Tagged: 1940s

Formats current at any point during the years 1940-1949

LP (Long Play) 12 inch record (1948 – )

The LP (Long Play) record is an audio format for phonograph records, introduced by Columbia Records in 1948 and still in use today.

LP records are made of vinyl (either virgin or recycled) and together with a playing speed of 33⅓ rpm and the use of microgrooves, allow for a playing time of around 45 minutes. Previously, 78 rpm records had a playing time of just around 3-4 minutes per side, so an ‘album’ of records was sold as a set, and this name continued to describe a collection of songs on a single disc.

Each side of an LP contains a single continuous groove, with an average length of 460 m.

LP records are generally 12 inches in diameter, but 10 inch LPs have also been produced at different times. The amount of vinyl in an LP is generally 130 g, but some records were produced with less (sometimes as little as 90 g). Modern high-fidelity LPs tend to use more, such as 180 g. Generally LPs are pressed on black vinyl, but coloured vinyl and picture discs (with a card sandwiched between two clear sides of vinyl) have been produced, as have shaped vinyl and even neon vinyl.

By as early as 1952, LPs represented 16.7% of unit sales, rising to 24.4% in 1958 (by then, most of the remainder was 45 rpm singles, 78 rpm only representing 2.1%).

Stereo sound was introduced in 1958, and quadraphonic records were sold in the 1970s for a time.

The LP had no serious competitors for long-playing recordings until the 1970s when the Compact Cassette improved in quality, and then in the 1980s with the introduction of the Compact Disc. LPs ceased to be a mainstream format in the early 1990s, but continue to be produced in small but increasing numbers.

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Preservation / Migration

35mm film (1892 – )

35mm film was the most common film gauge for cinematography, and was also used in still photography (in the form of 135 film).

The name derives from the width of the film strip. When used for motion pictures, the image is across the film and each frame usually has four perforations giving 16 frames per foot, whereas when used for photography the image is lengthways along the film and each frame uses eight perforations. In conventional motion picture film, the image is 22 x 16mm (known as the ‘Academy ratio’). The shape and frequency of the perforations differed in the early years.

The 35mm format was introduced in 1892, soon after the introduction of transparent flexible film in 1889,  at a time when a large range of different film gauges were in use. By 1909 it became accepted as the international standard gauge and remained so until largely replaced by digital cinematography. Although other gauges have been used for cinematography, 35mm remained the most popular with professional film makers as it provided a good trade-off between cost and image quality.

Until the 1950s, 35mm film was made of cellulose nitrate which was highly inflammable and difficult to extinguish once alight. It was replaced with ‘safety film’ (cellulose triacetate). From the 1990s, film stock was made with a synthetic polyester safety base.

Sound was introduced around 1926, with Warner Bros. using synchronised phonograph discs. Later sound-on-film systems include optical analogue, optical digital, and magnetic strips. DTS soundtracks use a timecode printed on the film to synchronise with Compact Discs.

Between 2005 and 2015, most cinemas rapidly converted to digital projection, and in 2014 Paramount Pictures announced that it would no longer supply 35mm prints of movies in the US. Whilst 35mm film is still in use for both shooting and showing movies, it is rapidly becoming a niche format.

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Cigarette card (1875 – early 2000s)

Cigarette cards were a particular form of trade card, initially popularised by tobacco companies as a way of selling their products, and after World War II were also used by some other manufacturers such as tea companies.

Card was used as a stiffener in paper packs of cigarettes, and beginning in 1875 in the US, these cards began to carry images, for example of actresses, sportsmen or Native American chiefs. In 1878 they also began to include information about the image on the back of the card.

In 1887, W.D. & H.O. Wills began to issue cigarette cards in the UK.

The range of images expanded over time and began to be issued in colour, and the cards became popular as a way of viewing and collecting exotic images from around the world. They also began to be issued in sets, and around 1900 albums began to be produced to enable people to collect and store the cards together.

In 1939, cigarette card production virtually ceased in the UK as paper was in short supply during the war. After the war, ‘cigarette’ cards were issued by tea companies such as Brooke Bond in the UK, who issued cards until 1999. There have been some cigarette cards issued since, such as by the US tobacco company R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company who issued several series through a couple of its brand in the early 2000s.

