History of Sound

  • Period: to

    Acoustic Era

  • First Sound Recording Device

    At his Menlo Park laboratory, Thomas Edison invented the first machine that could record sound. It involved the use of imprinting tinfoil which could be read later by using the same machine.
  • Experimental disc Phonograph

    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.
  • Patent Opens

    The patent opens giving other inventors the chance to improve Thomas Edison's design of the phonograph.
  • Alaxander Graham recieved Patents

    Alexander Graham Bell, Chichester Bell, and Charles Tainter of the Volta laboratory obtained several patents for a commercial talking machine called a graphaphone. The stylus for the graphaphone was more of a cutting tool and the tinfoil was replaced with more durable wax cylinders.
  • Improved Phonograph

    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.
  • Improve Gramophone

    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.
  • First Disc

    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.
  • Phongraph Company

    Thomas Edison set up the National Phonograph Company.
    Eldridge Johnson created a smooth running quiet spring motor for the Berliner Gramophone Company.
  • Home Talking Machine

    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.
  • Patent on Magnetic Recording System

    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.
  • Magnetic Recording System

    Valdemar Poulsen obtained the first patent on a magnetic recording system. This new system was the first glimpse of a tape recorder.
  • Smallest Phonograph yet

    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.
  • Cheap & New Phonograph

    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.
  • Celluloid Recording

    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.
  • 1 Million Copies!

    The recording of ON WITH MOTLEY FROM I PAGLIACCI, by Enrico Caruso, was the first recording to sell a million copies.
  • Longer CD

    Thomas Edison developed a new longer playing wax cylinder that played double the length of time, up to 4 minutes.
  • Increased Quality

    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.
  • Pricey Sound Recordings

    The U.S. reported eighteen sound recording manufactures with a total value of more then $27,000,000.
  • Sounds Of War

    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.
  • Electrical Era

    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.
  • Period: to

    Electrical Era

  • First Sound-On-Disc Movie

    DON JUAN was the first sound-on-disc movie released by the Vitaphone corporation.
  • Improved Record

    Edison made available to the public the 12 inch, forty minute, long playing record.
  • Thomas Edison closed his sound business

    Thomas Edison, who had started the world listening to recorded sound in 1877, now closed his recorded sound business.
  • Transition

    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.
  • Stereo Sound!

    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.
  • More Improvement!

    A much improved method of cutting the grooves into records was invented by Bell Labs.
  • Upgrade!

    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.
  • Juke Player Popularity

    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.
  • Soundmirror

    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.
  • Commercial Expansion

    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.
  • Free Music! Sort of...

    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.
  • Spying with 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.
  • Tape Recording Device

    A professional magnetic tape recorder was marketed by Ampex. These were used by the American Broadcasting Company, ABC.
  • Multiple Record Speeds

    The public now had four record speeds to choose from: 16, 33 1/3, 45, and 78 rpm.
  • Stereo Tapes

    Prerecorded stereo magnetic tapes were now available. Stereo tape recordings were the first stereo sound used in the home.
  • Standards!

    The Record Industry Association of America decided to make the Westrex stereo disc system as the American standard.
  • Vinyl Domination

    It was still possible to purchase shellac 78 rpm records although the vinyl records now dominated the market.
  • Tiny Stereos

    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.
  • Cassette Tapes

    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.
  • Anti Background Noise

    The new Ray Dolby system now greatly reduced unwanted background sound on the cassette tape.
  • Discs and Cassettes

    Record companies now offered their prerecorded music on both cassette tape and disc.
  • Walkman on the Market

    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.
  • Period: to

    Digital Era

  • Compact Disc!

    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.
  • CD Commercialized

    The commercial sale of the new standard CD was introduced.
  • Expensive Synthesizer

    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.
  • CD's outsell Vinyls

    The compact disc sold slowly. In 1988 CDs finally out sold vinyl records. The cassette tape was still the top seller.
  • Sony Creates the DAT

    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.