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Science & Technology

Alex Ponyatov - creator of the first video recorder
 
Ponyatov was born in Kazan region of the Russian Empire, into the wealthy family of a former peasant who, having found interest in wood commerce, became a magnate of the First Guild.
 
In 1909-1910 Alex studied at the Emperial University of Kazan, at the school of mathematics and physics. Afterwards, having taken keen interest in planes (a hot technical novelty at the time), he transferred to the Emperial Moscow technical institute. From there, though, he had to move to Karsruhe, Germany, because of his political activities and fears of repressions. 
 
When the Great War broke out, he returned home and became a military pilot, fought, was wounded and spent a long time recovering, after which fought again - this time against the Soviets.
 
After the defeat of the White Army, Ponyatov retraced the steps of tens of thousands of immigrants: he escaped to Shanghai (China), where he worked as an engineer, then moved to Paris, where he also worked as a radio-engineer, and later, in the late 20s, he went to New York, where he married, obtained the American citizenship and entered the Dalmo-Victor Westinghouse company, which dealt with radio electronics for the Air Force.
 
After work he would go to his garage, where he would tinker and experiment with electronics and in the end, in 1944, founded his own company Ampex, which performed an extremely important task - produced precise drives for radars, that spotted German planes over Europe and Japanese planes over the Pacific!
 
In 1946 he examined a captured German recorder AEG and decided to create something like that. Soon, thanks to investment by the actor Bill Crosby, the first American audio recorder was made - Model 200A.
 
Several years later Ponyatov had an idea of recreating the recorder, but for video, and in 1956 he presented the first ever video recorder: VR-1000. The same year CBS broadcast the first ever recorded program. After many modifications, compact, home-use, video recorders with magnetic tapes started appearing in stores.
 
In 1961 Ponyatov became the first and only non-actor who was awarded Oscar - for his contribution to American cinema!
 


Sources:
In Memoriam Alexander M. Poniatoff // Journal of the Audio Engineering Society. — 1981. — Vol. 2: № 3, March. — P. 221.
Маковеев В. Г. Александр Понятов — создатель видеомагнитофона. 110 лет со дня рождения // Broadcasting. Телевидение и радивещание. — 2002. — № 1. — С. 86-90.
 

 


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