Music Technology

  • Edison demonstrates 'tin foil phonograph'

    Edison demonstrates 'tin foil phonograph'
    Thomas Edison, an American inventor, demonstrates the first working recording & playback system for the human voice known as the 'tin foil phonograph'. Alexander Graham Bell is also credited with the invetion of the first microphone in his other new invention, the telephone, though there is debate as to whether he invented it, commissioned it, or "borrowed" the idea. The first loudspeaker designs were also patented around this time.
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    Music Tech

  • Bell produces wax cylinder recorders

    Bell produces wax cylinder recorders
    Alexander Graham Bell produced the first wax cylinder recorders in this year, and Thomas Edison also adopted wax as a recording medium.
  • Berliner develops the Gramophone

    Berliner develops the Gramophone
    A German inventor by the name of Emile Berliner develops the Gramophone, which leads to the development of the 78rpm record.
  • Poulson makes the first 'wire recorder'

    Poulson makes the first 'wire recorder'
    Valdemar Poulson, an inventor from Denmark, makes the 'telegraphone;, the first wire recorder. As electronic amplification has not been invented at this point, and the machine is primitive, sound quality is inferior ro the gramophone developed earlier and there is little commercial interest in the device.
  • Pianola or Player Piano invented

    Pianola or Player Piano invented
    A variation on the Fairground Organ, the Pianola uses compressed air supplied by a bellows powered by pedals. The rolls of music were 'recorded' by real and often famous musicians, so the playback was just like having that person playing your piano. The thinking behind this type of recording is closely related to the way MIDI files work today.
  • Invention of the triode valve

    Invention of the triode valve
    Developed by American Lee de Forest, the triode valve is used to build the first electronic amplifiers. Prior to this all amplification of sound was mechanical. Using valve amplifiers, microphones couldbe used to drive disc cutting heads to produce records, and singers could be fed to loudspeakers instead of singing into 4-5m long megaphones.
  • Forest combines triode valve and wire recorder

    Forest combines triode valve and wire recorder
    Although the combination of these two were a technical success, the device was not so successful commercially. The fast speed of the wire (7ft per second in some cases) meant that large impractical spools were required. Although some useable machines were produced, the sound quality was poor.
  • 78 rpm shellac records

    78 rpm shellac records
    After years of records running at different speeds depending on the record company that produced them, the industry agreed on a standard speed of 78rpm.
  • Pfleumer patents coating tape

    Pfleumer patents coating tape
    German Fritz Pfleumer patents a method of coating paper tape with magnetic particles.
  • Rickenbacker & Beauchamp market first electric guitars

    Rickenbacker & Beauchamp market first electric guitars
    In this year Adolph Rickenbacker and George Beauchamp market the first electric guitars fitted with electric pickups.
  • Pfleumer & AEG produce first viable tape recorder

    Pfleumer & AEG produce first viable tape recorder
    This development was adopted by the German radio authorities in 1938 and was used by the Germans to broadcats propaganda during the war. Around the same time AEG and BASF produced the first plastic recording tapes. Laurens Hammond produced the Hammond Organ. Using tonewheels driven by an electric motor, it is an electric instrument rather than an electronic one. Originally produced as a substitute for church organs, it soon found a place in jazz, gospel, and rock music.
  • Pulse Code Modulation

    Pulse Code Modulation
    Pulse-code modulation (PCM), a method used to digitally represent sampled analog signals, is described by British engineer Alec Reeves. PCM is used to encode audio data in all modern equipment.
  • The Age of the Transistor

    The Age of the Transistor
    The invention of the germanium transistor by employees of Bell Telephone Laboratories would change the world of music technology. Transistors are much more robust than valves, have much lower operating voltages and waste less energy as heat. Les Paul modifies an Ampex tape recorder allowing him to record overdubs. "Lover" is the first example of a multitrack recording as we know it today. Les Paul also made the first recordings using 'close mic' techniques.
  • 12 inch LP vinyl

    12 inch LP vinyl
    Columbia Records introduces the 33rpm 12 inch LP vinyl record, moving away from shellac as the material of choice due to it being more fragile and breakable.
  • 7 inch "single" record

