Marconi Velvet Tone discs
were produced in the first decade of 1900.
Sound recordings that could be played in the home
had their beginning back in the late 1800s, the
result of Thomas Edison's invention of the
phonograph in 1877.
The first recordings were on wax
cylinders. These were replaced by discs coated
with soft material that enabled grooves to be cut
into them and the sound came out as the needle ran
around the groove from the outside edge to the
centre at 78 rpm. The first discs took about three
or four minutes to play. Marconi Velvet Tone discs
could be played only with a special gold-plated
needle (25¢ each).
Into the 1920s the medium was shellac
and the playing time extended to ten minutes.
Recording companies (Victor, Columbia, Edison)
competed to get a longer playing disc with better
quality sound. In 1937 Columbia Records introduced
a 12-inch long playing (LP) disc made of
non-breakable vinylite plastic that played for 23
minutes per side. This disc played on a turntable
at 33 1/3 rpm. After World War II entire albums
could be recorded on a disc rather than just a
couple of songs. Then RCA
Victor introduced a 7-inch 45 rpm disc.
So by 1950 there were four speeds as
well as different sizes of holes in the middle of
the records so record machine companies created
machines that could play all four speeds. In the
end, the 12-inch LP dominated. Cassette tapes and
8-track tapes also had their moments of glory.
Digital recording hit the music
industry in the 1970s and CDs that were small,
portable and not easily degraded took over.
The 21st century however
has seen a rebirth of vinyl records and
contemporary artists are choosing to release new
albums on vinyl. What goes around comes around.
45 rpm records
needed a special insert to be played
on a regular record player.
Albums: Elvis 1959;
Chubby Checker 1961; Beatles 1965