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A Skelding Summary

You are in a record shop - and you want the latest album? It might be by Alanis Morisette...Memenem
It might even be both...
Whatever taste you have in music there will be something there to cater for it.

If you really wanted a treat - you could ask for the first bit of music ever recorded. And you would hear:- 'Mary had a little lamb - its fleece was white as snow' This song was recorded by Thomas Alva Edison in 1877 using the first ever sound recording technique that he invented - the cylinder. What Edison did was bellow down a horn onto a diaphragm causing it to vibrate (a technique emulated by some heavy metal singers subsequently). These vibrations were transmitted to a stylus which imprinted the sound waves on the surface of a cylinder covered in wax. Once done, the stylus could replay the recorded sound on these grooves - converting it back to sound. This way you got one aural experience. It must be said that Edison was no Nat King Cole.

Edison's technique was significantly improved in 1887 when Emil Berliner transposed these sounds onto a flat disc rather than a cylinder. These discs could then be copied as "records" and then played on a machine which Berliner christened "The Gramophone".

Early records however were dogged by poor sound quality and very brief playing times. 1915 saw the advent of the 78rpm (revolutions per minute) record which allowed less than 5 minutes playing time per side. Even the introduction of the Long Playing (LP) Record by CBS in 1948 and its 33.3rpm allowed 30 minutes worth of time on each side. Though an improvement larger classical works such as Opera could not be recorded in their entirety. The 45rpm "single" allowing up to 8 minutes per side was introduced by RCA at the same time and represents a milestone in the recording of pop music. By the early 1950s the 78s were as dead as a dodo - and the development of stereo by 1958 had improved matters further.

Music Tapes date back to the 1890s when sound waves could be stored on magnetised steel wire. Magnetic tapes were developed in the 1920s - yet did not begin to make even a slight commercial impact until 1945 when people needed cheering up after the war.

As early as 1923 it was discovered that sound waves could be translated into flickers of light and then photographed on a strip of film. If this film was passed between a light source and photoelectric cell - the images on the strip would be converted back into sound waves made audible through loud speakers. This was the forerunner of the Compact Disc developed in the 1970s and the main music medium of the past decade. Its lazer is Edison's stylus, optical images and light its groove.

For those with old fashioned 78s - they are becoming collectible memorabilia. The others are having a job keeping up with the explosion of media and artistes.  After Sony's failure with the Betamax they decided to buy the music business, that is the majority of artists through all the record labels that they now own that way...who knows?

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This FAQ (frequently asked questions) is also a running Q&A (questions & Answers) so you can ask and we will answer or find out for you.

Index of things

Histories of Things
By Laurence Skelding

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