The History of Vinyl

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The History of Vinyl (1)

Emile Berliner is seen as the inventor of the predecessor of the gramophone record. He replaced the phonograph roll, which had been used until then, with a wax-covered zinc plate with a groove containing the sound signal.

Until 1959, the LPs were made on the basis of shellac and the speed was standardized at 78. Usual sizes varied between 18 and 30 centimeters. The process was simple. Describing the wax layer with music, etching and playing. Obviously, the needle deflection was only to the left and right, so mono.

Improved techniques made it possible to make the groove smaller so that more songs could be put on an LP.
Colombia Records (CBS) is seen as the first company that, with the help of an invention of the Hungarian/American engineer Peter Goldmark, reduced the speed to the now most common 33 1/3 rpm. This engineer is seen as the inventor of the micro groove. This meant that the space between the groove (the pitch) could be reduced and it became possible to record between 5 and 8 songs per side.

The space between the groove varies by a trick. While cutting the master (more on this later), the cutting bit creates more space between the groove for loud passages. Shellac was fragile. If you dropped it, the record broke. So they were looking for material that was flexible, easy to work with and that produced relatively little noise during playback in terms of properties. Vinyl (Polyvinyl chloride) was discovered by accident in 1838 by Henri Victor Regnault. After some wanderings, it was Waldo Semon who in 1926 was able to plasticize the PVC by adding additives, making commercial applications possible. PVC is cheap, easy to work with and will last for years.

The first records were mono. For stereo (1958) you need two channels. Simply put, not only the movement from left to right but also up and down. The horizontal movement takes less effort than up and down. This would favor one channel over the other. For that reason, the two movements are mixed and so both channels (left and right) use both the back and forth and the up and down movement. One channel uses one flank and the other channel uses the other flank of our groove.

You can read about different speeds, further developments and (re) production on the next page (2)