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At his Menlo Park laboratory, Thomas Edison invented the first machine that could record sound.
In July the first experiment to record sound was performed by Thomas Edison and his staff. This experiment included an indenting stylus, a diaphragm, a telephone speaker, and paraffin-coated paper. Thomas Edison yelled into the speaker as the paper was pulled under the stylus. When the paper was pulled back through the stylus the recording of Thomas Edison yelling could be faintly heard.
It was the month of December, 1877 when Charles Batchelor and John Kruesi worked in the Thomas Edison laboratory to complete the first working tinfoil phonograph. This phonograph had the capability to both play and record. The phonograph contained a cylinder with a sheet of tinfoil wrapped around it. The cylinder was turned by a hand crank. Sound was received through a funnel, which was connected to a diaphragm. The diaphragm had a stylus attached to it. By turning the crank and yelling into the funnel, the sound vibrated the diaphragm, which moved the stylus. The stylus pressed the sound waves onto the tinfoil. The indented tinfoil sheet then was moved to another diaphragm that had a stylus attached with a delicate spring. As the stylus was passed over the indents on the tinfoil, the rates of vibrations recorded caused the diaphragm to vibrate in the same manner as the original words spoken. The crank had to be turned at the exact speed before the sounds could be recognized. Only a minute or two of sound at a time could be saved. A tinfoil recording could be used only a couple of times before it would become damaged and lost its recording forever. Through the next year Edison worked on three different formats including the original strip model, the cylinder model, and a disc model.
The English patents Thomas Edison obtained for his phonograph had now expired, leaving the opportunity open for world inventors who thought they could make a better talking machine.
Alexander Graham Bell, Chichester Bell, and Charles Tainter of the Volta laboratory obtained several patents for a commercial talking machine called a graphaphone. The graphaphone was based on Edison\'s phonograph. The stylus for the graphaphone was more of a cutting tool and the tinfoil was replaced with more durable wax cylinders. These changes made the machine easier to use and the play back much clearer. Edison was asked to join the three men in this new technology but Edison did not.
In the summer of 1888 Thomas Edison announced that he had perfected the phonograph. This new model now came in a wooden box and was powered by an electric motor. It used a wax cylinder like with the graphophone but now there was a shaft to hold the cylinder. The recording and playback diaphragms were joined together.
Emile Berliner demonstrated his model of a talking machine, the gramophone. The gramophone was hand cranked and used a flat disc.
Edison built a a spring motor and an experimental disc phonograph. He obtained a British patent for it but he was sure that the cylinder method was better. It would not be until 1913 that he turned from the cylinders to flat discs for recording.
Thomas Edison invented the talking doll. Edison only produced this doll for a couple of years.
Emile Berliner and Werner Suess introduced their much improved gramophone. A large horn was connected to the diaphragm. This was counterbalanced and had an arm that glided across the disc. In just a few years this disc model evolved to include a new hand crank that used two small wheels and a cross belt, the cranking produced a smooth and consistent action to the turntable.
Oberlin Smith described a technique for using electricity to magnetize strips of metal. He also described how recording could use the process used by the telephone, converting sound waves into electrical currents. This sound recording process would not need the direct contact of a stylus eliminating unwanted friction sounds. Smith did not patent his technique at that time and it was not until 10 years later that a patent was obtained for a magnetic recording system.
The first coin-operated phonograph was created. A nickel would allow the listener to hear the play of one cylinder. One was placed in the Palais Royal Saloon in San Francisco. In less then six months it earned over $1000.
Emile Berliner realized the need and business potential of inventing a process that could inexpensively duplicate master recordings. Berliner recorded onto a zinc disc covered with a film of fat. Applying acid etched the grooves made in the fat onto the metal disc. The disc was then electroplated in copper to make a mold. Emile Berliner used this mold to stamp his sound duplicates into hard rubber discs. These 7 inch discs were marketed in a paper sleeve. The records included the lyrics of the song. This helped the listeners make out parts that may not have been recognizable. The duplicates were not as clear as the masters.
Thomas Edison set up the National Phonograph Company.
Eldridge Johnson created a smooth running quiet spring motor for the Berliner Gramophone Company.
Many Americans now had enough money to purchase a home talking machine. The three largest manufactures were then Edison, Victor, and Columbia. These companies had exclusive dealers who had to follow the companies prices and repair standards. There were numerous other smaller companies making talking machines with names like Ediphone, Keenophone, Talkophone, and a Zonophone.
