Subject: History of Vinyl Records

Date: 20 Feb 1999 16:02:12 GMT

From: Modemac <>

Organization: The Internet Access Company, Inc.

Newsgroups: alt.slack

References: 1 , 2 , 3




[ This is a repost of the following article: ]

[ From: (Steve A) ]

[ Message-ID: <> ]


On Sat, 20 Feb 1999 06:32:44 -0800, barb <> wrote:


> Congrats,

> What is a vinyl record? :)

> barb


<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

practical proposition.


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 recording.


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?" -



First Online Church of "Bob"