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Encyclopedia > Phonograph cylinder

The earliest method of recording and reproducing sound was on phonograph cylinders. Commonly known simply as "records" in their era of greatest popularity (c. 1888–1915), these cylinder shaped objects had an audio recording engraved on the outside surface which could be reproduced when the cylinder was played on a mechanical phonograph. The competing disc-shaped gramophone record system triumphed in the market place to become the dominant commercial audio medium in the 1910s, and commercial mass production of phonograph cylinders ended in 1929. Image File history File links LinkFA-star. ... Methods and media for sound recording are varied and have undergone significant changes between the first time sound was actually recorded for later playback until now. ... A right circular cylinder An elliptic cylinder In mathematics, a cylinder is a quadric surface, with the following equation in Cartesian coordinates: This equation is for an elliptic cylinder, a generalization of the ordinary, circular cylinder (a = b). ... “Tonearm” redirects here. ... It has been suggested that Childrens gramophone records be merged into this article or section. ...

Two Edison cylinder records (on either end) and their cardboard storage cartons (center).

Contents

Edison Cylinder Records with packages, from 1910 catalogue This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ... Edison Cylinder Records with packages, from 1910 catalogue This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ...

Early development of the phonograph cylinder

Making a home recording
Listening to a cylinder with rubber ear-tubes
Dancing to music on a cylinder played through an amplifying horn
Paper slip from 1902 cylinder
Portion of the label on the outside of a Columbia Records cylinder package, before 1901. Note the title of the recording is hand written on the label.
Edison Gold Moulded Cylinder made from black wax, ca. 1904
Amberol cylinder package lid
Rim of Edison "Blue Amberol" cylinder
Proper way to hold a cylinder record: put fingers on the inside; do not touch the outer surface which has the recording.

The phonograph was conceived by Thomas Edison on 18 July 1877 for recording telephone messages, his first test using waxed paper. In early production versions the recordings were done on the outside surface of a strip of tinfoil wrapped around a rotating metal cylinder. By the 1880s wax cylinders were mass marketed. These had sound recordings in the grooves on the outside of hollow cylinders of slightly soft wax. These cylinders could easily be removed and replaced on the mandrel of the machine which played them. Early cylinder records would commonly wear out after they were played a few dozen times. The buyer could then either bring the worn cylinders back to the dealer to be traded in as partial credit for purchase of new recordings, or have their surface shaved smooth so new recordings could be made on them. In 1890 Charles Tainter patented the use of hard carnauba wax as a replacement for the common mixture of paraffin and beeswax used on phonograph cylinders. Home recording on a phonograph cylinder, from 1913 ad This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ... Home recording on a phonograph cylinder, from 1913 ad This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ... Listening to phonograph cylinder via rubber ear-tubes, from 1913 ad This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ... Listening to phonograph cylinder via rubber ear-tubes, from 1913 ad This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ... Edison Phonograph ad, Sept 1907 Home Magazine This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ... Edison Phonograph ad, Sept 1907 Home Magazine This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ... Edison cylinder record package insert slip, 1902 This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ... Edison cylinder record package insert slip, 1902 This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ... Label from a Columbia Records phonograph cylinder package, before 1901 This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ... Label from a Columbia Records phonograph cylinder package, before 1901 This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ... Image File history File links Edisongoldmoulded. ... Image File history File links Edisongoldmoulded. ... Lid of Edison Blue Amberol Record package, early 1910s This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ... Lid of Edison Blue Amberol Record package, early 1910s This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ... Rim of Edison Blue Amberol phonograph cylinder, early 1910s This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... Rim of Edison Blue Amberol phonograph cylinder, early 1910s This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... proper way to hold a phonograph cylinder, from insert c. ... proper way to hold a phonograph cylinder, from insert c. ... “Edison” redirects here. ... is the 199th day of the year (200th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1877 (MDCCCLXXVII) was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... Tin foil or tinfoil is a thin leaf made of tin. ... Charles Sumner Tainter, ca. ... Carnauba is a wax derived from the leaves of a plant native to northeastern Brazil, the carnauba palm (Copernicia prunifera). ... This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ... For the rock song by Nirvana, see Beeswax (song). ...


