Say Goodbye to Another Piece of Tech History

Americans love nostalgia. A few weeks ago a construction crew dismantled the iconic AMPEX sign along Highway 101 in Redwood City, California and many people in the community were not happy.

A landmark in the area for six decades, the sign marks the site of the former headquarters of Ampex, a pioneer in magnetic recording and inventor of the multi-track audio recorder in 1954 and videotape recorder in 1956 (and 1967 with a color version), to name just a few of its accomplishments.

The sign was such an integral part of the community that when Ampex sold its Redwood City facility, there was a provision in the contract stating that that it could not be removed. A nice gesture that wouldn’t last.

After changing hands a few times, Stanford University acquired the property for its new satellite campus in Redwood City. About a month ago, the sign was dismantled in the name of progress.

At the time, university spokesman E.J. Miranda told Palo Alto’s Daily Post that the university was seeking a home for the sign. “Stanford has reached out to a variety of local historic societies to see if they had an interest in taking possession of the [gigantic] letters,” he said. “We also offered the sign to Ampex — who vacated the property years ago. To date, no one has offered to take the sign.”

In a report by The Daily Journal out of nearby San Mateo, Redwood City resident and former Ampex vice president Bob Wilson said, “There’s a tremendous amount of emotion and pushback on this. There’s a community of folks who have stayed together from the old days of the company and have been told for years the sign is protected and no one knew that it was under threat … I’m trying to find a resolution that’s a win for the community and the university.”

For now, the sign has been placed in storage. “Our preference is to donate the sign to a historical group or society,” Miranda told the Daily Post. “We are primarily interested in groups that have some affiliation to preserving historic and/or technological elements of the Peninsula.”

Interesting that a campus situated in the heart of Silicon Valley couldn’t find a place for it.

Miranda did note, however, that documents, photographs and other Ampex artifacts are part of the Special Collections Department of the Stanford Libraries and available to anyone interested in researching Ampex’s role in the history of technology.

Click here for more on the history of Ampex.

Click below for a local TV news report: