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Dead medium: The Schulmerich Magnabell
From: (Trevor Blake)
Source(s): personal experience The "Schulmerich Magnabell" is just a BIG tape player. But its purpose was to serve as an electric carillon and play bells in church.

Use of tower bells as medium of communication has been relegated to a largely ceremonial role == and here, the ceremony is moved one step further from its source by no actual bells being present, only tape recordings of bells.

While tape players are living media, I believe the Magnabell qualifies as dead media because of its function and history. The mechanical bells brought to Europe from China in the 12th Century inspired miniature versions of the same, including music boxes and musical clocks. These clockwork devices, often programmed by card or disc, led to mechanical looms, leading to the first gear and card calculation devices, leading to a need for calculation that gave rise to the modern computer.

The Schulmerich Magnabell Instrument was produced by Schulmerich Carillons, Inc. of Carillon Hills, Selleresville PA, some time in the 1960s. The model I saw was bought at government auction and the following is based on observation, not documentation.

The Magnabell is a large brown metal box aprox. 5' 7" with three locking windows. Behind the windows are the controls for the Magnabell. The upper window houses the programming instruments; on the left, a day/time/program dial. On the right are master on/off and routing switches. The center window houses the tapes and play/pause/stop controls. The lower window houses a phonograph with the speeds 16, 33 and 45.

The Magnabell has internal speakers as well as line outs. The model I saw has two cartridges, one of Christmas music and one of general bell music.

The upper left dial controls which of six programs are played and when. Switches on the upper right control the volume for the internal speakers and line outs, as well as an on/off switch for "TOWER." The cart player has four automatic and one manual setting, a pause switch and curious play / release lever. The phonograph has an on button and an off button, each acting independent of the other, and a "PHONO" light.

I was given the chance to turn it on and play a cartridge by the current owner, Habromania in Portland, OR. It took about 5 seconds to get up to speed, but once playing, it sounded just fine. This object was built to last and was well cared for.

Trevor Blake (

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