Thomas Edison invented his phonograph in 1877 it was pretty cool I gotta admit it was the bee’s knees the cat’s meow the wombats toe then the world was all like you’re doing it wrong Edison Edison’s invention worked great but there was a small problem Edison was shaped challenged and today we’re going to explore what went wrong I’m Alec and this is technology connections if you haven’t seen last week’s episode well you’re probably going to want to do that now in it we took a look at how Edison invented his phonograph and we also explored the machine itself and how it worked today though we’re going to be talking about Edison’s almost comically in retrospect at least bad move the cylinder itself the photograph didn’t need and I’m so sorry for this pun to revolve around the cylinder and isn’t held firm to the cylinder concept but there was a challenger lurking in the darkness this man Emile Berliner was experimenting with another method of recording sound into a wax record at first he was experimenting with the already established cylinder berliners effort was to create a cheaper phonograph meant from recording children’s material he wanted to change the recording movement of the stylus from an up-and-down motion resulting in Hillandale pattern in the groove to his side-to-side wobble resulting in a groove that’s walls would move laterally as the record progressed there was one problem though a stylus couldn’t work stylee such as an Edison’s design couldn’t go deep enough into a recording material to get a deep groove which was necessary for the recording motion that Berliner wanted he solved that problem in a bit of a roundabout way rather than record directly into a medium like wax he used a principle similar to the funada graph he would use the cylinder covered in lamp black and he would itch a line into it using a wobbling stylus you can end up with the cylinder covered in a wavy line just like in Martin Veals original Sonata graph but he took this a step further by photo engraving another cylinder if you shine a light through the first cylinder light will come out that wavy line and with special light-sensitive chemicals you can etch into another cylinder and make a deep groove based on the shape of that line so you end up with the second cylinder covered in deep grooves that wobbled the new cylinders groove was deep enough to run a tall steel needle inside the walls of the groove were constantly moving right and left and they moved in the same pattern of the line that was drawn when originally recording onto the cylinder coated in lamp black so we now ended up with a groove containing sound just like Edison’s the only difference is that the movement of the reproducer has been changed from up-and-down to to side it might be difficult to visualize the difference between Edison and Berliners design but through the magic of 3d printing we can blow up a simulated groove and take a closer look remember the sine wave from last episode well here it is embedded into the grooves of Edison and Berliners phonographs you can see that Edison’s groove is straight and narrow but its height varies along its length so as the stylus tracked the groove it would be pushed up and down as the groove passed below berliners groove dough was very different see it’s not straight it moves from side to side and the depth is uniform across the groove you can see that if you look in from the edge the needle riding inside would be shifted left and right as the groove moved past this is the same sine wave as before but it’s now recorded in a different fashion looking straight down into the groove you can see the shape of the sine wave berliner was granted a patent for his design in 1887 but he quickly realized that the cylinder was to put it bluntly dumb he realized that with his photo engraving method it would be much easier to use a flat disc instead now the flat disc also brought many many more advantages but we’ll take a look at those in a bit berliner also discovered that he could skip the photo engraving process altogether with the disc he could just record into a soft wax disc and use this as a mold to create a hard master the disc format took a while to get going in fact the first dish were released right around the same time of Edison’s machine was hitting the market but they were plagued with a lot of problems at first for one thing the discs were small and they couldn’t hold much music on them and also these early machines were entirely run by hand so it was very difficult to play a record at a constant speed but these were all easy problems to fix Berliner was eventually able to make a disc phonograph with the spring wound motor so the speed problem was solved and the recording time issue was really easy just make the discs bigger by increasing the diameter he was able to increase their recording time from 2 minutes to 3 and then 5 minutes with the 12-inch disc but if the disc was so much better than the cylinder why didn’t Edison just go with it in the first place he almost did recall from last week when Edison explained the genesis of his idea I was experimenting on an automatic method of recording Telegraph messages on a disc of paper laid on a revolving platen the platen had a spiral groove on its surface over this was placed a circular disc of paper an electromagnet with the thing point connected to an arm traveled over the disk and any signals given through the magnets were embossed on the disk of paper he had a freaking disk in mine from the get-go but he abandoned it

