The year 2017 marks the 140th anniversary of the first phonograph, credited to Thomas Edison. His performance of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” didn’t hit the charts of course – there were none – though former Beatle Paul McCartney hit #9 with his version of the tune in 1972, five years before the technology’s century mark.
In hindsight, it’s astonishing how systems and technology changed from the time of the foil-wrapped tube used by Edison to the wireless streaming of digitally encoded music we have today. Here’s a look at selected milestones in recording history covering the life of shareable music.
You can find some of the best sounding albums from 1959 onward discussed in this article. To listen on the best of the new technologies, check out the best in Bluetooth speakers and headphones at BestSeekers.com
Origins of Recorded Music
1877 – Edison demonstrates his foil-wrapped cylinder recording device to the staff of Scientific American.
1878 – “Yankee Doodle” by cornetist Jules Levy becomes the first commercial recording.
1881 – The stereo effect is discovered by accident during a performance at the Paris Opera.
1887 – The flat disc phonograph receives a patent, paving the way for mass production of recorded music.
1895 – Marconi sends radio signals across the Atlantic, demonstrating “wireless telegraphy.”
1898 – Magnetic recording onto steel wire is patented.
The New Century and the Essential Technologies
1901 – The Victor Talking Machine Company forms, founded by flat disc pioneer Emile Berliner and his partner. Experiments with optical sound technologies for film begin.
1906 – The triode vacuum tube, the first electronic amplifier, is invented.
1910 – Famed singer Caruso stars in the first live broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
1913 – Sound movies arrive with synchronization between film projector and Edison cylinder player.
1917 – Disk lathes appear, further developing toward mass production.
1919 – The RCA company forms.
1921 – The first AM radio station starts operations in Pittsburgh.
1925 – The first 78 rpm, electronically recorded disks appear. RCA develops ribbon microphones.
1926 – Iron oxide tape is invented.
1927 – The era of the talking motion picture begins with “The Jazz Singer.” The CBS company forms, as does JVC as a subsidiary of the Victor Talking Machine Company.
1928 – German manufacturer Neumann forms to build condenser microphones designed by its founder.
1929 – The theories underlying digital sampling of audio are published by Harry Nyquist. The first magnetic tape recorder appears.
1931 – a stereo audio system including microphone and disc cutting techniques earns patents for EMI in England.
1933 – Magnetic steel wire recording enters the commercial market. Stereo radio broadcasts between cities take place, experimentally.
1935 – The first plastic-backed magnetic tapes appear.
1936 – The first tape recording of a symphony concert takes place.
1938 – The Unidyne Model 55 microphone capsule is first built by Shure. This technology is still available today in the Shure SM57, SM58 and various 55 models. RCA designs the 44B and 77B ribbon mics.
1939 – The first broadcasts experimenting with FM technology occur.
The Start of the Disk Era
1940 – “Fantasia” by Disney enters release, including an 8-track stereo soundtrack.
1941 – Commercial FM broadcasts begin.
1942 – RCA continues development of ribbon mics and studio reference speakers. Stereo tape recordings appear in Germany.
1944 – The Ampex Company, later a major player in the magnetic tape and recorder field, forms.
1946 – Home recording begins with wire recorders targeted for the consumer market. Hi-fi tape recording is demonstrated in the U.S., from reconstructed German machines captured after WWII.
1947 – A high fidelity power amplifier circuit is published, the Williamson.
1948 – the 33-1/3 rpm vinyl record appears. The “LP” had a solid run of dominance of about 45 years and vinyl records still serve a niche market today. Portable tape recorders appear.
1949 – the 45 rpm “single” format appears, along with record changers and adapters to augment its large center hole.
1950 – Guitarist Les Paul modifies an Ampex tape recorder, pioneering “sound on sound” recording. IBM uses magnetic recording technology for its first drum memory.
1951 – the germanium transistor appears, starting the trend toward miniaturization.
1954 – German company EMT introduces an artificial plate reverb system. Sony markets the first transistor radios. Commercial 2-track tapes appear.
1955 – Ampex offers selective synchronization, making audio overdubbing possible.
1956 – Les Paul uses the Ampex technology to record the first 8-track audio offerings made with Sel-Sync. The movie “Forbidden Planet” features a score made from entirely electronic instruments.
1958 – Stereo disks appear on the commercial market. The Nagra III battery operated field recorder becomes a film industry standard after its release.
1963 – the Compact Cassette format, pioneered by Philips, appears.
1964 – Having already conquered Britain, the Beatles find massive success in North America.
1965 – Dolby noise reduction and Moog synthesizers appear.
1969 – Experiments with digital tape recording begin.
1970 – Lexicon’s first digital delay effect appears.
1971 – 18-bit PCM digital recording appears.
1974 – Chromium dioxide cassette tapes emerge.
1975 – Digital recording begins to appear in studios.
1980 – This is the year of multitrack digital recorders, the first EMT Model 450 hard-disk recorder and – perhaps most significantly, the Sony Walkman portable cassette player.
1981 – IBM produces its first personal computers; Philips creates the Compact Disc and MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) becomes a standard for synthesizer operation.
1984 – The Apple Macintosh is introduced.
1987 – “Sound Tools,” a forerunner of Pro Tools, appears, using DAT tape technology as a storage medium.
The Modern Age
1990 – Home theater surround sound systems emerge. The CD-R comes on the market.
1991 – The ADAT recorder appears, the first affordable multitrack recorder. Apple introduces the Quick Time multimedia format.
1994 – Yamaha introduces the ProMix 01 digital mixing console, versions of which are still sold.
1996 – Multimedia CDs are the rage from the record industry. High resolution digital audio using 24 bits and 96 kHz enter the experimental phase.
1997 – DVDs hit the market.
1998 – MP3 players appear, to play material downloaded from the Internet.
2001 – Digital file sharing service Napster is sued for illegal music distribution. The first iPod appears, leading the movement toward small personal music devices started with the Walkman. Apple and other smartphone makers began adding music players to cell phones in the wake of the iPod’s success.
2003 – Apple introduces the iTunes store, scoring nearly $70 million in sales its first year.
2004 – Apple’s GarageBand launched the recording careers of millions of bedroom superstars. Bluetooth Version 2.0 Enhanced Data Rate is introduced.
2005 – Sonos releases its first smart speaker models, using wireless Wi-Fi streaming.
2006 – Bluetooth enabled devices hit a shipping rate of 10 million devices a week, with over 1 billion devices on the planet.
2010 – Apple changes its wireless audio streaming AirTunes to AirPlay, a more complete multimedia streaming platform.
2014 – Bluetooth achieves 90 percent placement in the mobile phone market. Improvements in Version 4.0 and up better adapt the platform to the demands of wireless audio streaming. Wireless speakers and headphones using the Bluetooth platform explode in popularity.
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