Stefan Kudelski, inventor of first portable recording device, dies

Stefan Kudelski's Nagra, meaning "will record" in Polish, transformed the film industry, allowing directors to film scenes without the need to lug around heavy recording devices.

Stefan Kudelski, who invented the first portable professional sound recorder, died Saturday in Switzerland at the age of 84, according to Swiss manufacturer, the Kudelski Group.

His creation, the Nagra recorder, (Nagra means "will record" in Polish) lifted a huge burden on industries that relied on audio recording, such as Hollywood. Previously, recording devices were so large they had to be transported by vehicles.  

Randy Thom, director of sound design for Skywalker Sound in Marin County, Calif., told National Public Radio it gave directors, particularly in the 1960s, the ability to shoot a scene almost anywhere they wanted to, no longer inhibited by formerly cumbersome technology.

In 1983, he received the John Grierson International Gold Medal. He was also awarded numerous Oscars in 1965, 1977, 1978 and 1990, as well as two Emmy Awards from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1984 and 1986.

Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1929, Stefan Kudelski and his family fled the country when it was occupied by the Nazis in 1939, settling in Switzerland. He built his first tape recorder as a student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne.

Kudelski invented the Nagra in 1951, and filled orders for his first customers, Radio Lausanne and Radio Geneva, in 1952, according to Swiss company Nagra Audio.

His son André Kudelski is now the chairman of Kudelski Group, a position he took over from his father in 1991.

"The values he stood for form the foundation of our company and its reputation today across the five continents,” André Kudelski said in a press release statement. “Among those values, the determination to demonstrate that technological challenges described as impossible are always successfully achieved by teams that know no boundaries."


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