tape recorder, device for recording information on strips of plastic tape (usually polyester) that are coated with fine particles of a magnetic substance, usually an oxide of iron, cobalt, or chromium. The coating is normally held on the tape with a special binder. Tape recorders can store many different forms of information. The first tape recorders were used to store audio information. In audio recorders, the sound to be recorded is picked up by a device such as a microphone, and transformed into an electric current. The current is fed to a transducer in the recording head of the tape recorder, which converts it into corresponding magnetic flux variations that magnetize the particles on the tape. Tape recorders always require that the recording media and the recording or playback tape heads move with respect to each other. A digital audio tape (DAT) recorder transforms the audio signals into digital pulses, which are then stored on the tape. Digital tape recording devices are also used to store information from a computer. Magnetic tape can also be used to store video information. Videocassette recorders use a rotating-head system to increase tape capacity. The recording heads move in a direction almost perpendicular to the tape movement, resulting in diagonal bands of information across the tape width. For audio tape recording, available formats include the compact cassette, digital audio tape, and digital compact cassette. For amateur videotape recording, VHS, VHS-C, SVHS, 8mm, and Hi8 are available formats. See sound recording; television.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.