Begun was born on December 2, 1905, in Danzig, Germany. He became interested in magnetic recording while a student at the Berlin Institute of Technology, where he graduated in 1929.
He arrived in America in 1935 and began working for the Brush Development Company in Cleveland. Brush, which specialized in phonograph pickups, partnered with Western Electric to develop magnetic tape sound recorders with Begun’s assistance. During the 1936 Olympics, Begun’s magnetic recorder was utilized for transmissions.
During WWII, Begun lobbied for the development of magnetic recording and started experimenting with the medium, producing many kinds of coated paper and magnetic, plastic tape. In 1943, he was appointed Vice President of Research at Brush.
In 1944, he was awarded a financing contract by the NDRC to investigate suitable alternatives for an expensive stainless steel wire component used in recording equipment. He invented the first consumer tape recorder, nicknamed the Sound Mirror, after developing a coated, non-metallic tape. Additionally, he designed the Mail-a-Voice, a letter communication system that used magnetic recording on one side of a paper disc. Commemorating Begun’s work with the NRDC, President Truman awarded him with the Presidential Certificate of Merit. Along with his ideas, Begun was instrumental in developing a magnetic tape sourcing agreement with 3M. This product line would eventually develop to be worth billions of dollars for the firm.
Begun founded Auctor Associates, a technology consulting firm, in 1971. On January 5, 1995, he died. After his death, in 1998, an induction ceremony was held for him, to honor his contributions to the nation’s inventors’ Hall of Fame.