These days there are DVDs, CDs, MP3s, and the web for all our musical needs. However, none of these would have been possible if it weren't for the invention of the record player, one of the most important components of entertainment electronics ever. It was so cutting edge that following its invention in 1877, almost 100 years went by prior to it was replaced by new technology. And still today, record players have a classic musical feel that makes them very well liked by music listeners worldwide. Today, when someone thinks of a record player, it is often the Technics or perhaps the Crosley Record Player that comes to mind. Yet more than 100 years ago, the name which was of most importance was Thomas Edison.
Back in 1877, Edison produced what he called the phonograph. Edison's very first records were manufactured on tinfoil. These records featured a spiral groove which went up and down the surface. A hand-cranked appliance which had a pin, or stylus, was used to read the grooves vibrating based on the texture. This was eventually referred to as the hill-and-dale method. The vibrations would run up the needle, along a metal tube, all the way to a large speaker. The speakers would magnify the vibrations into more audible sound.
When Thomas Edison finished his creation, he was much more interested in its various scientific purposes rather than what it could do musically. This left further developments to other scientists.
A decade later, Emile Berliner developed the disk record, and patented it in 1896. Berliner's design was based on Edison's, but rather than using the hill-and-dale method, where the grooves went up and down, his method, the varying lateral direction method, featured textures on the sides of the grooves. The varying later direction (VLD) became popular instantly, and very soon Edison's original hill-and-dale method was left behind.
Soon, mass production of disk records became possible when Emile Berliner invented the matrix record. This master copy allowed for duplicate records to be pressed forever. At this time, record players were still running off of the power of the hand crank. But with the late nineteenth century came the use of electricity. Then soon after the electronic record player was announced. Unlike the hand-turned players which could range in speed based on the strength of the operator, electric record players provided consistent speed. This resulted in zero variation in the tempo of the music that was played.
Eventually, record players grew to be so trendy that entire families would hang out around them in order to enjoy quality entertainment. Early versions of the previous-song and skip-song features of today's MP3 and CD players were also made during this time period. In order to select which song was to play, people would place the stylus in one of the blank grooves located between the textured ones. For many years, the record player dominated households all over the world.
With the advent of the 70s came tape decks and 8-track players, and soon thereafter, records and their players had some competition. However, when DJ-ing became popular in clubs and at parties, the turntable remained strong.
These days, although many people are listening to their music through digital formats, vinyl records maintain a nostalgia, and there are still plenty of people who own and play them. The Crosley Record Player line of electronics features new models that are styled to look like the turntables of old. These Crosley record players will surely carry on the vinyl tradition into the next generations.