Executive Dictaphone


In one of the most touching episodes, we recover Jennifers' childhood tape thanks to our restored Executary.

I repair an IBM 214 Executary that was given to me by my father when I was a kid.

IBM 214 Executary

This 1960's dictaphone by IBM uses a large belt-shaped magnetic band called a Magnabelt. The model 214 is styled after the IBM 1401 computer, and was probably offered to many an executive after they purchased a large IBM system. Its construction is gorgious. The head is pushed by a lead screw slides over the whole width of the belt. Rewinding simply consists of sliding the head lever to the correct position, so it is somewhat instant. You could mark the location of a recording by pushing the sliding lever, which would make a little round punch in the underlying paper band. You can make punches over or under the center line of the band, denoting a recording that's for you or for your secretary. You could hand over the band to your secretary, so she could replay it on her machine and type it out.

The model 214 uses 4 inch wide Magnabelts. If you ever have some magnabelts laying around, let me know, as I have only one.

My machine was sidelined in 1969, and a note showed that it was not functioning. It turned out to be only a problem with one of the sliding switches. The bigger problem was to replace the driving belt, which I only got correctly done in the second episode while I tried to recover Jennifer's recording.

Jennifer's tape

Jennifer got referred to me by the official IBM archivists. She had a Magnabelt which she thought contained a recording of her singing in 1965, when she was 4 years old, as well as a few words of her beloved father. Her father had purchased a large IBM computer for his business, and maybe he got the Executary as a gift. The recording was done at Jennifer's father's office.

The magnabelt was in pretty rough shape, but to my surprise, most of it recovered very well on the first try. It is both adorable and very touching.

Here are different versions of the recovered recordings. The two first ones are an mp3 and wav version of the raw recovered sound. The last file is from viewer Carlos N., who is a professional sound editor, and further processed it to remove flutter, hum, and noise.