Advancements in Sound Technology

From the Phonograph

The phonograph was invented in 1877, by, again, Thomas Edison. The original machines read sounds off of an imprinted cylinder, but the most well-known, mass produced model, the Victor V phonograph, used discs. Discs were considered an advancement not for quality of sound, but because they could be stamped, making them easier to produce in large quantities. That being said, both cylinder and disc playing phonographs remained popular until the 1920s. Edison’s technology was also improved upon to make the first widely usable audio recording devices: dictaphones.

Edison’s invention and the subsequent improvements also mark the start of the record industry. While increased popularity of radio and the Great Depression stalled its progress, when hard times ended and people had more free money to spend, sales picked up gradually. The machines’ producers also adapted by creating phonograph/radio combo consoles. Disc technology also improved over time. By the 1940s, not only were these recordings long play, but their physical material changed from shellac to vinyl.

To the MP3 Player

By the late 1950s, hand-turned phonographs gave way to the electronic record players, but, by the mid-1960s, a new, more compact technology started the move to smaller, more portable devices. Soon 8-track players, with their longer play times and better sounds quality, replaced portable record players in cars. While it took the phonograph almost one hundred years to become obsolete, just a decade later this new technology was replaced. By the late 1970s, 8-track players gave way to boom boxes and portable Sony Walkmans playing audio cassette tapes. As the years went on, changes in technology came more and more quickly. With the ‘90s came yet a new, higher fidelity, digital music option: the compact disc. Less than ten years later, the first MP3 players hit the market.

As technology has changed, so has the business behind buying and selling music. The specialty music stores and sections in home entertainment chains continue to dwindle as consumers move to more high-quality, digital media. Music is now purchased mostly through a home computer as music files through online retailers, like iTunes and Amazon. Some devices possess the capability to download music directly to the MP3 player in a matter of seconds.