Early cylinder machines of the late 1880s and the 1890s were often sold with recording attachments. The ability to record as well as play back sound was an advantage to cylinder phonographs over the competition from cheaper disc record phonographs which began to be mass marketed at the end of the 1890s, as the disc system machines could be used only to play back pre-recorded sound. It has been suggested that Childrens gramophone records be merged into this article or section. ...


In the earliest stages of phonograph manufacturing various competing incompatible types of cylinder recordings were made. A standard system was decided upon by Edison Records, Columbia Phonograph, and other companies in the late 1880s. The standard cylinders were about 4 inches (10 cm) long, 2¼ inches in diameter, and played about two minutes of music or other sound. Edison Records was the first record label, pioneering recorded sound and an important player in the early record industry. ... Columbia Records is the oldest continually used brand name in recorded sound, dating back to 1888. ...


Commercial packaging

Cylinders were sold in cardboard tubes, with cardboard lids at each end. These containers helped protect the recordings. These containers and the shape of the cylinders (together with the "tinny" sound of early records compared to live music) prompted bandleader John Philip Sousa to deride the records as canned music. Record companies usually had a generic printed label on the outside of the cylinder package, with no indication of the identity of the individual recording inside. Early on such information would be written on the labels by hand, one at a time. Slightly later, the record number would be stamped on the top lid, then a bit later the title and artist of the recording would be printed on to labels on the lid. Shortly after the start of the 20th century, an abbreviated version of this information (together with the name of the record company) would be printed or impressed on to one edge of the cylinder itself. Previously the actual cylinders had no such visual identification. However they would have a spoken announcement of the song or performance title, recording artist, and record company recorded on to the beginning of the recording. Portrait of John Philip Sousa taken in 1900 John Philip Sousa (November 6, 1854 – March 6, 1932) was an American composer and conductor known particularly for American military marches. ...


Small paper inserts with the recording information were placed inside the package with the cylinders. At first this was hand written or typed on each slip, but printed versions became more common once cylinders of certain songs were sold in large enough quantities to make this economically practical. Note that in the example in the image below, from Edison Records, 1902, the consumer is invited to cut out the circle with printed information. This paper circle could then be pasted either to the lid of the cylinder container, or (as this example prompts) to a spindle for this cylinder in specially built cabinets for holding cylinder records which were marketed by record companies. Only a minority of cylinder record customers purchased such cabinets, however.


Further improvements of commercial cylinders

Over the years the type of wax used in cylinders was improved and hardened so that cylinders could be played over 100 times. In 1902 Edison Records launched a line of improved hard wax cylinders marketed as "Edison Gold Moulded Records".


Hard plastic replaces wax

In 1906 the Indestructible Record Company began mass marketing cylinder records made of celluloid, an early hard plastic, that would not break if dropped and could be played thousands of times without wearing out. This hard inflexible material could not be shaved and recorded over like wax cylinders, but had the advantage of being a nearly permanent record. (Such "Indestructible" style cylinders are arguably the most durable form of sound recording produced in the entire era of analogue audio before the introduction of digital audio; they can withstand a great number more playbacks before wearing out than such later media as the vinyl record or audio tape.) This superior technology was purchased by the Columbia Phonograph Company. The Edison company then developed their own type of long lasting cylinder, consisting of a type of plastic called Amberol around a plaster core; these were called Amberol cylinders. Around the same time Edison introduced 4 minute cylinders, having twice the playing time of the old standard cylinder, achieved simply by shrinking the groove size and spacing them twice as close together in the spiral around the cylinder. Most (but not all) Amberol cylinders are of the four-minute variety. Edison phonographs for playing these improved cylinder records were called Amberolas. See also: Blue Amberol Records. Celluloid is the name of a class of compounds created from nitrocellulose and camphor, plus dyes and other agents, generally regarded to be the first thermoplastic. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... Digital audio comprises audio signals stored in a digital format. ... A gramophone record, (also phonograph record - often simply record) is an analog sound recording medium: a flat disc rotating at a constant angular velocity, with inscribed spiral grooves in which a stylus or needle rides. ... Audio storage refers to techniques and formats used to store audio with the goal to reproduce the audio later using audio signal processing to something that resembles the original. ... Columbia Records is the oldest brand name in recorded sound, dating back to 1888, and was the first record company to produce pre-recorded records as opposed to blank cylinders. ... Blue Amberol Records was the tradmarked name for cylinder recordings manufactured by the Edison company in the USA from 1912 to 1929. ...


