For some 100 years humanity has gone the way from the phonograph to the compact disc. It was a fascinating journey, during which have repeatedly appeared new, more sophisticated recording device/playback of the sound.

From cylinder to disc

Interestingly, the first recording device and sound reproduction was similar to the mechanisms of music boxes. And those in other used a roller (cylinder), and then the disk, which rotates, has made possible audio reproduction.

But it all started not even with music boxes, and… the bell chimes. Here, namely, in the Flanders town of Melehan, from the XIV century learned to pee chromatically tuned bells. Together, they were connected with a wire transmission with the keyboard, like the organ and this music design called Carillon. By the way, in French, sounds like Melehan Malin – that’s where the term “crimson bells.”

The human mind was not on the spot, and very soon the Carillon began to equip the above-mentioned cylinders, the surface of which a particular order was placed the pins. These pins are hitched or hammers that hit the bells, or bell clappers. At the end of the XVIII century roller with protrusions was used in smaller devices, music boxes, where instead of the bells began to use chromatically tuned combs with metal plates. In the XIX century the center of production of music box with a clockwork mechanism was Switzerland. In 1870, a German inventor has decided to use a roller instead of the disk, marking the beginning of widespread popularity of boxes with interchangeable discs.

Music box with interchangeable disk.

However, a variety of mechanical musical mechanisms (boxes, snuff boxes, watches, orchestrion, etc.) have not been able to give humanity the main thing – to make possible the reproduction of the human voice. For this task in the second half of the nineteenth century took the best minds of the Old and New world, and in this correspondence the race was won by the American Thomas Alva Edison (Thomas Alva Edison).

However, it is impossible not to recall the Frenchman Charles CROs (Charles Cros), who was also a man gifted and multi-talented. He was (and not without success) literature, automatic Telegraph, the problems of color photography and even “possible ties to the planets”. 30 April, 1877 CROs, has submitted to the French Academy of Sciences description of the apparatus for recording and playback of speech – “Pelephone”. The Frenchman offered to use not only the “cushion”, but also “disc with a spiral record.” Only here for a sponsor for his invention of the CRO was not found.

Very different events unfolded on the other side of the ocean. Edison himself had so described the moment when he was visited by a truly brilliant idea: “Once, when I was still working on improving the phone, I began to sing above the diaphragm of the telephone, to which was soldered a steel needle. Due to the jitter of the plate, the needle pricked my finger, and it got me thinking. If it were possible to record these fluctuations of the needle, and then again to hold the needle on a record, why the record not to talk?”

As usual, Edison did not hesitate and started to create a hitherto unseen device. In the same 1877, when Charles CROs described a “peleton”, Edison gave his mechanic John Cruz drawing simple devices, the Assembly of which he estimated at $ 18. However, the assembled unit became the world’s first “talking machine,” Edison loudly sang into the horn popular English nursery rhyme: “Mary had a little lamb” (“Marie had a little lamb”), and the device reproduced “heard”, albeit with a lot of static.

The phonograph.

The principle of the phonograph, Edison was dubbed his creation, based on the transmission of sound vibrations of the voices on the surface of a revolving cylinder covered with tin foil. Vibrations were applied with the edge of the steel needle, one end of which was connected to a steel membrane, trapping the sounds. The cylinder had to be rotated manually with a frequency of one revolution per second.

Work with phonograph started on July 18 of 1877, as recorded in the book of laboratory records the Edison. December 24 was the patent was filed, and on February 19, 1878, Edison received a patent number 200521.

To say that the phonograph made international sensation – to say nothing. However, the design of the phonograph did not allow to obtain high-quality playback, although Edison himself for many years after you create the first phonograph was made in device improvement. Perhaps Edison would need to focus on building (or upgrading) other apparatus of sound recording for the phonograph (and Griffon development Bella (Bell) and Tainter (Taynter) was a dead end in the development of the industry of recording/playback of sound. However, Edison too loved his phonograph for its uniqueness because of the presence in our lives more convenient audio environments we owe the American inventor of German origin – Emil Berliner (Berliner Emile), immensely moved apart horizons audio recording. Of course, Berliner did not invent the modern CD, but it was he who in 1887 received a patent for the invention of the gramophone, in which the audio media has been used records.


