What was the first record

The triumph of the record

Status: 04/30/2008 12:17 pm | archive
With the invention of the record and gramophone, an ancient wish of mankind came true: to preserve language.

For centuries people have dreamed of recording and reproducing their voice or other sounds. You did it. But it was a very long way to mass production of records. At the end of the 16th century, Giovanni Battista della Porta, an Italian scientist, thought about preserving the spoken word, but failed because of the available technical possibilities.

About 200 years later, in 1777, the poet Gottfried August Bürger tells the story of the frozen post horn which, when thawed in a warm room, emits sounds that the postilion had previously blown into it in the icy cold. But mankind will have to wait around 100 years for the first successes in sound recording.

"Hello" - the first recorded word

At the world exhibition in Paris in 1867, the French poet and philosopher Charles Cros presented an automatic telegraph that was not yet able to record sounds. Ten years later, on July 18, 1877, Thomas Alva Edison succeeds for the first time in recording and reproducing the human voice. To do this, he uses a membrane with a needle tip, pulls it over a paraffin-coated paper strip and speaks loudly "Hello" into the membrane. When he pulls the needle over the strip of paper again, he can hear his word softly.

Edison and Berliner are researching the competition

The record that Berliner invented in 1887 was made of zinc.

At almost the same time, the German Emil Berliner, who had emigrated to the USA, was working on recording and reproducing sounds. He builds a device that converts sound waves into horizontal movements of a needle. He lets the mechanical vibrations scratch into a glass plate covered with soot. When the soot has hardened, Berliner creates a zinc positive from the plate and a zinc negative from it. He can use this negative as a stamp for pressing any number of positives. Berliner had his idea patented in 1887.

He replaces the soot-coated glass plate with a zinc or copper plate, which he covers with wax. And he developed a device to scan the record and make the tones audible. In May 1888 he presented the record and gramophone to the public.

The Kämmer und Reinhardt doll factory in Thuringia produced the first hand-operated record player in Germany in 1890. Emil Berliner continues to experiment and finds out that vulcanized hard rubber is the most suitable pressed material for the plates. Series production seems to be within reach. But a few more years will pass before that happens.

The invention of the record

Berliner soon also gave up the use of hard rubber for the production of records. He switched to a molding compound made in the USA, which essentially consists of shellac. With the help of shellac and various mineral substances, a mixture of materials can be created that is easy to shape and durable. A little soot makes the black color.

Start-up difficulties in the USA

The American Gramophone Company founded by Emil Berliner in 1889 soon collapses. In April 1893 he made a second attempt with the Gaisberg brothers and founded the United States Gramophone Company. The seat is in Washington. The company produced some records and gramophones, but soon ran into financial difficulties. Berliners succeed in convincing investors from Philadelphia of his ideas. The result is the Berlin Gramophone Company, in which Berliner only holds a few shares. The production of records and playback devices can finally begin. Some sources claim that about 25,000 records and 1,000 players had left the factory by the fall of 1894.

First series production of records

At Brühlstrasse 27 in Hanover, a sign today commemorates the former resident Joseph Berliner.

On November 6, 1898, Emil and his brother Joseph Berliner founded Deutsche Grammophon GmbH in Hanover. In the Kniestraße, records are produced in series for the first time. In Great Britain, Emil Berliner creates a second mainstay and participates in the founding of The Grammophone and Typewriter Company Ltd. The reasons for going to Great Britain are not proven beyond doubt. Apparently Emil and Joseph Berliner did not get enough money from banks. In any case, the British company became the parent company of Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, which continued to produce records.

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NDR 1 Lower Saxony | 05/20/2005 | 11:40 a.m.