An historically significant system consisting of a 32-track recording deck (serial number 134), a 4-track mastering deck (serial number 546) and a separate controller (serial number 101). In addition to the factory labels the pieces are affixed with labels and inventory/serial number from Amigo Studios and University of Miami. The 3M Digital Mastering System was released in 1978 and is regarded as the first digital multi-track recording system, thus heralding the start of the audio digital age. This unit is one of the first four put in circulation, and was used on Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly (1982), considered the second popular album recorded in digital. Steely Dan notably embraced this technology early on, and they continued to use this 3M system, in addition to other digital systems, well into the 90s. The unit is accompanied by the original instructions binder and a box of spare parts.
Each deck, 44 by 37 1/4 by 22 1/2 inches
Of course, those who've stuck around the Steely Dan webosphere remember the saga of the 3M machines and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Here's a reminder:
Where it was reported that "The 3M machines are en route to Mr Wenner's hunting lodge in Colorado" where it was "believed that the machines may actually fire up under the reduced atmospheric pressure at Jann's high altitude mountain aerie."
It appears the shipment was refused, but Walter was still wielding the mighty 3M machines as a bargaining chip, or tax shelter, the next go-round:
"If we win," wrote Walter, "we graciously accept, agree to do whatever they want us to do at the awards ceremony, and attempt to claim the tax writeoff on the 3M machines no matter what. This way we come off looking like grateful recipients but we head into the fiscal year with an aggressive balls-up stance on the federal taxes."
Steely Dan got in, of course, but it looks like Walter kept those 3M machines stashed away. The only other reference I see to them is from the "Expressions to Avoid During a Recording Session" here:
Where number 58 is listed as, "How 'bout we get rid of these 3M machines and get ourselves a frozen yogurt machine."
In reality, these are historic pieces of recording gear, but I have such fond memories of following along with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame saga on the original steelydan.com that it felt like a visit from an old friend. And in a way I guess it was, that old friend being Walter's wonderful humor. Thanks Walter and webdrone for all the fun we had together.