Subject: History of Vinyl Records
Date: 20 Feb 1999 16:02:12 GMT
From: Modemac <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Organization: The Internet Access Company, Inc.
References: 1 , 2 , 3
[ This is a repost of the following article: ]
[ From: email@example.com (Steve A) ]
[ Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> ]
On Sat, 20 Feb 1999 06:32:44 -0800, barb <email@example.com> wrote:
> What is a vinyl record? :)
<sigh>Once upon a time, long ago, some dude called Edison decided that
he liked to hear his music scratchy and distorted. His first machine
involved a long metal tube, with a larger box in the middle, on which
a cat constantly scrabbled to get up a sloping piece of metal. The
idea was that the performers played in one end, and Edison could
listen to his muted, scratchy performance to his heart's delight.
However, there were problems. The length of the performance was
restricted to the amount of time before the cat would give up trying
to scrabble up the slope and go to sleep at the bottom. More
seriously, when it became hungry, the cat would start to make yowling
noises, which severely impaired Edison's listening experience. To
counter this, he added another tube by which he could pass food back
to the cat in the box (hence the term "feedback"), but it was never a
Some years later, while developing a machine to cut grooves in
candles, he noticed that he could hear sounds coming from the
machine's cutting wire. Intrigued, he wound the machine backwards, and
was astonished to hear a clear message from the Devil, with Judas
Priest as backing band. What delighted him most of all, though, was
the scratchy, muted quality of the sound that was being played back.
After a few weeks' further research, Edison succeeded in creating a
machine that would allow his performers to sing or play, and which
would cut a groove into the candle which would then be capable of
being played back, in its new and - to Edison - improved sound
quality. Naturally, the performers were still required to mime their
performance, as the idea of listening to a performance without the
performers themselves being present was clearly ludicrous.
The technology took a startling turn when Edison's wife accidentally
put a hot cake on top of one of Edison's scratchiest recordings of a
recent hit operetta, and squashed it flat into a pancake, some 7
inches across. Dismayed, Edison made a few modifications to his
machine, and attempted to play the resulting disc of candlewax. To his
eternal joy, the music had changed: now, in the background was a
constant rhythmic thumping, while the string section seemed to have
mutated into a yowling facsimile of his earlier cat-based experiments
which, while challenging his musical tastes, had a certain compulsive
fascination, and he found himself jumping around the parlour,
executing complex dance steps and hand-jiving without any real idea of
what he was doing.
Because his experiments in sound had taken up so much of his time,
Edison had not got around to discovering electricity, although it had
been near the top of his To-Do list for quite some time. One of the
problems of his new squashed recordings was that, when the compulsion
to boogie overcame him, he could no longer turn the handle that played
The problem was solved when he left a small track around the middle of
the disc, then strapped hamsters into harnesses and hung small pieces
of fruit in front of them. By carefully varying the position of the
fruit in front of the hamsters' noses, he was able to regulate the
rate of rotation of the disc. Initially, he was using highly fit
racing hamsters, and found it necessary to record and play his discs
at 78rpm, though later developments, using a cross between a hamster
and a sloth succeeded in getting the rotational speed down to first
45, then 33rpm. A later development, using earthworms and
caterpillars, succeeded in reducing the speed to 16rpm, although
nobody bothered recording at such a slow speed since the performers
had a tendency to fall asleep between notes, but the new facility was
found to be excellent for finding yet more messages from the Devil.
The length of recordings was limited, and a need for some means of
automatically playing more than one disc at a time was keenly felt.
Early experiments were felt to be too costly in terms of the hamsters
that were squashed as the next disc fell onto the player, so a disk
with a larger hole in the centre, for the hamster to escape through,
was produced. This was a success, and very soon the first juke boxes
began to appear, using relays of specially trained endurance
hamster/sloths, and a complex system of trained mice who selected
disks and toppled them onto the player at the appropriate time.
Following Edison's demise, the concept began to grow amongst users of
the new technology that perhaps the quality of the performance could
be improved. This prompted a vicious backlash from pro-Edison
listeners, who insisted that the scratchiness of the performance was
an important part of the whole experience.
Denied the opportunity to modify the core technology, these seekers of
perfection began to look for other ways of improving the sound
quality. Many amazing breakthroughs were claimed, from the special
cloth with which to wipe the surface of the disc (claimed to smooth
any rough edges on the grooves), to the bath of acid into which the
disk was dipped before playing (at a heavy cost in hamsters). Some
canny individual then claimed that different colours of wax caused the
hamsters to run in a different manner, which had an effect on the
playback. Many people painted black lines around the edge of their
discs - some entrepreneur even marketed tiny pots of standard
blackboard paint as a Miracle Cure for Scratches, Blemishes, Clicks &
Othere Diuerse Defeckts", but was forced to refund much of the takings
when a number of young ladies complained that the paint had not done
anything for their complections. But the real breakthrough was the
completely black disk, which disorientated the hamsters and/or sloths,
causing them to run in a more even fashion.
Soon, the trend caught on, and black disks became commonplace.
And why were they made of vinyl? That's another story...
Steve A, SP4++, GGBC, KBM, Unsalvageable PTS/SP #12,
pitiable little Dennie (plD) #1, non-Mintonista.
Banned by Windows 1984 ScienoSitter (2e+isp)
"Where don't they want you to go today?" - http://www.xenu.net
First Online Church of "Bob"