    7 inch "single" record
    Introduced by RCA Victor, the 45rpm 7 inch record is most often used to release singles.
  • EMT introduces plate reverb

    EMT introduces plate reverb
    In this electro-mechanical device an audio signal is sent to a transducer (rather like a loudspeaker without the paper cone) attached to a large metal plate, which is suspended on elastic mounts. Transducers on the plate pick up the modified sound and convert it back into an electronic signal. Sony produced the first pocket transistor radio this year. Leo Fender invented the Stratocaster, the first commerically available solid bodied electric guitar.
  • Stereo tape recordings appear

    Stereo tape recordings appear
  • First Drum Machine

    First Drum Machine
    The first ever drum machine, the Side Man, is produced by Wurlitzer as an accompaniment to their organs. It uses an all-tube design, as even the sound generating circuits are tube-based.
  • EMI ceases 78rpm production

    EMI ceases 78rpm production
    EMI ceased producing records in 78rpm format, though other companies continued to make them into the 1970's, often for childrens songs.
  • Love Me Do

    Love Me Do
    The Beatles release Love Me Do in mono.
  • Mk1 Mellotron

    Mk1 Mellotron
    The MK 1 Mellotron is the first keyboard instrument to use the sound of real instruments. This was achieved by recording real instruments playing individual notes onto tape, cutting the taped notes into 8 second lengths, and mounting them on a rack inside the Mellotron - one taped note under each key. When a key is pressed, the tape engages the playback mechanism and the sound plays back. The Mellotron can be heard on the Beatles 'Strawberry Fields Forever' where it is used for the flute sounds.
  • Birth of the Compact Cassette

    Birth of the Compact Cassette
    Philips produces the first Compact Cassette. Until this point all tapes had been the reel-to-reel type which is not very robust or portable.
  • Dolby A noise reduction

    Dolby A noise reduction
    Developed by Dolby Laboratories, Dolby A noise reduction is introduced to remove the inherent noise generated by all tapes on playback. Type A is a professional studio format and works by splitting the audio into 5 separate frequency bands, then applying noise reduction to each band individually. Robert Moog shows elements of his early synthesizers. These would form the basis of the Moog Modular synthesizer, and eventually the classic MiniMoog.
  • Dolby B noise reduction

    Dolby B noise reduction
    A cut-down and much less expensive version of Dolby A, this NR systemn was designed for use on domestic cassette recorders.
  • The first digital delay line

    The first digital delay line
    Lexicon introduces the first digital delay line. A delay is used for producing echo effects, although it was originally (and is still) used for canceling the delay heard in large PA systems where the front and rear speakers are some distance apart.
  • Microprocessor Age

    Microprocessor Age
    The microprocessor CPU is invented. Until now all electronic equipment has used discrete components to do particular jobs. Microprocessors can be programmed to perform any number of tasks. This results in lower manufacturing costs, as equipment no linger needs specialised components.
  • Digital reverb

    Digital reverb
    EMT produces the first digital reverb.
  • The Age of Portables

    The Age of Portables
    This is the year Sony first introduced the Walkman to the world, the first massively popular portable cassette player. Tascam also introduced the Portastudio, an affordable 4 track cassette recorder/mixer. The Australian Fairlight company produced the CMI or Computer Musical Instrument (normally referred to as the Fairlight). This instrument was capable of digital sampking using 8-bit technology, 32k memory and a 5.25 inch floppy disc for storage.
  • First digital recorders

    First digital recorders
    3M, Sony, Mitsubishi and Studer all introduced their first model of digital recorder this year. EMT produced the model 450, which was a digital recorder that used a hard-disk.
  • Launch of CD

    Launch of CD
    Philips and Sony launch the first digital Compact Disc players into the market after first demonstrating them in 1980. MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is standardised as the universal synthesizer interface.
  • Fiber-optics

    Fiber-optics
    Fiber-optic cable is used for long-distance digital audio transmission, linking New York and Washington, D.C.
  • Apple Macintosh