Valdemar Poulsen obtained the first patent on a magnetic recording system. This new system was the first glimpse of a tape recorder. The Valdemar Pousen system used a telephone transmitter microphone to convert the sound waves into electrical currents producing local magnetization of a steel wire. The magnetic variations matched the variations of the electrical currents making playback possible. An old recording could be erased by recording over it with something new. The playback was listened to through telephone earphones.
Edison introduced his smallest and lowest cost phonograph to compete with the falling prices, the Gem. This machine cost 10 dollars and could only play records, whereas his earlier models either came with a recording device or one could be purchased for them.
A very basic version of the Gramophone came out shortly after the Gem selling for 3 dollars. It was called the Toy.
Thomas Lambert obtained a patent on the use of celluloid as a recording medium. Celluloid was one of the very first forms of plastic. It was rigid, but far from unbreakable as Columbia and the Indestructible Record Company claimed. This surface allowed for more frequencies to be recorded.
The National Phonograph Company and the Victor Talking Machine Company both came to similar conclusions as to the best method for duplicating master recordings. This new method was much better then the method used before. Mass production of sound duplicates was now possible. Edison used wax cylinders, and Johnson used wax discs. Although Johnson had not worked for many years on sound recording like the Edison team had, he was able to improve sound recording. To come up with the perfect wax compound to record onto, Eldridge Johnson simply melted down some of Edison wax cylinders. Both inventors used an electroplating process to make a metal negative mold. This mold was used to stamp out duplicate recordings into wax discs and cylinders.
Celluloid was being used in England to make the Neophone disc which came in sizes as large as 22 inches in diameter.
Discs pressed using shellac were created by Pathe in Europe. The Pathe disc had wide grooves and were played using a large blue sapphire stylus. The playing groove started at the center and spiraled outward. Both of these discs had problems because of warping.
The Automatic Entertainer was the first Juke Box style machine. It was created by John Gabel and was produced by the Automatic Machine and Tool Company. The Automatic Entertainer had a magnetic coin detector and was run by a hand wound spring motor. Winding the motor changed the record and needle at the same time. It had twenty four ten inch records which could be chosen by turning a knob. It was encased on three sides with glass. The cabinet was over 5 feet tall with a large horn coming from the top.
The Victrola was introduced by Victor. This new machine had an internal horn. Its diameter evenly decreased from the largest end to the smallest. The unit was completely concealed and looked like a fine cabinet. The Victrola became so popular that in conversations Victrola was often used to describe any brand of Talking Machine.
The recording of ON WITH MOTLEY FROM I PAGLIACCI, by Enrico Caruso, was the first recording to sell a million copies. Enrico Caruso was an Italian opera singer. His full range of tenor was recordable. Caruso\'s music helped talking machines to be accepted into fine music stores.
Thomas Edison developed a new longer playing wax cylinder that played double the length of time, up to 4 minutes. These new Amberol cylinders were still very fragile and people had to purchase adapter kits for their older phonographs to be able to use them.
Thomas Edison introduced the Blue Amberol cylinder which had a plaster of Paris core wrapped in celluloid. The playback quality of this cylinder was very impressive. To play these new and wonderful cylinders Edison offered the latest Amberola phonograph. This phonograph resembled the Victrola in many ways.
Thomas Edison introduced his model of a disc playing phonograph, the Edison Diamond Disc Player. This phonograph had several improvements: a much smaller stylus with a precision ground diamond styli, a larger diaphragm, a heavier floating weight, and a spring driven disc turntable. The Edison Diamond Disc Player played his new 10 inch diameter discs which had a core of a highly pressed mixture of wood flour, lampblack, phenol, and hexamthylene. The surface was coated with a varnish called condensite. Condensite was an easy to mold hard plastic. The very first condensite discs suffered from surface noise but were improved upon after World War I. For volume control some of the Diamond Disc players came with a ball of cloth which could be inserted into the horn to soften the sound.
Edison introduced the Kinetophone. It was the first talking picture machine. It played large cylinders up to 7 inches long. The Kinetophone would often get out of time with the movie, causing movie watchers to complain.
The U.S. reported eighteen sound recording manufactures with a total value of more then $27,000,000.
William Gaisber recorded the sounds of World War. From the front lines he captured the sounds of artillery and exploding gas bombs bringing to light a new way of preserving history.
There were now 166 recorded sound companies competing.
Henry Stroller and Harry Pfannenstiehl worked on synchronizing recorded sound with movie playback. This system used two electric motors one for the record player and one for the film projector. The sound was recorded onto 16 inch discs called platers.
