History of Vinyl Records
Vinyl records have been a staple of music history for over a century. From the early days of shellac records to the resurgence of vinyl in recent years, these flat discs with microgrooves have captured the hearts of music lovers everywhere. In honor of National Vinyl Record Day, let’s take a journey through the history of vinyl records, complete with a timeline and fun facts.
First, let’s define what a vinyl record is. A vinyl record is a type of material used to store recorded sound. It is a flat disc with microgrooves running around the top (and often also the bottom) of the record. These microgrooves contain the music. When placed on a record player, the disc begins spinning, and a needle (also known as a stylus) is lowered into the grooves. The needle sits in the grooves and follows them around the record, playing the sound contained in the grooves.
The material composition of vinyl records is what gives them their name. Records today are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), hence the nickname “vinyl.” Polyvinyl chloride can be of many different colors, which is why you might see some colored vinyl in your record-collecting adventures. However, the earliest records invented were made from shellac, so these would technically just be records and not vinyl records.
Shellac records were the standard for most of the early 20th century, but their production decreased during World War II due to the shortage of shellac. As a result, records started being pressed more frequently on vinyl. Shellac records eventually stopped being made around 1960, due to their fragility and heavier weight compared to vinyl. Although vinyl records are more prone to warping and scratches, they are considered a better material because they have less audio feedback.
Records come in various sizes, with the most common sizes being 12″, 10″, and 7″ records. Most albums are recorded on 12-inch records, and most singles are recorded on 7-inch records. Records are also made with different revolutions per minute (RPMs). The most common RPMs are 331⁄3, 45, and 78. You can usually tell the RPM of a record by looking at the label, and most modern record players have multiple RPM settings.
Now let’s take a look at the timeline of events that make up the history of vinyl records. In 1857, Léon Scott patented the Phonautograph invented by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville. The Phonautograph was a device that could record sound and make a printout of the sound waves but could not play them back. However, this invention laid the foundation for future developments in sound recording and playback.
In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, which used a cylinder as the medium for recording sound. It was not until 1889 that Emile Berliner invented the first record player that used a flat disc as the medium for recording sound, which was the start of the vinyl record as we know it today.
The history of vinyl records is a fascinating chapter in the story of music. From the early days of shellac records to the resurgence of vinyl in recent years, these flat discs have captured the hearts of music lovers everywhere. Whether you’re a record collector or just a music enthusiast, it’s important to remember the role that vinyl records have played in shaping the music industry.