction
1965 Shure SM57 dynamic microphone
1969 TEAC 1/4-inch 4-track recorder
1971 Lexicon Delta T-101 — first professional digital audio device
1973 JBL 4311 studio monitors
1977 Soundstream — first commercial digital recording system
1977 SSL 4000 — first computerized console
1978 New England Digital Synclavier
1980 Meyer UPA-1 — first arrayable, trapezoidal loudspeaker system
1991 Alesis ADAT modular digital multitrack recorder
1991 Digidesign Pro Tools
1992 Mackie CR-1604 compact mixer

The TECnology Hall of Fame 29 October 2004, San Francisco

Mix Magazine Editor, George Petersen said of the newly introduced TECnology Hall of Fame awards:

"Compared to medicine or agriculture, the history of professional audio has been a comparatively short 125 years or so—barely a ripple in geologic time. But a whole lot has happened in that century and a quarter. True, other innovations also emerged in that era—from automobiles to aviation, telephones to television, exploring outer space to cyberspace—but for we true devotees, audio is what counts.

"To recognize technical excellence and creativity in professional audio, the TEC Awards was established two decades ago. During the years, the TEC Hall of Fame and Les Paul Awards were added to honor individuals who made important contributions to our industry. The HOF members include Ray Dolby, Tom Dowd, Geoff Emerick, Roy Halee, Wally Heider, Deane Jensen, Quincy Jones, Eddie Kramer, Bob Liftin, George Lucas, George Martin, George Massenburg, Bob Moog, Rupert Neve, Les Paul, Sam Phillips, Bill Porter, Bill Putnam, Phil Ramone, Colin Sanders, Elliot Scheiner, Al Schmitt, Phil Spector, Willi Studer, Bruce Swedien, Rudy Van Gelder and Frank Zappa.

"To expand the scope of the 20th annual TEC Awards, the Mix Foundation created a TECnology Hall of Fame to spotlight the long and rich history of the pro audio industry. Selecting just 25 inductees from a 125-year heritage turned out to be a difficult task, indeed. An elite committee of more than 50 industry leaders, engineers, producers, designers, educators, journalists and historians volunteered their time to help in this endeavor, and each was asked to pick 25 innovations (10 pre-1950 and 15 from 1950-1994), with the only “rule” being that any selections must be at least 10 years old.

"Once the results were in, I was given the honor of tabulating the results and writing narratives that put each into a historical context. It wasn’t easy: Many manufacturers are long since out of business. At some companies, no one remains who has any knowledge of the product. Worst of all, the history of pro audio—our very lineage—is woefully neglected and sources are scarce, if not impossible to find.

"As you read these, bear in mind that this is the first year of the TECnology Hall of Fame, and we plan to add more honorees in the future. So if your personal fave—such as the 1996 J-Con 1/4-inch-to-3-pin AC plug adapters—wasn’t included, there’s always next year. In the meantime, set your time machine (analog, of course) waaaay back and enjoy this magic carpet ride through the annals of audio".

ALAN DOWER BLUMLEIN - STEREO PATENT (1931)

Born in London in 1903, Alan Dower Blumlein lived a short life, but during those 38 years, he changed the way that an entire world listens. After receiving his B.S. degree in 1923, he worked at Standard Telephones and Cables, but his main contributions to audio came after he joined the Columbia Graphophone Company in 1929. His early innovations included a moving-coil wax cutter head for gramophone lathes and a moving-coil microphone. Throughout the audio world, he is best known for his 1931 patent, simply entitled “Improvements In and Relating to Sound-Transmissions, Sound-Recording and Sound-Reproducing Systems.”

In this patent (British #394,325), Blumlein examines the physiology of the human binaural hearing process and the spatial illusion produced by “two or more loudspeakers”; describes the use of multiple microphones—including the crossed figure-8 (now known as the Blumlein technique) and Mid-Side stereo-miking methods; details a dual 45/45-degree phono cutter head for producing stereo record masters; and proposes a means of transmitting stereo radio. Many of the concepts in this patent did not reach fruition for decades to come, but all have had an enormous impact on the evolution of audio. Around the time of the patent, Columbia Graphophone Company merged with Gramophone Company (HMV), forming Electric and Musical Industries (eventually, this became EMI) and Blumlein stayed on, researching vacuum cathode ray tubes used in the Iconoscope for early TV cameras.

Blumlein was granted some 128 patents on subjects such as antennas and radar systems. In fact, it was such research that led to his death in 1942, when he and 10 others were killed during a secret flight testing a radar system. One can only guess at what wonders Blumlein could have devised had he lived another 38 years.

Author, Robert Charles Alexander collecting the TECnology Hall of Fame award
for Alan Dower Blumlein on behalf of the Blumlein family, 29 October 2004, San Francisco


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