Seen by some as an anachronism in the digital age, records stores are still alive and well, offering collectors and music connoisseurs the opportunity to physically browse a library of musical history.
The gramophone record, colloquially referred to as a phonograph record or vinyl record, has a long an interesting history, stemming back to its inception in 1877. Invented by Thomas Edison, the phonograph was the first medium capable of both recording and reproducing sound. He achieved this monumental feat by wrapping tinfoil around a grooved metal cylinder and then had a stylus run along the indentations when it was manually rotated. It was not until a few decades later that the technology was adopted and round gramophone discs were implemented.
The early 1900’s saw a boom in gramophone innovation. Early pressings could only hold a maximum of four minutes of recorded material, and early recordings were made acoustically, which means the sound is collected by a horn and piped into a diaphragm which vibrates a cutting stylus. Needless to say these recordings were quite crude, and often lower end instruments were completely lost. This method slowly evolved into what is now called “electronic” recording. Microphones were used to capture more sound, while vacuum tubes were used to amplify the sound.
The earliest disc records were made of various materials including rubber and wax. In the late 1800’s, a shellac-based compound was introduced and soon became a standard. It was not until 1948 that the LP, or Long Play, format was introduced and revolutionized the way music was recorded and distributed.
The LP has now become the trademark for records and comes in 12-inch albums and 7-inch “45 singles." Although some see it as an archaic medium in the digital age, many independent record companies produce new vinyl. Additionally, many people of all ages continue to collect LPs. Shops like Academy Records in the East Village buy vinyl records and offer a wide selection of genres spanning decades.