Not all types of cigarette cards are the same size, but the standard size was around 67 x 36mm.

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Acetate / lacquer disc (late 1920s – )

Acetate discs (also known as lacquers or instantaneous discs) are a type of phonograph record created using a recording lathe to cut a groove in real-time, rather than mass-produced from moulds.

Unlike standard vinyl phonograph discs, acetates consist of a core material (usually aluminium, but glass and cardboard have also been used) coated with black nitrocellulose lacquer (prior to 1934, cellulose acetate was used as the coating, hence the common but incorrect name of acetate). They have ranged in size from 7-inches to 16-inches. Due to the metal core, acetates are heavier than standard records. Cheaper acetates may have a second hole near the centre, to prevent the disc slipping on lathes that don’t have a vacuum turntable. They are often one-sided, with no grooves on the reverse, and labels may be typed or handwritten rather than printed.

Acetates are used in record manufacturing; a master disc is created by dubbing from another medium (such as a master tape) and electroforming is then used to make negative metal moulds from. They were also used to evaluate the quality of the tape-to-disc transfer, to compare different takes or mixes of a recording, to get approval from band members, or to get preview copies to radio stations before the mass-produced copies were available.

Prior to the availability of magnetic tape, acetate discs were used for direct-to-disc recording. Home recording machines of the 1940s and 1950s used acetates.

Acetates wear much quicker than standard vinyl records due to the softer material used, and a chipped stylus can damage an acetate in one play.

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 5obsolescence 3Playback ideally requires a suitable stylus designed for use with lacquer discs, and for discs larger than 12-inches, a special turntable platter is also needed.

Graphophone / Dictaphone cylinder (1887 – early 1950s)

The Dictaphone was one of two competing wax cylinder phonograph systems for voice dictation, the other being Edison’s Ediphone system. The use of cylinders for voice recording pre-dated their use for music when, in 1887, Alexander Graham Bell, his cousin Chichester A. Bell, and Charles Sumner Tainter put into production a wax cylinder system for recording and reproducing speech (Edison then switched from tinfoil to wax cylinders in response in 1888).

Until 1907 the Dictaphone system was known as the Graphophone.

The main difference between the two rival systems was the recording method, with Edison using ‘hill and dale’ recording, while the Graphophone used lateral (side to side) recording. The cylinders could have a layer of wax shaved off, to enable re-use.

By the mid-1940s, new dictation technologies were rapidly being introduced such as Dictaphone’s own Dictabelt, Edison’s Voicewriter, the Gray Audograph and the SoundScriber, and both Edison and Dictaphone stopped supplying wax cylinders in the early 1950s.

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Picture discs (1920s – )

Picture discs are phonograph discs with images visible under the playable area.

The first types were the gramophone postcards, but the first real picture discs appeared in the 1920s. Some of these had images relevant to the music, while other promoted films the music appeared in, and others were used as propaganda. The images were often printed on thin cardboard, covered with a thin plastic coating and sound quality in most cases was poor. Some picture discs were better made, but in the 1930s the record industry suffered the effects of the depression and picture discs were a casualty.

In the 1940s, cardboard records appeared, consisting of plastic-coated card, similar to gramophone postcards. Often used in promotional campaigns, they were only intended to be played once or twice. Proper picture discs reappeared in 1946, issued on the Vogue Records label (which lasted until 1947). These had an alumuminium core, and the images were coated in a layer of vinyl providing better sound quality than the standard shellac records of the time.

From the late 1940s, children’s picture discs became popular, both in the US and Europe.

In the 1970s, LPs and singles began to appear using a new process consisting of five layers – a core of black vinyl with kiln-dried paper decals on either side and then outer skins of clear vinyl film. The first of these was Curved Air’s first album, Airconditioning, released in the UK in 1970. During the 1980s, picture disc singles were also released in unusual shapes.

Picture discs continue to be released, even though sound quality is often not as good as standard releases due in part to ultra thin outside layers of clear vinyl which supports the grooves.