and for an admittedly admirable reason disks have a bit of a geometry problem if you take a look at his spinning circle you’ll find that areas near the outside of the disk are traveling faster than areas near the inside even though the disk is moving at a constant rotational speed it’s very simple geometry and it has to do with circumference with a 10-inch disk at the edge the circumference is about thirty-one point four inches if the disk is moving at 60 rpm then it completes a circle in one second and the speed at which it’s traveling at the edge is thirty-one point four inches per second but as you approach the center it slows down at one inch into the disk now the surface is moving at twenty-five point one inches per second because the diameter of the disk one inch from the edge is two inches smaller we would calculate this new circumference by multiplying Pi about 3.14 by eight inches our new diameter and we get 25 point one inches go in another inch and now our diameter is only six inches which gets us a speed of eighteen point eight inches per second so as you can see the speed at which the surface is going past the point on the circle is slowing down as you approach the center even the rotational speed remains constant this would mean that in a disk record the speed at which the groove was traveling underneath the reproducing needle would slow down as the record progressed Edison surmised but this would impact sound quality and he was right high frequency sounds are caused by very fast vibrations so the resulting pattern in the groove has very close spacing you can see this if you look at this photograph of a cylinder record surface these bumps here are very close together and result in a very high frequency sound if the speed of the record were slowed down they’d have to be even closer together eventually you’d reach a point where they’d be too close together to make any sound and it’s an understood this problem it affects what’s called frequency response this is a measurement of what frequencies the device can accurately reproduce we measure it in a range in Hertz a unit which also means cycles per second human hearing can perceive sounds between 20 and 20,000 Hertz south and near 20 Hertz are very low in pitch likewise sounds and the thousands of Hertz are very the speed of the recording medium traveling under the reproducer directly impacts frequency response and here’s why recall that Hertz also means cycles per second a 2,000 Hertz tone which sounds like this can only be made the diaphragm can move back and forth 2,000 times in one second so imagine how this impacts the groove of a disc record the walls of the groove will need to wobble 2,000 times in one second with a cylinder no matter where you are on the surface the 2,000 wobbles will be a uniform distance apart but on a disc that’s not the case going back to those speed calculations we made on the disc with a 10-inch disc at the edge we had a circumference of thirty-one point four inches to fit 2,000 wobbles in that space as would be required with the disc traveling at 60 revolutions per minute would require 63 wobbles to the inch but after the stylus has made it two inches into the disc now the circumference is only eighteen point eight inches so we need to cram 106 wobbles per inch to make the same noise and this eventually starts to be a problem we can only make the wobbles so close together before we run out of room eventually we’d get to a point where the record isn’t traveling fast enough for those wobbles to be recorded in the walls they just be too close together and what will happen is we won’t hear the sound and this is where the cylinder shines because it cylinders diameter doesn’t vary across its surface at a constant rotational speed the speed of the groove traveling underneath the stylus remains constant as well so therefore the frequency response of the recording doesn’t change from beginning to end the same cannot be said for the disk the upper end of the disks frequency response will gradually fall as the record progresses and it all has to do with the fact that for those high-frequency sounds we need to squeeze them in smaller and smaller spaces as we get closer to the center of the disk so Edison had a well thought out reason for going for the cylinder instead of the disk he deemed it more scientifically correct there was one problem though that issue of frequency response in practice it didn’t matter at all these early machines weren’t capable of reproducing sounds that high remember this is the sound quality we’re talking about any decrease in frequency response from beginning to end was pretty much imperceptible with the issue that Edison sought out to avoid turning out to be a while non-issue it’s easy to see why the disc was so much more successful it was a case of anything you can do I can do better this album holds ten disc records and they’re all conveniently organized for easy access if each of these records was a 12-inch disc this would hold 50 minutes of recording time in this small space contrast that to the cylinder which only holds two minutes of recording time and the cylinder is starting to look ridiculous Edison did improve these to hold four minutes of recording time by increasing the amount of grooves per inch or the grooves density but that still didn’t best the discs five minutes discs were also inherently less fragile a cylinder isn’t a very strong shape so they can shatter pretty easily this though we’re much more durable you can also fit a lot more written information on a disc the