Cylinders versus discs

In the era before World War I phonograph cylinders and disc records competed with each other for public favor. “The Great War ” redirects here. ... It has been suggested that Childrens gramophone records be merged into this article or section. ...


The audio fidelity of a sound groove is not inherently better if it is engraved on either a disc or a cylinder, and the competition was due to other factors.


Advantages of cylinders

The cylinder system had certain advantages. As noted, wax cylinders could be used for home recordings, and "indestructible" types could be played over and over many more times than the disc. Cylinders usually rotated at a greater speed than discs, creating a greater linear velocity of the stylus in the groove. In theory, this would provide better audio fidelity. Furthermore, since constant angular velocity translates into constant linear velocity (the radius of the spiral track is constant), cylinders were also free from inner groove problems suffered by disc recordings. Around 1900 cylinders on average were indeed of notably higher audio quality than contemporary discs, but as disc makers improved their technology by 1910 the fidelity differences between better discs and cylinders became minimal. In physics, velocity is defined as the rate of change of displacement or the rate of displacement. ... High Fidelity is also the title of a book by Nick Hornby and a film directed by Stephen Frears, based upon Hornbys book. ... Constant Angular Velocity (CAV) refers to how information is written to or read from a rotating data disk. ... Constant Linear Velocity (CLV) refers to how information is written to or read from a rotating data disk. ... By the mid 20th century humans had achieved a mastery of technology sufficient to leave the surface of the Earth for the first time and explore space. ...


Cylinder phonographs generally used a worm gear to move the stylus in synchronization with the grooves of the recording, whereas most disc machines relied on the grooves to pull the stylus along. This resulted in cylinder records played a number of times having less degradation than discs, but this added mechanism made cylinder machines more expensive. Worm and worm gear A worm gear, or worm wheel, is a type of gear that engages with a worm to greatly reduce rotational speed, or to allow higher torque to be transmitted. ... Look up degradation in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... This article is about devices that perform tasks. ...


Advantages of discs

Both the disc records and the machines to play them on were cheaper to mass-produce than the products of the cylinder system. Disc records were also easier and cheaper to store in bulk, as they could be stacked, or when in paper sleeves put in rows on shelves like books. Shelf is a detail of furniture for storing items. ... For other uses, see Book (disambiguation). ...


Many cylinder phonographs used a belt to turn the mandrel; slight slippage of this belt could make the mandrel not turn evenly, thus resulting in pitch fluctuations. Disc phonographs using a direct system of gears could not really turn unevenly; the heavy metal turntable of disc machines acted as a flywheel, helping to minimize speed wobble. “Tonearm” redirects here. ... Spoked flywheel Flywheel from stationary engine. ...


In 1908 Columbia Records introduced mass production of disc records with recordings pressed on both sides, which soon became the industry standard. Patrons of disc records could now get two recordings for less than the price of one on cylinder. Columbia Records is the oldest brand name in recorded sound, dating back to 1888, and was the first record company to produce pre-recorded records as opposed to blank cylinders. ...


Mention should also be made of the superior advertising and promotion done by the disc companies, most notably by the Victor Talking Machine Company in the United States and the Gramophone Company/HMV in the Commonwealth. Great singers like Enrico Caruso were hired to record exclusively, helping put the idea in the public mind that that company's product was superior. “Advert” redirects here. ... Victor logo with the famous Nipper dog. ... The Gramophone Company, based in the United Kingdom, was one of the early recording companies. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... Enrico Caruso (February 25, 1873 – August 2, 1921) was an Italian opera singer and one of the most famous tenors in history. ...


