You should probably hope you haven’t seen [Techmoan’s] cassette recorder before. That’s because it is a Neal interview recorder that was mainly used by police to tape interrogations. This one was apparently used by the Royal Navy and was sold for parts. Turns out, the repair was simple, but the teardown and the analysis of the machine — you can see it in the video below — is pretty interesting if you’ve never seen one of these before.
The unit looks like a heavy-duty piece of industrial electronics from the 1980s. Unlike a commercial tape deck, this one is made to do one thing: record. You can’t even rewind a tape in it. Also unlike a consumer recorder, the Neal has a few special features aimed at making sure you didn’t miss some important confession on tape. First, it beeps if there’s no microphone plugged in. When [Techmoan] showed the recording head, we noticed it looked like it was split in half. Towards the end of the video, we found out why. In addition, the unit records two tracks: one audio track and another with a voice reading the elapsed time every 10 seconds — pretty high tech for its day.
The repair job turned out to be more about getting access to the inside than any real technical work. There was an obviously blown fuse but it was in a hard to reach place. A few improvisations with a paper clip, a chopstick, and some tacky material (we would have used chewing gum here in America) and the fuse was replaced.
The police, by the way, might be part of the reason you can still buy blank tapes. The video shows a BBC story that says as of 2011, there were still almost 2 million police interviews captured on tape. However, they did note that the trend was moving towards digital recording.
It always fascinates us to learn about specialized devices that fill some niche need. Of course, those kinds of devices are usually priced sky high compared to their consumer counterparts. On the other hand, considering the age of the machine, it looked like it held up well which is a testament to its construction.
If you think the Neal is retro, we can do better than that. We’ve also seen plenty of tape machines and even tapes repurposed for digital life.
9 thoughts on “Teardown And Repair Of A Police Recorder”
The tear down video is actually quite enjoyable. It moves along rapidly, and I liked his description of the machine and his plan to diagnose the issues.
The PCB with the speech components looks like it might have the components to be bodged into a decent 80’s era micro computer.
“…the Neal has a few special features aimed at making sure you didn’t miss some important confession on tape.”
Where’s the part that would automatically skip the bits of an interrogations where interrogators “persuade” suspects to make the abovementioned important confessions? (c:
That is called the STOP button, when they bring in the rubber hoses.
And that’s probably what that time track is for – to make that a little trickier to pull off – or make it look harder so no one will think it was possible.
You mean like this? https://youtu.be/OOy_oP3ESQY
He gets some neat pieces on that channel if you like audio oddities.
If there is a way of storing audio (especially on tape of some kind) that Techmoan hasn’t done a video on, its most likely because he hasn’t been able to acquire the right bits yet.
Couldn’t you just generate these kinds of post via the YouTube API? Also, this comment section could be using the Youtube comments. Oh wait.
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