recording doesn’t go all the way to the center so you have a large area to place a label this label can include information such as the record company the artist’s name the composer’s name the recording time on and on our cylinder though could only have a little bit of information stamped on its edge and the other information would have to be printed on the can and little more than the song title ever was perhaps the biggest advantage of the disc was that they could be manufactured much more easily at first if you wanted to make another copy of a recording you’d have to literally record it again duplication wasn’t yet possible but the disc had a handy way of doing it is here according to a soft wax disc you can coat this disc in a metal if you take the metal off the disc you’ll end up with an inverted master that is instead of the grooves being carved into its surface the grooves will be protruding upwards like this you could then take this metal disc called a master or Stamper and squeeze a puck of melted wax between it and a solid surface let the wax cool and you now have a copy of the original record exactly like the first you could do this hundreds of times with the same master cylinders though were much trickier to figure out and it eventually did with his gold molding process but it was slow complicated and it costs a lot more so it took a lot longer to get the records out to the public and when the consumers paid for them they were more expensive the extra cost of the cylinder began to look even more ridiculous because take a look at this handy feature the discs look what’s on the other side another song eventually all disc records have two songs one on each side the cylinder couldn’t possibly do that the final nail in the coffin came from who was recording music for the disc and cylinder and has then kept things really tight so only certain people were recording for his cylinder machines but disc records there were many record companies producing many varieties of music you had more artists more genres the selections were immense you ended up with a situation where the discs were cheaper more durable easier to make easier to store easier to use they just made a lot more sense the choice was obvious go with the disc beside the discs being superior from a technological standpoint they also had the powerful victor Talking Machine Company on their side this company though not well known initially made a fortune in the market because of a unique idea all phonographs need a sound amplifying horn to be heard and in most cases it was pretty ugly but in 1907 they came up with the idea of concealing the horn into the cabinet of the phonograph they called their concealed horn phonographs victrolas and they were an instant hit at last the phonograph looked like something that belongs in the home let’s have a look at one of these machines this is a Victor VV 260 console phonograph from 1922 rather the bizarre looking contraption most photographs were this machine looks like a piece of furniture and would fit nicely into the living room many many styles of Victrola were available from standard tabletop models too extravagant Chippendale masterpieces victrolas were so immensely popular that countless examples of companies adding Ola to their products appeared even edison fell into the trap with his amber ola line of photographs there’s one example of this Ola craze that survives today in the 1920s a company started making radios for automobiles what did they call their car radio well the Motorola of course aside from its nicer appearance when using the machine you can start to get an idea of why discs took off first of all there’s built-in storage these doors here each hold three record albums in each album holds ten discs on this side they hold 12 inch discs and on the other side it holds 10 inch discs you see twelve inch discs can’t fit on this side because crank runs through this space this works out to sixty records or 120 recording since there are two recordings on each disk 120 sellers couldn’t possibly fit into this space for one thing they don’t store very well you can’t really stack them and if you try well I usually just roll away but disks can be organized handily into this size cabinet Victrola style cylinder machines did exist but you simply couldn’t store as many cylinders in the space like this they’re just too bulky but discs can be handily stored away in just a narrow little cabinet score one for the disc the doors in the middle here are actually covering the horn though it may not look like it and indeed that was the point this is the horn of the phonograph it runs underneath the turntable and out through the front of the machine so let’s have a look inside and see how it works part of the disc phonograph success was that it was much simpler and therefore easier to use the discs are simply placed on this turntable and a small spindle sticks out the center which aligns the disc with a hole punch through the middle unlike a cylinder there’s no need to slide it over the mandrel or open a gate and you can’t possibly put it on the wrong way well other than upside down the reproducers design is the biggest distinction between the disc and cylinder this is a Victrola number to reproduce er and unlike Edison’s we can clearly see the diaphragm it’s this transparent disc of mica see how the piece here is floating in the middle it’s glued to the center of that mica disc the disc is held in place by a couple of rubber gaskets and this allows it to easily move in and out which we need to reproduce sound remember the diaphragm has to vibrate to make noise instead of a stylus like an Edison

