Monday, November 21, 2011

The Phonograph Record Player

“Took down some panel fence to get ready for plowing about five acres for oats.  Got the fence done about half past two and started the plow.  Got the headland nearly plowed. Has been a cold raw day.”

Thomas Edison with his second phonograph photographed by Matthew Brady in Washington, April 1878
The phonograph record player, or gramophone (letter + sound) is a device introduced in 1877 that has had continued common use for reproducing (playing) sound recordings, although when first developed, the phonograph was used to both record and reproduce sounds. The recordings played on such a device generally consist of wavy lines that are either scratched, engraved, or grooved onto a rotating cylinder or disc. As the cylinder or disc rotates, a needle or other similar object on the device traces the wavy lines and vibrates, reproducing sound waves.
The phonograph was invented in 1877 by Thomas Alva Edison at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, USA. On February 19, 1878, Edison was issued the first patent (U.S. patent #200,521) for the phonograph. While other inventors had produced devices that could record sounds, Edison's phonograph was the first to be able to reproduce the recorded sound. (In announcing the demonstration, Scientific American noted that the non-reproducing devices that preceded Edison's had been built by Marey and Rosapelly, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville and Barlow.) Although Edison began experimenting on the phonograph using wax coated paper as a recording medium, his phonograph recorded sound onto a tinfoil sheet phonograph cylinder. Alexander Graham Bell's Volta Laboratory made several improvements in the 1880s, including the use of wax-coated cardboard cylinders, and a cutting stylus that moved from side to side in a "zig zag" pattern across the record. Then at the turn of the century, Emile Berliner initiated the transition from phonograph cylinders to gramophone records: flat, double-sided discs with a spiral groove running from the periphery to near the center. Other improvements were made throughout the years, including modifications to the turntable and its drive system, the needle and stylus, and the sound and equalization systems.
The gramophone record was one of the dominant audio recording formats throughout much of the 20th Century. However, that status was eventually replaced by the compact disc and other digital recording formats

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