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Even though Thomas Edison halted his work on the phonograph, temporarily, interests in the record player never died down. Ten solid years after Thomas’ invention, German inventor Emile Berliner, who lived in the US, built on the already laid foundation of Thomas’ design. Rather than using a cylinder that has its sound engraved in wax or tin foil, he built an engine that spun a solid rubber (shellac was later used) disc on a flat plate when a crank was turned.

Unlike its preceding invention, Edison’s phonograph, Berliner’s machine- the gramophone- only played recordings. Berliner, therefore, began the Gramophone Company, that manufactured both the machines and the record players played on them. The impossibility of playing records and repeating the sound on the same machine became a possibility of having a machine that could play mass-produced recordings and share repeatedly.

Berliner’s company later merged up with Eldridge Johnson’s company, in 1901, to form the Victor Talking Machine Company. This new company manufactured and marketed both gramophones and records. Eldridge Johnson modified the gramophone’s design, which initially had a large horn which helped to increase the sound. For the horn to fit perfectly in any home, it had to be tilted down and placed entirely inside a cabinet. The new design made in 1906, however, was more sizable. It was called the Victrola. The company also produced discs recorded by renowned opera singers and musicians, giving the public a never before access to music, alongside the Victrola.

Over the years, the gramophone’s design, as well as the processing of records, constantly changed but still, the basic components of the needle in a solid rubber remained unchanged. By the mid-20th century, the record player and most recently termed a turntable was what dominated most households. Its wide popularity swayed until about the mid-1980s when cassette tape recordings sent it packing.

 

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