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REVIVING THE VOICE OF TIME GONE BY

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A West Weber area man is trying to save the obsolete wire recorders of the early 1940s and make them sing again.

The machines record sound on wire, just as a tape recorder uses tape. They produce sound with considerable static and minimal fidelity and were eventually replaced in the 1950s by tape recorders.But to Stephen Burt, the wire recorders are worth saving. It drives him crazy that practically everyone else considers them junk.

"They shove them in the closet and forget about them," Burt said. "It's a shame! They throw them away!"

Burt, 49, got interested in wire recorders about 10 years ago when a friend gave him one. Ever since he's looked for them or their parts at flea markets, junk shops, thrift stores and radio repair shops on a daily basis.

"I'm finding out if you call an electrician to fix them, they say, `Throw the . . . thing in the trash and get you a good recorder,' " he said. "And I say, `I want to save them!' "

In 10 years, he's found half a dozen recorders. One was a gift from a friend. One he bought from a thrift store. One he got for $2 at a flea market.

"The guy was selling it for a friend," he said. "I offered him $2 and he said sure. Then I was walking away and went back and said, "Do you know what this is?' and he said, `No,' and I said, `It's a wire recorder,' and he chased me all over that flea market with a baseball bat trying to get it back."

Another memorable event was when he talked to Marvin Camras, who invented wire recorders in the late 1930s and got a patent for them in 1944.

"He literally cried when I talked about his machines," Burt said. "At first, he was apprehensive. I guess he thought I was another crank. Then, when I started talking about his machines, he perked right up, and then he started crying."

Burt's biggest fear is that more of the machines will just disappear, rusted and forgotten.

"There's got to be a stop to this manslaughter of these machines," he said.