Lee De Frost introduced his sound-on-film process, The De Frost Phonofilm. His system took the sound waves and turned them into electrical impulses, then into light. The light was photographed onto the film. On playback, the photoelectric cell was able to turn the photographed light back into electrical impulses, then into sound waves.
The General Electric Company and The Western Electric Company was also working on a sound-on-film system.
With many of the new inventions being used for the telephone such as microphones, amplifiers, and electrical filters, Joseph Maxfield and H. Harrison worked on developing a system of electrical recording for Western Electric. A condenser microphone was used to change the sound into electrical currents. A vacuum tube amplifier made the currents stronger. To playback the disc the needle followed the groove within the magnetic field. The currents were amplified using a loudspeaker. The Columbia and Victor companies installed the new electrical recording system.
Joseph Maxfield and H. Harrison introduced the Orthophonic, an acoustic machine designed to play the new electrical recorded records. The records could be played on the old acoustic machines but they played much too loud and did not play back the frequency range. The Orthophonic used a coiled folded horn that was up to 6 feet long. People were amazed at their first experience at listening to electronically recorded sound on this new acoustic machine. The Orthophonic sold very well. RCA radios were installed n some of Victors phonographs. Western Electric scientists C. W. Rice and E. W. Kellog designed the electric loudspeaker. It was now possible to turn the volume up.
In 1925 Brunswick introduced the first full electric player. The diaphragm, soundbox, and hollow tone arm were now replaced by a solid moving arm with a magnetic pick up. It contained an amplifying unit, vacuum tubes, an electric turntable, and a loudspeaker.
DON JUAN was the first sound-on-disc movie released by the Vitaphone corporation. The Vitaphone corporation had been formed by the Warner Bros. and Western Electric companies. Synchronizing the sound and film still proved difficult.
Edison made available to the public the 12 inch, forty minute, long playing record.
William Fox introduced his improved sound-on-film Movietone system. He recorded the sights and sounds of the historic flight of Charles Linbergh.
THE JAZZ SINGER was released by the Vitaphone corporation. This sound-on-disc feature included synchronized background music, songs, and speech.
The Automatic Music Instrument Company produced the first electrically amplified, coin operated multiple record changer. Several companies followed in producing and improving coin-slot players.
Thomas Edison, who had started the world listening to recorded sound in 1877, now closed his recorded sound business.
Grandeur Films came up with a sound-on-film process using a wide screen; it was introduced by Fox.
Most record companies now adopted an electrical recording process.
Most major film producers were now using sound-on-film. The cost of sound-on-film recording edged out most small companies.
Blumlein obtained a patent for a stereo record cutting system. This used both a lateral and a vertical cut in the same groove. This was quickly improved on by Blumlein and Keller. They created a system to cut at a 45 degree difference known as the 45/45 system. A different channel of sound was inscribed into each side of this V shape cut. High fidelity stereo sound was now possible.
Sound was divided into three levels: low, middle, and high frequencies for a three way speaker. This was not used in home sound systems until the 1960s.
The Bell Labs and the Victor Company both developed long playing records.
A much improved method of cutting the grooves into records was invented by Bell Labs.
The RCA Victor company introduced a small electrical turntable designed to be plugged into the family radio using the radio\'s amplifier and loudspeaker. The Duo Jr. sold for $16.50. The Columbia Company sold a similar player, the Radiograph for $55.00.
The popularity of multi-record, coin-operated, record players with their strong bass and electrical amplifiers was now great.
Most dance and drink establishments across the Southern United States that did not have live entertainment had a coin-operated record player. These establishments were known as Juke joints and the record players were called Juke boxes. Over half of all records produced in the United States were now sold for use in Juke Boxes.
The Soundmirror was introduced by the Brush Development Company of Cleveland. This was a magnetic recording system that recorded onto steel tape. Bell Labs also had a magnetic recorder that used steel tape called the Mirrorphone. The playback on these systems was not as clear as disc recordings, but the recorded material could be many times longer.
Now, RCA Victor, Decca, and Columbia ARC were the three largest record companies. These companies were not only making records but were parts of larger companies, making all sorts of electrical components.
Juke boxes used about 13 million recorded discs in this year.
Through the 1930s radio had started using their own recordings called transcripts. One program would be recorded then sent to radio stations across the nation so the program could air simultaneously. Radio Advertisers soon began recording their adds so they could be played over and over on the air.
RCA Victor still sold an acoustic, compact, spring wound phonograph called the Victrola 0-10 for $9.95.
A number of court cases were won making it now possible for radio stations to play records without paying the record companies royalties. Playing commercially recorded music now become the normal radio broadcast.
