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130 years of grammophone

A patent establishes the music market

When the music turned into a disc: 130 years ago, on November 8,1887, Emil Berliner received a pdf-Datei patent for his grammophone. Together with the “Schallplatte” (record) he also developed, Berlin's invention made the musical experience conservable, independent of the concert hall and suitable for mass production.

Thomas Edison had already filed a patent application for his phonograph ten years earlier and Charles Cros had also outlined his "paléophone" in Paris. But both inventions used a cylinder as a sound carrier, which was rather impractical and expensive to produce in comparison to Berliner's disc. This is why the space-saving, easily reproducible and longer playing record became established on the market after the turn of the century and was finally produced worldwide in enormous quantities.


Emil Berliner (1851-1929) came from Hannover and emigrated to the USA in 1870. His U. S. patent from 1887 included a new recording process in a helical sound groove with V-shaped side-writing (instead of Edison's depth writing). Later he continued to improve the gramophone and especially the record by replacing the initially used glass panes with zinc, then hard rubber and finally shellac until it was ready for the mass market.

He marketed his inventions with entrepreneurial skill and founded the first record companies, including (with his brother Joseph) the Deutsche Grammophon-Gesellschaft. The shellac records were played at 78 revolutions per minute at that time; only with the production from vinyl since the 1950s the 33 ("LP") and 45 ("single") revolutions per minute became standard, which are still in use today.

For almost 100 years the record remained the standard sound reproduction technique for everyone. In recent years, vinyl in the shadow of digitalisation has also regained increasing popularity among friends of the analogue music experience.

(Note: Emil Berliner changed his first name to "Emile" after accepting American citizenship.)

Picture:, Bild:

Last updated: 19/02/19 


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