The educational project “Personalities of the Russian Community Abroad. 1920-1945”

Alexander Poniatoff

14.04.2020
Alexander Poniatoff

Alexander Poniatoff

(1892 – 1980)

An electric field engineer and creator of the first world’s video recorder. An Oscar winner. He was born in 1892. After finishing the secondary school he studied at the physics and mathematics faculty, the mathematical department of the Kazan University. Then he continued his learning at the Moscow Engineering School where he got interested in aviation thanks to N.Zhukovsky. Just before WWI Poniatoff finished the Pilot School. During the war he functioned as a military hydroplane pilot for some time. But after an accident he was severely injured and had to overcome long treatment.

During the Civil War Poniatoff was an officer of the White Army. When the Army was defeated he immigrated to China. There he worked for the Shanghai Power Company. Then he lived in France for some time. And after that he moved to the United States.

In the US in the middle of 1940s Poniatoff established his own company called Ampex. At first, the company was located in an old garage. The first employees of the company included Ray Dolby, the author of the unique sound system for movies which all movie theatres around the world are equipped with today.

In 1947 in Hollywood, Ampex was the first to present a prototype for an audio tape recorder, Model 200A, which was the beginning of the new era with tape recordings in the US. On March 14, 1956 the first world’s model of a video recorder was presented at the National Association of Radio and TV Journalists in Chicago. It completely changed the world of television: in November 1956 CBS was the first to broadcast a pre-recorded news spot.

Two years later the Academy of Motion Picture awarded Poniatoff with an Oscar for the outstanding achievements in the technical field. At the same time, in 1958, NASA started to apply “Ampex” video recorders for space flights. This collaboration is still in progress.

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