During World War II records were made to be sent to the troops. These 16 inch records were called V discs. V discs contained a little of everything, from swing music to busy street sounds.
Recording of sound was used to break secret codes, record telephone messages from spies, and record intercepted enemy communications during World War II. Wire recorders were used because they were much more durable. This increased interest to improve wire recorders.
A professional magnetic tape recorder was marketed by Ampex. These were used by the American Broadcasting Company, ABC. Other companies soon followed.
Columbia introduced their new, long playing, microgroove, 33 1/3 rpm, vinyl record disc.
RCA introduced their new, long playing, microgroove, 45 rpm, vinyl record disc along with a small plastic player which could only play their 45 rpm records.
Bell Labs invented the transistor, which would replace the vacuum tubes in tape recorders, record players, and radios. This made it possible to produce much smaller systems.
The public now had four record speeds to choose from: 16, 33 1/3, 45, and 78 rpm.
Prerecorded stereo magnetic tapes were now available. Stereo tape recordings were the first stereo sound used in the home.
The Record Industry Association of America decided to make the Westrex stereo disc system as the American standard.
The first stereophonic disc records were released.
It was still possible to purchase shellac 78 rpm records although the vinyl records now dominated the market.
The four track tape cartridge with a continuous looping tape was now available for playing on 4 track tape decks installed in cars.
The first transistor record players were now for sale. Many of new systems were very compact in size. The Japanese companies Sony and Panasonic were the leaders in making smaller, portable, low priced stereos.
The Philips Company introduced the compact cassette tape cartridge although it did not take hold until five years later. The larger eight tack tape cartridge would be popular first.
The first tape cassette player available in the U.S. was a portable model made by the Norelco Company, the Carry Corder.
The Lear Jet Company created an eight track stereo tape cartridge with continuous looping tape. The Motorola Company manufactured them. The Ford Motor Company offered these as an option in their luxury cars. The RCA Company offered the prerecorded eight track tapes to consumers.
There were now over 85 cassette tape player manufacturers. Cassette tapes were convenient, small in size, and long playing, but the quality of playback still was not that of a disc record. They also made home recording simple enough for anyone to do.
The new Ray Dolby system now greatly reduced unwanted background sound on the cassette tape.
Record companies now offered their prerecorded music on both cassette tape and disc.
Sony introduced the Walkman cassette player. This player was called the Walkabout. It was a very small battery powered player with little headphones. Other major companies followed Sony into the small personal cassette player market. In the next six years, the Walkman would be much improved upon. The small personal cassette players sold by the millions.
Experimenting with digital sound started many years before the digital era began. Samuel Morse created a system of open and closed electrical circuits which sent dots and dashes. In 1926, Pulse Coded Modulation, PCM, was first patented by P. M. Rainey of Western Electric. This system was improved upon by A. H. Jeeves in 1937. During World War II even more research was done for use with sending code. The integrated circuit was invented in 1959, so now hundreds of transmitters could be placed in one semiconductor. The first PCM transmitting system was put in operation by the Bell Telephone Company in 1962. The Japanese companies Mitsubishi, Sony, and Matsushita worked to produce PCM processors that turned sound into digital code. By 1964, Philips had an experimental laser disc.
Philips was working on a digital audio disc playback system, DAD. Working with Philips, Sony developed an improved method of encoding digital sound. The PCM chip was also used. Their combined work led to the creation of the CD.
Philips now began to show their compact disc. The sound was recorded onto a small disc. The player used a laser beam to read the binary code. This all new technology provided a sound playback with no unwanted surface sound. There was no wear on the disc from playback. Up to 75 minutes of sound could be saved on a disc that was under 5 inches in diameter. The CD player allowed the listener to choose which selections to play.
The Japanese Victor company had also developed a digital sound recording system called the Audio High Density disc, AHD. This used a 10 inch disc. Standardization was needed. The new standard was awarded to the Philips and Sony style system.
The commercial sale of the new standard CD was introduced.
Ray Kurzweil and Robert Moog produced a synthesizer that could recreate almost any sound electronically. This was a musician\'s dream. It was very expensive until Japanese manufactures created less expensive models. A Yamaha DX7 was available for $2000. This was much less expensive, and could do as much. The prices continued to drop over the next few years as the units were made smaller.
The compact disc sold slowly. In 1988 CDs finally out sold vinyl records. The cassette tape was still the top seller.
Sony made DAT, Digital Audio Tape, available to the American public.
The Data Discman, a palm sized unit that could play back sound and images, was created.
Through the 1990s, the CDs and CD players became the superior standard in recording and playback of recorded sound.