The end of cylinders

Cylinder recordings continued to compete with the growing disc record market into the 1910s, when discs won the commercial battle. In that decade Columbia (which had been making both discs and cylinders) switched exclusively to discs, and Edison started marketing their own disc records. However Edison continued to sell new cylinder records to consumers with cylinder phonograph machines through 1929. The latest of the new cylinders were simply dubs of disc records, and as such are of lower fidelity than the disc versions.


Later application of phonograph cylinder technology

Cylinder phonograph technology continued to be used for dictaphone recordings for office use into the early 1950s. Dictaphone was an American company, a producer of dictation machines —sound recording devices most commonly used to record speech for later playback or to be typed into print. ...


In 1947, Dictaphone replaced wax cylinders with their DictaBelt technology, which cut a mechanical groove into a plastic belt instead of into a wax cylinder. This was later replaced by magnetic tape recording. 1917 Dictaphone advertisement A Dictaphone is a sound recording device most commonly used to record speech for later playback or to be typed into print. ... Compact audio cassette Magnetic tape is a non-volatile storage medium consisting of a magnetic coating on a thin plastic strip. ...


In 1996, the band They Might Be Giants recorded "I Can Hear You," performed without electricity, on an 1898 Edison wax recording studio phonograph at the Edison National Historic Site in West Orange, New Jersey. This song was released on Factory Showroom in 1996 and re-released on the 2002 compilation Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants. The band also performed and recorded a song about Edison, a studio recording of which appeared on their 1999 internet-only release Long Tall Weekend and subsequently on their first album aimed towards a younger audience, No! This article is about the musical group. ... For more than forty years, the laboratory created by Thomas Alva Edison in West Orange, New Jersey, had enormous impact on the lives of millions of people worldwide. ... Factory Showroom is the sixth studio album by the band They Might Be Giants. ... Dial-A-Song: 20 Years Of They Might Be Giants is a 2002 (see 2002 in music) double album by They Might Be Giants. ... Long Tall Weekend was an Internet-only album by They Might Be Giants and was released in 1999 (see 1999 in music). ... No! is the first album of childrens music by the alternative rock band They Might Be Giants. ...


Preservation of cylinder recordings

Because of the nature of the recording medium, playback of cylinders can cause degradation of the recording. Currently, the only professional machine manufactured for the playback of cylinder recordings is the Archeophone Series I player, designed by Henri Chamoux. The Archeophone is presently used by the Edison National Historic Site, Bowling Green State University (Chapel Hill, NC) and The Department of Special Collections, Donald C Davidson Library at The University of California, Santa Barbara. Further information on this player may be sighted on the external links below. Bowling Green State University (BGSU) is a public four-year institution located in Bowling Green, Ohio, USA; about 20 miles south of Toledo, Ohio on I-75. ... The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) is a coeducational public university located on the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara County, California, USA. It is one out of 10 campuses of the University of California. ...


Other modern so-called 'plug-in' mounts, each incorporating the use of a Stanton 500AL MK II magnetic cartridge, have been manufactured from time to time. Information on each may be sighted on the Phonograph Makers Pages link. It is possible to use these on the Edison cylinder players.


In an attempt to preserve the historic content of the recordings, cylinders can be read with a confocal microscope and converted to a digital recording format. The resulting sound clip in most cases sounds better than stylus playback from the original cylinder. Having an electronic version of the original recordings enables archivists to open access to the recordings to a wider audience. This technique also has the potential to allow for reconstruction of damaged or broken cylinders. (Fadeyev & Haber, 2003) Confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM or LSCM) is a valuable tool for obtaining high resolution images and 3-D reconstructions. ... In digital recording, the analog signal of a motion-picture/sound is converted into a stream of discrete numbers, representing the changes in air pressure (chroma and luminace values in case of video) through time; thus making an abstract template for the original sound. ...


