History of Gramophone - Who invented Gramophone?

History of sound recording and playback became forever change in 1850s with the discovery of first Phonautograph by the hands of French inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, and his lifelong quest to obtain more knowledge about spoken and written human language. His efforts soon became obsession of two famous American inventors - Thomas Ava Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, whose competition in the fields of electricity, telegraph, and telephony soon gave birth to the new generation of this sound processing devices that are today called gramophones.

First Gramophone

Edison's monumental discovery of Phonograph in 1877 enabled users to freely record and playback any sound, but his reliance on the tinfoil paper as an information storage medium was criticized for being ineffective, had to use and very fragile. Because of that, Alexander Graham Bell and his workers at Volta factory started experimenting, and came to conclusion that cylinder made out from wax could much withstand repeated use, perform better with recording and playback, have capacity for longer playback, and was easier to manufacture than Edison tinfoil design. Because Edison patented only recording and reproduction from tinfoil medium, Bell did not have problem patenting his much superior wax based design, and from that point his "graphophones" became a standard in a world of sound processing. Another very important fact that enabled the rise of its popularity was the ability for automatic playback and recording. While Edison design demanded for user to manually spin the cylinder, Bell's design featured wind-up clockwork drive mechanism that provided automated rotation.

The early days of gramophone production were marked with the first release from Volta Graphophone Company of Alexandria, Virginia in 1881 - Dictaphone. This successful product soon enabled merging of from Volta Graphophone Company and American Graphophone Company, which were few years later renamed into Columbia Records. Moment of great expansion came with the arrival of Jesse H. Lippincott who used is $1 million of an inheritance to purchase Columbia Records and all of related patents, which greatly boosted the production rate of graphophones. Between 1881 and 1888 his newly formed North American Phonograph Company did not have much success because of reports of manufacturing units and resistance of stenographers who were accustomed of recording spoken word via use of shorthand. The acceptance of graphophones finally came in 1888 with the Louis Glass initiative of nickel-in-the-slot 'entertainment' cylinders.

Gramophone Record

As the years went by, graphophones received many improvements, from the quality of diaphragms and recording stylus, to the introduction of electric motors which powered the machine. However, the biggest innovation came in 1894 from the mind of United States inventor Emile Berliner. He devised a way for creation of flat shaped discs, and he renamed his graphophone design that utilized this disc as gramophone. After several years of improvements and collecting funds, he and Eldridge R. Johnson formed Victor Talking Machine Company in 1901, which managed to greatly popularized 7, 10 and 12 inch records between 1901 and 1903, which enabled them to playback material of then unprecedented 4 minutes. Even though Edison tried to improve his cylindrical design, popularity of disc based sound devices continued to soar, and when basic patents for the manufacture of lateral-cut disc records had expired in 1919, they could not be contained anymore. Anyone had the ability to produce and sell them, which brought new age of improvements to this gramophone designs. Over the years, industry adopted several sizes, speeds of reproduction, and use of new materials (especially Vinyl which came during 1950s).

Gramophones remained dominant until late 1980s, when digital media managed to eclipse it.