Monday, March 21, 2016

A Brief History of Recorded Music Or, It Wasn't Always Digital

Timeline of Recorded Sound Firsts:
  • 1840s  Player pianos*
Have you ever heard of a Player Piano?
Here is a player piano, playing The Sound of Music. It gives you a close look at the keys doing their thing and how the paper roll moves, how the words are printed off to one side. A different kind of Karaoke...
  • 1877    Phonograph using a cylinder (Thomas Edison)
Very cool vid showing some history, and how a cylinder was used by Edison:

A video of the oldest recording made in 1860 by a Frenchman and recently recovered using modern technology--this recording was made by 'burning' sound waves onto paper! :

  • 1894    Gramophone records
  • 1898    Wire recording
  • 1919    Sound on film
  • 1925    Cut records
Records were originally made to play at 78 rpm (revolutions per minute) and were made of a brittle, breakable, material called 'shellac.'
  • 1940s  Reel-to-reel tape recording

  • 1947    Dictabelts
These were vinyl belts used in offices: Someone could dictate a letter and the sound would 'record' onto the belt. A typist would take the belt and put it into a machine to hear and type up what was said.

  • 1948   LP (Long Playing) record on vinyl
These were played on a record player: the records had a hole in the center. You would place the record on the spindle of the turntable, turn the player on, and set the arm on the record. The arm had a needle in it which sent the sound to the speakers. The record player usually had three speeds: 33-1/3, 45, and 78 for very old records.

An album (record) would have songs on both sides, and played at 33 1/3 rpm. They cost about $5.00. However, keep in mind a teen's allowance might be $5 a month. While thinner than shellac and not easy to break, vinyl records warp easily from heat: if you kept them in the sun or close to a heat source, they will curve out of shape, which ruins the sound.

  • 1949   45 rpm record
These were singles, one song on either side. They cost about $1.00. They played at 45 rpm. You had to put an adapter in the center hole because it was too large to go on the spindle without it.
Adapter for 45s

This is what a record looks like when it's being played: The needle on the arm of the player is 'traveling' along the grooves of the record towards the hole in the middle. Hence, probably, the term "groovy."

In the 80s, DJs would usually have two players going at once and then move the turntable by hand to achieve the 'scratchy' sound popular at that time:

All recordings made by etching are actually one continuous spiral, whether on a cylinder or a vinyl record.

  • 1958   Tape cartridge
  • 1963    Tape cassette
  • 1964    8 track tape

  • 1967    Mini Cassette
  • 1982    CD (Compact Disc)
  • 2004    USB Flash Drive
Here is what a sound wave looks like when a computer analyzes it:
People buy about an equal amount of their music by download (such as ITunes) as they do actual CDs, about 11 million of each per year. We are also just listening to music online more and buying less of either type of music.

To learn how noise affects your hearing, see Triogenius April 6, 2015 (to your right in the Archives)

Some Happy music because it makes people want to dance........

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