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Multiple groove phonograph record (1898 – )

A multiple groove record has two or more parallel sets of grooves on one or both sides, allowing extra or hidden tracks to be added. On a disc that has multiple grooves, which track the listener hears depends on where the stylus is placed.

The first commercial record to use such a technique was a very early Berliner record released in the UK in 1898, ‘Puzzell [sic] Plate’ with two piano solos. Other early releases included ‘fortune telling’ records with different scenarios.

Later examples include the Monty Python album ‘Matching Tie and Handkerchief, issued in 1973. On early pressings, both sides were labled as ‘Side 2’, but one side had a pair of grooves.

The 12-inch single version of ‘Pop Muzik’ by M in 1979 was credited on it’s cover as the ‘first double-groove single’ as Side A and B were on one side.

Multiple groove 12-inch LPs and 12-inch singles continue to be occasionally released.

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Professional open reel tape (NAB reel) (1930s – )

Open reel tape is a magnetic tape format for audio where the tape is not enclosed in a cartridge or cassette, but held on a reel or spindle and threaded manually through the tape head assembly and attached to a take-up reel.

Magnetic tape was first developed in the 1930s in Germany, and after the war the technology was taken to America by Jack Mullin and developed commercially by Ampex with investment from Bing Crosby. The first commercial tape recorder (the Ampex Model 200) was released in 1948.

Open reel tape recorders for domestic and educational use become available by the late 1940s.

Open reel tape recorders for professional use generally use large metal reels (mostly 10½-inches) with large centre holes, which eventually become standardised and known as NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) reels, as opposed to domestic open reel tape recorders which generally used smaller plastic reels and smaller ‘cine spindle’ hubs. Tape generally runs at 15 or 30-inches per second.

Initially, tape was ¼-inches wide and used a single track. Over the years, multitrack recording become common, and by 1968, up to 24 tracks could be recorded onto 2-inch wide tape. The 2-inch 24-track tape reel became the most common format in professional recording studios throughout most of the 1970s and 1980s, but other widths (¼-inch, ½-inch and 1-inch) were also available.

Open reel tape recording was main recording format used by professional recording studios until the late 1980s when digital audio recording techniques began to allow the use of other types of media (such as Digital Audio Tape (DAT) and hard disks). Tape is still used by some recording studios, often to record digital tracks to, to effect a ‘natural’ and ‘warmer’ sound.

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Ediphone (1888 – early 1950s)

The Ediphone was one of two competing wax cylinder phonograph systems for voice dictation, the other being the Dictaphone system. The use of cylinders for voice recording pre-dated their use for music, although it wasn’t until 1888 that Edison switched from tinfoil to wax cylinders in response to the rival Graphophone system introduced in 1887 (that later became the Dictaphone system).

The main difference between the two rival systems was the recording method, with Edison using ‘hill and dale’ recording, while the Graphophone used lateral (side to side) recording. The cylinders could have a layer of wax shaved off, to enable re-use.

By around 1910, the Edison system had adopted the name Ediphone, and technical refinements were introduced over time such as electric motors, foot control pedals, and eventually electrical recording in 1939.

By the mid-1940s, new dictation technologies were rapidly being introduced such as Dictaphone’s Dictabelt, Edison’s own Voicewriter, the Gray Audograph and the SoundScriber, and both Edison and Dictaphone stopped supplying wax cylinders in the early 1950s.

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Jacquard Loom card (1801 – 1990s)

The Jacquard Loom was a mechanical loom for cloth weaving, first demonstrated by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801. It used a chain of punched cards laced together to allow the loom to create complex patterns.

Any number of the cards could be chained together into a continuous sequence, with each card corresponding to one row of the design. Each position on the card corresponds to a ‘Bolus’ hook which can either be raised or stopped dependent on whether the hole is punched out of the position on the card or not. The hook raises or lowers the harness, which carries and guides the warp thread so that the weft will either lie above or below it.

Modern Jacquard looms are controlled by computers in place of the original punched cards, and can have thousands of hooks.

Charles Babbage was aware of Jacquard loom cards, and planned to use cards to store programs in his Analytical engine, first described in 1837. Later in the 19th Century, Herman Hollerith used the idea of storing information on cards to create the punched card tabulating machine which he used to input data for the 1890 US Census.

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