Berliner moved to the United States in 1870, where, incidentally, got a job at the telephone company and Alexander Graham bell patented his carbon microphone. Familiar with the device and the phonograph, and graphophone, he nevertheless appeals to the idea of disk usage, which, as we already know, was successfully buried by the French Academy of Sciences. In the machine called the gramophone, Berliner used a glass disk covered in soot, which was carried out lateral entry. September 26, 1887, Berliner received on phonograph patent, and on may 16 of the following year demonstrated a device in Franklinesque Institute in Philadelphia.

Very soon, Berliner refuses to drive with soot and resorted to the method of acid etching. Now the disk was taken zinc coated with a thin layer of wax. The record was scratched with iridium tip, after which the disk was subjected to etching in 25% chromic acid. Less than half an hour had groove depth of about 0.1 mm, then the disk was washed by acid and used for the purpose.

The merit of the action against him was also that he realized the need to copy records from the original (matrix). The possibility of copying of audio recordings is a cornerstone of all modern recording industry. In this direction, the Berliner worked very hard. First, in 1888, he created the first gramophone record-a copy of celluloid Heat which is now in the National library of Washington. But celluloid disks was stored badly and wore out quickly, because Berliner tries to other materials, particularly, glass, bakelite and ebonite. In 1896, Berliner applies in the plate a mixture of shellac, spar and carbon black. Shellac a lot and the process of pressing records for Berliner developed Louis Rosenthal (Rosenthal Louis) from Frankfurt. This time the quality is granted to the inventor and is similar to shellac mass was used to create the records prior to 1946.

Amazingly, the shellac was frozen resin of organic origin, in the formation of which involved insects of the family of the Lac insect. But even shellac mass was far from perfect: the records of it were heavy, fragile and thick.

Simultaneously, Berliner had worked on improving the gramophone, realizing that it is necessary to increase the number of fans record and, thereby, a market. In 1897 Berliner and Eldridge Johnson (Eldridge Johnson) opened in the United States the world’s first factory for the production of records and gramophones “Victor Talking Machine Co.”. Then, in the UK, Berliner creates the company “E. Berliner’s Gramophone Co.” By the beginning of 1902 the company enterprising inventor implemented over four million records!


Progress has not bypassed and Russia in 1902 and equipment of the company Berliner was made eight first recordings of the legendary Russian singer Fyodor Shalyapin.

However, the gramophone has not escaped radical modernization – in 1907, an employee of the French company “pate”, Gillon Kemmler (Kemmler) decided to place a bulky mouthpiece inside the gramophone. The new devices were called “gramophones” (the name of the manufacturer) and considerably facilitates its portability. Subsequently (starting from 50-ies of XX century) gramophones were replaced by more sophisticated electromyographically, which were played easy and practical vinyl discs.

Vinyl is made of polymeric material vinilit (in the USSR – from PVC). The playback speed has dropped from 78 to 33 1/3 rpm and duration – half an hour for one side. This standard has become the most popular, though widely circulated, had records in other formats, in particular, with a speed of 45 revolutions per minute (called rotation).

Magnetic recording as an alternative

The ability to convert acoustic waves into electromagnetic was proved by Oberlin Smith (Oberlin Smith) set down the principle of magnetic recording on a steel wire in 1888. Here is also not without Thomas Edison, for experiments with magnetic recording, Smith was inspired by a visit to the famous laboratory of Edison.

But only in 1896 the Danish engineer Valdemar Poulsen (Valdemar Poulsen) managed to create a workable device called telegrafo. As a carrier was made by steel wire. Patent telegraphon was issued to Poulsen in 1898.


The basic principle of analog audio recording by magnetizing the carrier has since remained unchanged. At the recording head, along which a constant speed is medium (later they became more comfortable tape), the signal from the amplifier, in the end, the medium is magnetized in accordance with the sound signal. When playing media is already along the playback head, inducing in it a small electrical signal, amplifying, enters the speaker.