    Apple Macintosh
    Apple introduces the first version of its Macintosh computer, the first personal computer to come with a mouse and a Graphical User Interface.
  • Spectral Recording

    Spectral Recording
    Dolby introduces the "SR" Spectral Recording system. Designed for professional studio mastering systems, SR allows for greater headroom and the practical elimination of the influence of noise and non-linearity on the reproduced sound.
  • Sound Tools

    Sound Tools
    Digidesign markets "Sound Tools", a Macintosh-based digital workstation using Digital Audio Tape as its source and storage medium. This software was the precursor to the widely-known Pro Tools used in the modern day.
  • Surround Sound, ISDN & CD-R

    Surround Sound, ISDN & CD-R
    Dolby proposes a 5-channel surround-sound scheme for home theatre systems which will become known as Dolby Digitsal, replacing their analog Dolby Pro Logic system. Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) telephone links are offered for high-end studio use, allowing much better digital transmission of data.
    Write-once CD-R discs become a commercial reality, though it will be many years before they become cheap and popular.
  • Digital Modelling, ADAT, & QuickTime

    Digital Modelling, ADAT, & QuickTime
    Wolfgang Ahnert presents, in a binaural simulation, the first digitall enhanced modeling of an acoustic space. Alesis unveils the ADAT, the first "affordable" digital multitrack recorder. Apple debuts its QuickTime multimedia format.
  • DCC & MiniDisc

    DCC & MiniDisc
    Two competing formats, the Digital Compact Cassette from Philips and the MiniDisc from Sony, are offered to consumers as record/play hardware and software. These are the first to use digital audio data-reduction.
  • Distance Recording

    Distance Recording
    In the first extensive use of "distance recording" via ISDN, producer Phil Ramone records the "Duets" album with Frank Sinatra. Mackie also unveil the first "affordable" 8-bus analog console in this year.
  • Yamaha's ProMix 01

    Yamaha's ProMix 01
    Yamaha unveils its ProMix 01, the first "affordable" digital multitrack console.
  • Solid-state recording & Jaz/Zip drives

    Solid-state recording & Jaz/Zip drives
    The first "solid-state" audio recorder, the Nagra ARES-C, is introduced. It is a battery-operated field unit recording on PCMCIA cards using MPEG-2 audio compression. Iomega debuts high-capacity "Jaz" and "Zip" drives, useful as removable storage media for hard-disk recording.
  • Birth of MP3

    Birth of MP3
    MP3 is an audio=-specific format designed by the Moving Picture Experts Group to encode compressed audio. While it is a lossy format, the size of most computer hard drives at the time (between 500-1000 megabytes on verage) means the much smaller file size from the uncompressed audio file is very useful for consumers storing large amounts of songs on their computer.
  • Enhanced CDs & Experimental Recording

    Enhanced CDs & Experimental Recording
    Record labels begin to add multimedia files to new releases, calling then "enhanced CDs". Experimental digital recordings are made at 24 bits and 96kHz.
  • Arrival of DVD

    Arrival of DVD
    DVD video discs and players are introduced, eventually killing off home video tape recorders as the medium of preference for home cinema. An audio version with 6-channel surround sound is expected to eventually supplant the CD as the chosen playback medium in the home. It never does.
  • Five Continents & MP3 Players

    Five Continents & MP3 Players
    The Winter Olympics open with a performance of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", played and sung by synchronising live audio feeds from five different continents with an orchestra and conductor at the Olympic stadium in Nagano, Japan, using satellite audio and ISDN technology. MP3 players for downloaded internet audio go on sale, the first being the MPMan from SaeHan Information Systems, a South Korean company.
  • File-sharing, DVD-A & SACD

    File-sharing, DVD-A & SACD
    Super Audio CD (developed by Sony) and DVD-Audio discs go on sale, aiming to replace CDs as the preferred format for music. Napster, an online service that allows internet users to share files, launches and is responsible for a rise in music piracy. So begins the file-sharing explosion.
  • Death of Napster

    Death of Napster
    After years of litigation, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) finally succeeds in closing down the file-sharing service Napster for copyright infringement.