The vinyl record, often simply referred to as “vinyl,” is an iconic symbol of sound and music culture that has captivated music enthusiasts worldwide for decades. Its history dates back to a fascinating era of invention and the genius of its creators. In the first article of this series, we will journey back in time to explore the history of the vinyl record’s invention, its early applications, and its evolution over the years.

The Pre-Vinyl Era

The history of the vinyl record begins in the late 19th century, when the technology for recording and playing back sound began to develop. A pivotal moment in this history occurred in 1877 when Thomas Edison patented the phonograph, a device capable of recording and playing back sound engraved on a wax cylinder surface using a stylus.

„Speech has become, as it were, immortal”
Thomas Edison

However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that Emile Berliner‘s invention, a flat disc with grooves made of wax resembling the modern vinyl record, made its debut. This new format proved to be more practical than the cylindrical records, with easier storage and production, making it more appealing to a mass audience.

On November 8, 1887, the U.S. Patent Office approved Berliner’s patent for the gramophone, and a year later, he established the world’s first phonographic company, naming it The Berliner Gramophone Company.

Emile Berliner i jego gramofon.
Emile Berliner and his gramophone.

Technological and material evolution

In the 1920s, the material used to make vinyl records underwent a significant change. Wax was replaced with a more durable substance known as shellac, which improved recording quality and sound. Shellac was a resin derived from the lac insect, scientifically known as Kerria lacca. It can certainly be called the “gramophone insect.”

Kerria lacca is a species of insect from the Kerriidae family, the secretion of which was used to produce shellac.

In the 1940s, the first vinyl records made of plastic revolutionized the music industry. The Interwar Period also witnessed the rise of phonographs and phonographic accessories as vinyl record popularity grew alongside advancing sound playback technology.

Early Applications of the Vinyl Record

Initially, vinyl records were primarily used for educational and commercial purposes. Musical recordings were just one of many uses for this medium. Vinyl records served as tools for language learning, information storage, and historical event documentation. However, in the 1930s and 1940s, commercial music recordings on vinyl records began to appear, especially in genres such as jazz and classical music.

It is important to note that vinyl records’ ground-breaking sound quality helped them become the dominant music medium. This unparalleled quality was incomparable to earlier technologies, earning the loyalty of music enthusiasts.

Summary

The first part of our “History of the Vinyl Record” series has transported us to the early days of its inception. In subsequent articles, we will continue our journey into the past to explore the golden age of vinyl, production technologies, and the impact this medium had on music culture.

The vinyl record is a medium that has withstood the test of time and continues to enjoy popularity among music lovers. Its history is full of fascinating events, and this is only the beginning of our discovery of the vinyl record phenomenon.

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