Everyday we are surrounded by sounds that people have captured. You don’t have to be working in the multimedia or voice over industry to recognise this. Radio, TV, phones, we can’t escape the artificial sounds around us. But do we know where they came from and how they are recorded? I’m sure we all know a few ways, but the history of sound recording is a rich history to look back upon. So why don’t we take a glance at a few of the notable inventions that have made modern life what it is today.
One of the earliest inventions to capture sound was called a phonograph. Thomas Edison was said to have created an early version of this machine. It operated by using cylinders lined with tinfoil which had the sounds imprinted upon them. They could be played back so the sound could be heard again, which was a new concept at that time. Unfortunately, these tinfoil cylinders have not survived to today.
Soon after another invention called a “gramophone” was brought to light. It operated by having a needle move across a disk, which had grooves on it. The needle created a cut in the grooves, which could be used to play back the sound. An improvement was made later on, by creating a “template” for other disks to be copied from. This would be useful for mass production if needed. It wasn’t until much later in the life of the gramophone that vinyl was introduced as a medium to store the audio. This was popularised in the 1950’s.
As you can see, these two ideas varied in their medium as well as their method. But more modern methods would increase the quality and ease of production. This would drive down costs and make the audio more widely available to the mass public. Bing Crosby is often accredited with popularising the use of magnetic tape for recording audio. He invested around $50,000 into the Ampex company to see whether or not magnetic tape would become big in the recording industry. The payoff was huge as the music recording industry recognised the importance of being able to layer multiple tracks over each other.
Later on in the century, the CD was introduced as an important player in the recording industry. Its large capacity to hold audio, high quality playback and cheap production costs made it ideal for the public. The medium was created by both Phillips and Sony, and has been highly influential in the audio industry. It used laser technology to read small ‘pits’ or dents in on the surface of the CD. The fact these pits were so small allowed lots of data to be stored on it, as well as helping the CD to be very small in comparison to its predecessor, the vinyl player.
From tinfoil cylinders to the modern day CD, the technology has advanced very far, becoming increasingly sophisticated. In current times however, digital storage has become very popular. So much so that digital sales have began to exceed physical sales in the music industry. This trend in a non-physical medium shows why platforms like iTunes and Spotify are succeeding in the marketplace. They offer music everywhere you could want, without having to carry it anywhere! The only thing you would need is a phone or a device with online connectivity. One could assume that this is the penultimate version of audio storage and consumption, but as time goes on, technology will always evolve.