Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 21, 2012

Long-play record albums

June 21, 1948: Columbia Records holds a public demonstration at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City to introduce their new long-play record album. The first sound recorded was done in 1806 by Englishman Thomas Young. He used wax over a rotating drum to record a tuning fork. In 1857 Frenchman Leon Scott de Martinville recorded sounds on a “phonoautograph” but had no way to play the sounds back. Recording of sound was spurred on in America by Alexander Graham Bell. Edison was trying to invent an answering machine when he instead improved the record player in 1877.

Early recordings were made on wax coated cylinders. Charles Tainter made the first lateral-cut record for Volta labs (associated with Bell) in 1881 but there was no way to play them back. Tainter continued to work with Chichester Bell and produced a Graphophone to play their lateral cut cylinders back. Emile Berliner created a seven inch lateral cut disk as well as a Gramophone to play them back in 1888. Columbia Phonograph Co. was founded in 1889. They are the people who found a great way to serve music up, the juke box. By 1890, the longest recordings were lasting four minutes.

Technology continued to expand with the improvements in materials. In 1897, Vulcanite disks replaced Shellac disks (made form a species of beetle). By 1902 the records were reaching ten inches but still had a maximum play time of four minutes. In 1904 someone realized you could flip the record over and have two sides, a popular innovation. In 1925 electrical amplification was used to give a better frequency range for both recording and playback. In 1930 RCA Victor launched the first viable long-play vinyl record on a twelve inch flexible plastic disk, spinning at 33 rpm. It was a failure because there were too few players to use them.

In 1931 stereo sound was produced in both America and Britain. Originally done by using two grooves, the process eventually was able to use a single groove to produce the effect. In 1939 Columbia began using magnetic tapes as well as 78 rpm records. On this day they introduced their vinylite LP 33 rpm microgroove record. These were the first successful album length LPs produced. The format remained the dominant method of recording music until it was overtaken by the Compact Disk in 1988. The latter technology was based on microprocessors and computing advances that took place in the 1970s and 1980s.

America stopped making vinyl and phased out the single but Germany held out and refused. Warner’s never phased out vinyl in Germany. Now America imports it! – Peter Hook

I can assume that the younger generations will no longer know what vinyl was. Maybe some kids will take their CD back to the shop, telling the shop owner they have a faulty disc and if they could please get a new one. – Mike Rutherford

People often forget this – a vinyl album could only contain a maximum of 20 minutes per side! – Ken Hensley

It’s also ironic that in the old days of tape and tape hiss and vinyl records and surface noise, we were always trying to get records louder and louder to overcome that. – T-Bone Burnett

Also on this day:

Job Insecurity – In 1919, the Winnipeg Strike goes horribly wrong.
Manchester Baby – In 1948, the world’s first stored program computer worked.
SpaceShipOne – In 2004, the first privately funded ship makes it into space.