Magnetic tape was patented in Germany by Fritz Pleumarom (Fritz Pfleumer) in the mid 20-ies of the last century. Initially, the tape was made on a paper basis, and subsequently on the polymer. In the mid 30-ies of XX century, the German firm BASF have launched serial production of the tape, created of carbonyl iron powder or magnetite on diacetate basis.

Around the same time, the firm AEG launched the Studio apparatus, magnetic recording for broadcasting. The device is called “magnetophon”, in Russian it was transformed into a “tape recorder”.

The principle of “high frequency bias” (when the recording signal is added high frequency component) proposed in 1940 the German engineers Braunmuhl (Braunmull) and Weber (Weber) – this gave a significant improvement in sound quality.

The first cassette player “Walkman”.

Reel to reel tape recorders were used with the 30-ies of the last century. In the late 50’s there were cartridges, but the greatest popularity compact and convenient cassette recorders. The first “cassette” was created by the Dutch firm Philips in 1961. The peak of development of tape recorders is to consider the appearance of the players the Sony brand “Walkman” in 1979. These little devices without written permission of the furor, because now your favorite music you can listen on the go, doing sports, etc. in addition, the person with the player without disturbing others, for listening to audio recordings in the headphones. Later, there were players with recording capability.

Digital invasion

The rapid development in the late 70-ies of XX century, computer technology has led to the emergence of the ability to store and read any information in digital form from other media. Here, the development of digital audio has gone two ways. First appeared and became widespread CD. Later, with the advent of capacious hard drives, the masses went of program players, which reproduce compressed audio. In the end, the development of flash technology in the early twenty-first century led to the fact that CD (meaning the CD Audio) appeared under the threat of oblivion, as it happened with LPS and cassettes.

A rapidly aging Audio-CD.

But back in 1979, when Philips and Sony “realized” double the production of laser disks. Sony, incidentally, has brought its method of signal coding – PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) used in digital tape recorders. The latter are marked by the abbreviation DAT (Digital Audio Tape) and used for professional Studio recording. Mass production of the CDs started in 1982 in Germany.

Gradually optical discs cease to be the exclusive carriers of audio recordings. Appear CD-ROM, then CD-R and CD-RW where it was possible to store any digital information. On a CD-R it can be written once and CD-RW – record and re-overwrite with the appropriate actuators.

The information on the CD-ROM is recorded in a spiral track of “pits” (indentations) moulded on the polycarbonate substrate. Read/write of data is performed using a laser beam.

Compression algorithms information helped significantly reduce the size of digital audio files without too much loss to human auditory perception. The most widespread format is MP3, and now MP3 players are called all compact players, digital music, although they certainly support other formats, in particular, is also quite popular WMA and OGG.

MP3 (abbreviation from the English. MPEG-1/2/2.5 Layer 3) is also supported by all modern models of the music centers and DVD players. It applies a compression algorithm with loss that are not relevant for perception by the human ear. The size of an MP3 file with an average bitrate of 128 kbit/with size approximately equal to 1/10 of the original file format Audio-CD.

The MP3 format was developed by a working group of the Fraunhofer Institute, led by Karlheinz Brandenburg (Karlheinz Brandenburg), in cooperation with AT&T Bell Labs and Thomson.

Based MP3 put experimental codec ASPEC (Adaptive Spectral Perceptual Entropy Coding). The program L3Enc was the first encoder to MP3 format (released in the summer of 1994), and the first software MP3 player Winplay3 (1995).

And still they spin…

MP3 player… one of many.

The ability to download to computer or player very large number of digital tracks, quick sort, delete and re-record did a compressed digital music to a mass phenomenon, to struggle with which not under force even to the giants of the audio industry, suffering losses from falling demand for Audio-CD. And yet, despite the fact that reels and cassettes have become a thing of the past, the future of optical discs as media looks very promising. Yes, radically the technology has changed, but the disks and today, as over a hundred years ago, spinning in order to please people, another musical creation. The principle of the spiral recording works perfectly to this day.– To discuss the material in the conference


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