Why Did The Phonograph Change Personal Entertainment

A phonograph, in its later forms also called a gramophone (as a trademark since 1887, as a generic name in the UK since 1910) or since the 1940s called a record player, is a device for the mechanical recording and reproduction of sound. The sound vibration waveforms are recorded as corresponding physical deviations of a spiral groove engraved, etched, incised, or impressed into the surface of a rotating cylinder or disc, called a “record”.

To recreate the sound, the surface is similarly rotated while a playback stylus traces the groove and is therefore vibrated by it, very faintly reproducing the recorded sound. In early acoustic phonographs, the stylus vibrated a diaphragm which produced sound waves which were coupled to the open air through a flaring horn, or directly to the listener’s ears through stethoscope-type earphones.

History of the Phonograph

The development of turntables and record players has changed throughout history. New innovations and designs allow improvements that carry forward and improve the sound quality. While modern designs look vastly different from the original photograph, you can see a reflection of the initial invention when you evaluate the history and development of the phonograph.

Early History

The original phonograph was invented and patented by Edouard-Leon Scott in 1857. He called his device the phonautograph and he patented the invention on March 25 of 1857. The initial invention made a recording of sound waves on a glass plate, but it was not able to playback the sounds.

The purpose of Edouard-Leon Scott’s invention was to evaluate acoustics rather than to playback sounds and music. After the initial development, it was changed to record sounds on a lamp-blackened paper using a drum or cylinder to hold the paper in place. It was the original phonautograph that inspired later inventions and encourages the development of the phonograph.

Thomas Edison’s Invention

In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph using a combination of the phonautograph, the telegraph, and the telephone. His goal was to transcribe messages from the telegraph to a piece of paper tape. The transcribed messages would then be in a format that allowed the individual to send out the same message repeatedly via a telegraph.
After Edison realized that his device may have other applications in relation to the telephone, he worked to develop a strategy to record sounds.

He developed a device that would use one needle to record the sounds onto a cylinder with tin foil. A second needle was used to replay the sounds via the phonograph. After working with John Kruesi to build the device, he recorded the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and then played the rhyme over the invention. Edison filed a patent for the phonograph on December 24, 1877, and the patent was issued on February 19, 1878.

Recording and Playing Sounds

The goal of the phonograph was to record sounds and then replay the sounds. Thomas Edison succeeded with his device but lost interest in the development of the device when the public lost interest in the initial invention. He stepped away from the invention and making improvements to the sound for a few years.

In 1880, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and he used the money he earned from his invention to work on new inventions and developments. He took Edison’s original phonograph and started making adjustments and changes to improve the device. A key problem with the original phonograph was the use of tin plates for the recording.

The tin wore out quickly from the rigid needle, which resulted in complications when using the tool. Alexander Graham Bell used a floating stylus to playback the sounds and music. He also started using wax instead of tin foil for the recordings, which made them more durable and long-lasting. He called the new device the graphophone.

Although the adjustments improved on the original design, Thomas Edison decided to make changes to his original invention personally. His changes focused on perfecting his invention. He then started his own company to sell the new and improved phonograph.

How do Phonographs Change Personal Entertainment?

The 19th century saw one of the most important inventions of all time: The phonograph.

Invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, the phonograph was a device made of tin-foil that played back sounds recorded on round cylinders. This gadget was not the first invention to play recorded audio, but it is considered the most reliable of previous devices.

Edison’s work on the phonograph began when he decided to create a device that would capture and playback the human voice. To do this, Edison improved inventor Scott de Martinville’s concept. Edison and Martinville knew that an artificial diaphragm could capture sounds on a physical medium, but Edison wanted to find a way to reproduce those sounds. He first used paraffin paper, then spinning tin foil-wrapped cylinder.

According to Soundrecordinghistory.net

“This recording medium enabled the reading pin to transfer previously recorded vibrations back to the diaphragm where they will be reconstructed into sound.”

To test his new invention, Edison first recorded himself reciting the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” One year after the release of the phonograph, Edison predicted, “The phonograph will undoubtedly be liberally devoted to music.”

Smithsonianmag.com says, “Even as it changed the nature of performing, the phonograph altered how people heard music.”

Prior to the invention of the phonograph, people in the mid-1800s had two options when it came to listening to music: attend a live performance or play the music themselves.

The phonograph allowed people to listen to whatever music they wanted when they wanted, where they wanted, and for as long as they wanted. People began listening to music differently, people could now analyze lyrics in depth. The phonograph was also instrumental in the development of jazz. Because of the phonograph, jazz musicians were able to learn intricate pieces by playing records over and over, studying the song until they figured out the notes.

Although the phonograph was well-received upon its release, it was not a flawless invention. The early phonograph played back sounds that were barely audible. In addition to that, it had poor sound fidelity. When it came to recording music, musicians faced many challenges.

According to Smithsonianmag.com, “Recording was physically demanding. To capture quiet passages, singers or instrumentalists would often have to stick their face right into the recording horn.”

Despite these challenges, the phonograph remained an essential part of the music industry.

As the world of music changed, so did the format of songs. The duration of songs became shorter with the invention of wax cylinders. These discs, invented by Emile Berliner, could only hold two to three minutes of audio. Composers found themselves editing their work in order for their music to fit onto these discs.

Author and University of North Carolina music professor Mark Katz says, “The three-minute pop song is basically an invention of the phonograph.”

Critics doubted the phonograph would have any commercial success. However, Edison’s invention went on to revolutionize the recorded music industry. People were able to enjoy music freely, which led to a market for buying records.

Edison’s phonograph changed the world and became his most notable invention. According to Thoughtco.com, “His products made it possible for professional quality music to be heard in any home.”

To Sum Up

The phonograph allowed people to listen to whatever music they wanted when they wanted, where they wanted, and for as long as they wanted. People began listening to music differently, people could now analyze lyrics in depth.

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