SpokenWeb is now the proud owner of a Uher 4000 Report-L, the kind of recorder used to tape a number of the earlier readings. This recorder was first mentioned in my conversation with Nick Ostopkevich, long-time staff in the technical services section of the Instructional Media Office (IMO) at SGWU. (Note this unit went by several other names, having been renamed the Centre for Instructional Technology (CIT) in 1971, then becoming the Audio-Visual Department (AVD) at the time of the SGWU-Loyola merger).
Nick told me the Uher was the kind of machine used by those who couldn’t afford a Nagra. It was the “poor boy’s Nagra,” although he speculated that even the Uher wouldn’t have been inexpensive at the time. It was a low-grade commercial device, not intended for home use. I read elsewhere that this machine was favoured by journalists. The 5-10 pound machine and a mike would be loaded on the trolley, and someone would wheel it out to tape the poetry readings. The tape recorder belonged to the language laboratories, probably most often used to make master tapes of language exercises. The language labs were open on a drop-in basis for language practice from 9:00 to 10:30 p.m. and SGWU students were hired part-time to serve as laboratory monitors. Because they were on campus in the evenings, it was these part-timers who were trained on the Uher — setting levels, setting up the mike — and charged with recording the poetry series.
Nick related a story in which one staffer went out to do a poetry reading, but the next day, there was nothing on the tape. He’d misthreaded it, it wasn’t on the head. With the Nagra machine, Nick told me, you can listen as you’re recording. There’s no such playback feature on the Uher.
The Uher was used until at least spring of 1968, as I found requisition slips for the Joseph Langland and Michael McLure readings (March 8th and March 22nd of that year), each of which specified that the Uher 4000 should be used (at 3 3/4 ips). These slips also noted the kind and length of tape used and the time of the reading: “1 X 1200 ft. reel of Ampex tape recorded on both sides, 9:00 — 11:30 p.m.” (Langland); “1 reel Ampex 1200 ft. type 651 tape (recorded poetry on both sides. 9:00 pm — 11:00 pm)” (McClure).
Jason and I were surprised by how compact this machine was. We tested playback and it works! The eBay ad said it seems to record well, but that they hadn’t figured out how to record using the mike. We haven’t tried this yet, but look forward to doing some of our own tests. Here’s the original listing on eBay.