Looking Back


Vinyl Records are Back

                            Velvet Tone

Victrola hand-cranked gramophone

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.

                                  rpm Record
Beetles 1965, Elvis 1959, Chubby
                                  Checker 1961
Engelburt Humperdinck

45 rpm records needed a special insert to be played on a regular record player.

Albums: Elvis 1959; Chubby Checker 1961; Beatles 1965

Engelburt Humperdinck 8-track tape 1969


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Last updated: July 23, 2018