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Dictabelt Transcription Services

POPPY Records can offer a range of transcription services to CDR or other formats:

Dictabelt "Time Master" office dictating machine with belts

The Dictabelt was introduced in 1947 by the Dictaphone Corporation, an American company with roots going back to the Columbia Graphophone company of the previous century. The recording belts were made of flexible cellulose tri-acetate material, which was recorded by embossing a groove in the surface with a hard jewelled tip. They were virtually unbreakable and could be flattened for sending by post in an ordinary envelope, which gave them a tremendous advantage over the fragile wax cylinders which had dominated the office dictation field until that date.

Belts which have been stored flat for a long period of time will develop creases and the material will harden and shrink with age. Any attempt to straighten them or play them in that condition usually results in cracking of the belt and total loss of the recording. They must be treated by special processes to soften them before any attempt is made to flatten out the creases. In addition, some models of playback machine tensioned the belts with a snap-action mechanism, which was satisfactory when the belts were new but could tear an old belt to pieces.


Dicatabelts had two common playing speeds: 8 i.p.s. for standard office belts and 4 i.p.s. for slow-speed logger belts (corresponding to 40 and 20 belt revolutions per minute respectively); in addition it was not uncommon to find a machine built for 60 c/s mains making recordings in an area with 50 c/s supplies and vice-versa. To cope with all the possible speeds - and variations due to badly-maintained machines - requires a versatile playback machine.

Poppy Records uses special techniques for softening and re-shaping age-hardened belts. It also has a specially-adapted playback machine which can cope with a wide range of speeds and handles the belts more gently than standard Dictabelt machines.



Belt material:

Cellulose tri-acetate

Belt colour:

Blue, red or green.

Belt width (inches):


Belt length (inches):


Speed (inches per second):

8 ± 20%

4 ± 20%

Playing time (at 8 ips)

15 minutes

Groove pitch (grooves per inch):

175 (approx)

Groove profile:

Approximately 45° with unequal groove angles.

Modulation type


Dictabelt embosser tip showing unequal angles

The Mandela Dictabelts