Sunday, April 05, 2009


Although sound waves had been recorded by the mid 1800s, the first device to both record and reproduce sound was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877. He called his cylindrical sound-recording machine a "phonograph." This early talking machine played records made of tinfoil, upon which grooves of varying depth were cut. The sound was poor and each recording could only be played once. In 1886, an improved recording device called a "graphophone" was developed. Grooves cut on a wax-coated paper cylinder produced better sound. Although reproductive quality was improved, every cylinder had to be recorded individually. In 1887, German immigrant Emile Berliner invented a recording system called the “gramophone” which produced quality recordings that could also be used repeatedly and from which many copies of the original recording could be made. He founded the Gramophone Company to mass produce his sound discs and the machine that played them. He persuaded popular artists like Enrico Caruso to record music using his system. As his official trademark, he adopted Francis Barraud's painting of "His Master's Voice" picturing the dog Nipper. Berliner eventually sold his gramophone patent rights to the Victor Talking Machine Company, which later became RCA Victor Recording Company. Although many improvements were made to the recorded disc, by the 1990s most recording companies stopped producing records in favor of cassette tapes and compact discs.

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