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A phonograph, in its later forms also called a gramophone (as a trademark since 1887, as a generic name in the UK since 1910) or since the 1940s called a record player, is a device for the mechanical recording and reproduction of sound. The sound vibration waveforms are recorded as corresponding physical deviations of a spiral groove engraved, etched, incised, or impressed into the surface of a rotating cylinder or disc, called a “record”.
To recreate the sound, the surface is similarly rotated while a playback stylus traces the groove and is therefore vibrated by it, very faintly reproducing the recorded sound.
In early acoustic phonographs, the stylus vibrated a diaphragm which produced sound waves which were coupled to the open air through a flaring horn, or directly to the listener’s ears through stethoscope-type earphones.
So when did record players become electric?
In 1927 wind up record players were slowly being replaced by their electricity powered equivalents. Instead of spring wound mechanics, these used flywheel friction discs, as in car clutch systems, to keep record speeds even.
If you would like to know more about when record players become electric, you will want to keep reading.
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History Of The Record Player
The record player changed the way we listen to music. When it was first introduced, it changed music history. It allowed us to listen to a musical piece in the comfort of our own home, instead of having to go out and see musicians live, something we could do only occasionally, we could suddenly listen to music far more often.
It changed our whole relationship with music and it is no surprise that the history of record players is inextricably linked with the history of music. Let’s take a look at that history, from the very first devices that could record and play music, to modern turntables with all of their features.
The record player has a vast and very colorful history. The first breakthrough of this type of technology was through the famous inventor Thomas Eddison. This was back in 1877. Eddison decided to temporarily stop work on his phonograph so he could focus on more pressing issues. It would be a whole decade later that a German inventor by the name of Emile Berliner decided to build onto the ideas of Eddison. The first time that an electric machine was used was CIRCA 1920 but we are not there yet in our story.
As previously mentioned, famed inventor and scientist Thomas Edison is given credit for the original inception of the idea of recording sound. He has been quoted as saying it was by far his favorite project.
The Birth Of The New Idea
Building on the principles of Eddison’s idea Berliner created a machine that was of similar design but used very different styles to record the sound. Where Eddison’s crude version was made with a cylindrical tube and tin foil, Berliners version functioned using a hard rubber disc then later (shellac) that rotated. He called his invention the Gramophone and then it was off to the races.
The Coming Together Of Ideas
With the Gramophone already being invented, it opened many doors for Berliner. One of these doors was his own technology company. His company later merged with another inventor called Eldridge Johnson and they went on to form the Victor Talking Machine Company CIRCA 1901. What a way to start the new century and things just kept getting better and small tweaks were being made as the years went by.
Hitting The Market
When did these Gramophones first become available to purchase? In late 1895 they were sold off to the public. They were an instant hit with the general populace and the first shipment sold out in a manner of days. Numbers like that were unprecedented. It was very clear that the public was ready to welcome this new technology.
There was nothing like the Gramophone so the Victor Talking Company had a monopoly of the market. That was until the rise of the radio. Radio became the prefered choice as you already had the entertainment built-in. It did not wipe out the company, but gave it a fair few knocks along the way. Gramophones were sold well into the 30 and 40s but would regain control only a few decades later.
The Age Of The Record
In 1960-1970 the record player regained massive popularity. What brought it back into the mainstream was the release of the turntables. This provided stereo playback.
The Rebirth Of The Record Player
Some Dj’s discovered that they could use the turntables with audio mixes and then by scratching the needle against the grooves it would make a new and interesting sound. Many Dj’s used this method and still do to add a rhythmic element to their music. This was an awesome point in musical history. At this point, things have and will forever be changed.
The Rise Of The Titan
Music took a more mainstream hip-hop approach. The vinyl returned with a vengeance. You couldn’t go to the grocery store without passing a sign that was advertising a record player for sale. The release of the turntable opened up this industry and even helped recreate modern-day record stores.
Is Vinyl Here To Stay
It is safe to say that yes, most of the modern day artists are releasing their music on LPs and many music enthusiasts are flocking to buy them. Experiencing music on vinyl is a very different experience than on files or CDs. Record players are sleeker today than they were then. Today, they have modern features like USB ports and some even have interfaces that you can then control and archive your favourite files. From this article you can clearly see that this historic medium is here to stay and keep us entertained for many more decades to come.
What do great inventions have in common? Adaptability. it is key to ensure the longevity of your invention. Taking something old and adding new features to it to bring it back its relevance. The record player has been able to do this flawlessly. From its humble start to its amazing current position the record player has proven that it wasn’t a one-hit-wonder.
It is the birthplace of the music industry and the main reason we have music at all. We should be grateful to the inventors of the humble record player. They made it easy for us to build on and adapt to this concept and notion. We have it much easier to just hit record and then master and mix the final edit. It is insane to think that record players are still around and still being used. On top of that, they are still popular and people spend 1000’s, if not 100,000’s of dollars for these players and the records that go with them.
Some DJs still use the turntable model to produce their unique sound of music! It is the mark of a truly inspired mind that has allowed this idea to live to exist and be used for 100 years. We should hope that this form of media never goes away. It only gets stronger and more resilient with time. One thing we know is that the world is not done with the record player just yet and there are many more adaptations that are to come.