phonograph disc photographs use a steel needle which rests in the groove of the record the records wobbling groove vibrates the needle side-to-side which is why the diaphragm sits vertically this arm transfers the vibrations from the needle up to the diaphragm the reproducers sound comes out this hole and is mounted to this pipework which directs the sound down into the cabinet and out the horn the arm it sits on glides from side to side allowing the needle to travel the length of the record plane a record was very simple compared to the cylinder phonograph and much of it had to do with the mechanism simplicity unlike the cylinder phonograph there’s no belt transferring motion or a worm gear to move the reproducer all the mechanism does is spin the turntable at 78 rpm a governor regulates the mechanism speed and there’s not a mated brake which can be to stop the machine at the end of a record but that’s just an optional component playing a record went like this pick it out place it on the turntable whine the Machine release the brake and simply rest the needle on the record at the beginning groove that’s it there’s no stopper no gate just a very simple spinning disc and a needle to play it there was one caveat the cylinder benefited from having the stylus float over the surface of the record almost no force was placed on it so the records didn’t wear and the stylus was permanent this design though places all the reproducers weight on one tiny point and it weighs over 8 ounces that could wear out the disc very quickly there was a solution though the discs were made with an abrasive compound built-in and the needles were very soft the idea was to wear the needle instead of the disc a needle would be ground down from a point by the record preserving the record surface but damaging the needle the needles are meant to be replaced with each play that’s what these cups are here for to hold new needles and dispose of the old ones this did add a layer of complication but changing the needles was easy watch just unscrew this little wheel take out the needle grab a new one and tighten it down it also gave for some interesting options a thick needle like this one makes a very loud and harsh sound good for entertaining but a thinner needle a quiet tone needle makes a quieter sound better for listening to music on your own there were even ultra quiet bamboo needles that would be used for late night listening and there were some needles called tungsten needles that had a tungsten tip these only needed to be replaced every dozen or so plays but consumers didn’t mind changing them it was much easier to change them than deal with a cumbersome cylinder and it gave them versatile options let’s listen to one of these newfangled discs records first we need a new needle then we need to wind the Machine about 30 turns should do then we just released the break and put the needle on the record I’ll shoot one more thing this lid here isn’t just decorative by closing the lid we help eliminate what’s called surface noise the actual surface of the record creates a scratching noise as the needle touches it by closing the lid we can help eliminate this noise the machine will sound better so one more time Oh after seeing and hearing a disk machine it’s easy to understand why the cylinder failed miserably in the marketplace they continue to be produced until 1929 but Edison formally admitted defeat back in 1912 by introducing bees this is an Edison diamond disc record his company’s last-ditch effort to save itself they did have some advantages to the conventional discs mainly a longer recording time and better sound quality but they weren’t perfect for one thing they’re unnecessarily thick look at this thing it’s like three records thick the Edison discs got their better sound quality and slightly longer recording time five minutes on a 10-inch disc are using Edison’s tried-and-true up-and-down motion of the styles but this also presented a problem those poor suckers have bought a Victor Brunswick or any of the other countless standard machines well they couldn’t play these discs without destroying them that’s because the heavy reproducers would put all their weight on the needle which is almost instantly destroyed the fragile surface of the groove on Edison’s records this meant that if you bought them well you couldn’t use them unless you bought Edison’s machine and even if you tried to play one you couldn’t hear anything from them remember the needle wobbles side to side to make noise so if it’s being pushed up and down by the groove what you’ll hear will only be a whisper Edison kept locking himself down into proprietary formats and you can’t blame him because look at it he invented the thing and everybody’s benefitting but him but it’s easy to see why his tactics failed look at the license on

this can of music here it’s very restrictive Edison carded himself uncontrolled but in retrospect it looks like he had too much there were simply more options available on the disc more people were innovating them they were cheaper to make cheaper use easier to use again it was obvious this just made more sense cylinders lingered on in part because their photographs could easily be converted to dictation machines by replacing the reproducer with a special cutting reproducer and using blank wax cylinders you can record your own voice to be played back later very easily recording on a disc phonograph though was pretty complicated and pretty much didn’t happen except in the factory still consumers didn’t really have a need for it but this was on a roller coaster that only went up the cylinder though not so lucky but that’s progress Berliners idea was simply more practical he can’t blame the public for signing with him thanks for joining me on technology connections next week we’ll be exploring the next big thing in sound these what are these these are vacuum tubes or valves these glass bulbs brought us the birth of the electronics industry these glass bulbs brought us radio ah