Modern reproductions of cylinder and disc recordings usually give the impression that the introduction of discs was a quantum leap in audio fidelity, but this is on modern playback equipment; played on equipment from around 1900, the cylinders do not have noticeably more rumble and poorer bass reproduction than the discs. Another factor is that many cylinders are amateur recordings, while disc recording equipment was simply too expensive for anyone but professional engineers. In other words, while many extremely poor recordings were made on cylinder, the vast majority of disc recordings were competently recorded. Nevertheless, it does not mean that a professional engineer will necessarily get worse results on cylinder than on disc.


Also important is the quality of the material: the earliest tinfoil recordings wore out fast. Once the tinfoil was removed from the cylinder it was nearly impossible to re-align in playable condition. None of the earliest tinfoil recordings has been played back since the 19th century. (Hypothetically in the future some sound might some day be salvaged from few surviving flattened out early tinfoil records.) The earliest soft wax recordings also wore out quite fast, though they have better fidelity than the early rubber discs.


In addition to poor states of preservation, the poor impression modern listeners can get of wax cylinders is from their early date, which can compare unfavorably to recordings made even a dozen years later. Other than a single playable example from 1878 (from an experimental phonograph-clock), the oldest playable preserved cylinders are from the year 1888. These include a severely degraded recording of Johannes Brahms and a short speech by Sir Arthur Sullivan which was fortunately dubbed in moderately listenable condition. Somewhat later are the almost unlistenable 1889 amateur recordings of Nina Grieg. The earliest preserved rubber disc recordings are childrens' records, featuring animal noises and nursery rhymes. This means that the earliest disc recordings most music lovers will hear are shellac discs made after 1900, after more than ten years of development. Johannes Brahms Johannes Brahms (May 7, 1833 – April 3, 1897) was a German composer of the Romantic period. ... Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (May 13, 1842 – November 22, 1900) was an English composer best known for his operatic collaborations with librettist W. S. Gilbert. ... Nina Grieg is the wife and first cousin of Edvard Grieg. ...


See also

It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with audio storage. ... Audio storage refers to techniques and formats used to store audio with the goal to reproduce the audio later using audio signal processing to something that resembles the original. ... The Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project is a free digital collection maintained by the University of California, Santa Barbara Libraries with streaming and downloadable versions of over 5,000 phonograph cylinders manufactured between 1895 and the mid 1920s. ...

References

  • Oliver Read and Walter L. Welch (1976). From Tin Foil to Stereo: Evolution of the Phonograph. Indianapolis, Indiana: Howard W. Sams & Co. Inc. ISBN 0-672-21206. 
  • George L. Frow and Albert F. Sefl (1978). The Edison Cylinder Phonographs 1877–1929. Sevenoaks, Kent: George F. Frow. ISBN 0-9505462-2-4. 
  • Fadeyev, V., and C. Haber (2003). "Reconstruction of mechanically recorded sound by image processing". Journal of the Audio Engineering Society 51 (December): 1172. 

Established in 1948, the Audio Engineering Society (AES) draws its membership from amongst engineers, scientists, manufacturers and other organisations and individuals with an interest or involvement in the professional audio industry. ...

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Phonograph cylinder - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1909 words)
Around 1900 cylinders on average are indeed of notably higher audio quality than contemporary discs, but as disc makers improved their technology by 1910 the fidelity differences between better discs and cylinders became minimal.
Cylinder phonographs also usually used a worm gear to move the stylus in synchronization with the grooves of the recording, whereas most disc machines relied on the grooves to pull the stylus along.
Cylinder phonograph technology continued to be used for dictaphone recordings for office use into the early 1950s.
PHONOGRAPH - LoveToKnow Article on PHONOGRAPH (3848 words)
The tinfoil phonograph, however, was an imperfect instrument, both as regards the medium on which the imprints were taken (tinfoil) and the general mechanism of the instrument.
In a form of instrument called the 200-thread machine motion of the drum bearing the cylinder was taken off a screw the thread of which was 50 to the inch, and by a system of gearing the grooves on the cylinder were 200 to the inch, or 21/8-1 of an inch apart.
He obtained photographs of the curves on the wax cylinder, a beam of light reflected from a small mirror attached to the vibrating disk of the phonograph being allowed to fall on a sensitive plate while the phonograph was slowly travelling.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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