Tagged: 1950s

Formats current at any point during the years 1950-1959

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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7-inch EP (1952 – )

The 7-inch EP (for Extended Play) was a format introduced in 1952 by RCA Victor, just a few years after the introduction of the 7-inch single format in 1949.  It sat between the 7-inch single and the 12-inch Long Play (LP) record, and like the 7-inch single it span at 45 rpm so could be played on any photograph with a 45 rpm setting.

By using narrower grooves, it was possible to squeeze 7½ minutes of playing time on each side at the expense of volume, allowing more than one song on each side (generally EPs have between three and six tracks). Like LPs, EPs did not necessarily have ‘title’ tracks, and could have different names to the songs on them (for example the 1963 Beatles EP simply called ‘The Beatles’ Hits’).  They were also packaged more like an LP with a cardboard picture sleeve, whereas 7-inch singles until the 1970s generally had paper sleeves with just the record label on them.

Whilst less common in the US, the 7-inch EP was widely sold in the UK and some other European countries, and between 1960 and 1967 they were popular enough for Record Retailer magazine in the UK to compile a separate EP chart. They were a good way for artists to produce something more substantial than a single between LP releases.

They declined in popularity after the 1960s, and faced competition from formats such as 10-inch and 12-inch singles or EPs (which could allow for more sound volume with wider grooves), as well as Cassette and CD singles or EPs. However, small numbers of 7-inch EPs are still released.

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Dictaphone Dictet (1957 – early 1960s)

The Dictaphone Dictet was a portable dictation device introduced by the Dictaphone Corporation in 1957. It was perhaps the earliest magnetic tape dictation system – at the time of its introduction, most office dictation systems were using discs or belts onto which grooves were pressed, such as the SoundScriber, Audograph, or Dictaphone’s own Dictabelt system. An earlier portable system, the Protona Minifon used wire recording.

The Dictet was fully transistorised and weighed 1.2kg. The cassette had a metal shell and could record up to 60 minutes (30 minutes per side) on ¼-inch tape that ran at 2½ inches per second. Using special mercury batteries, the Dictet could operate for 20 hours.

The Dictet lasted until at least 1962, but it is unclear how much longer it lasted against newer competitors such as the Compact Cassette of 1963.

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Philips EL 3581 (1958 – early 1960s)

The Philips EL 3851 was an office dictation machine introduced by Philips (known as Norelco in the US) in 1958 and was one of the earliest magnetic tape dictation systems (the Dictaphone Dictet was launched shortly before it). At the time of its introduction, most dictation systems were using discs or belts onto which grooves were pressed, such as the Dictabelt, SoundScriber and Audograph systems.

Although the EL 3851 uses a cartridge so no threading is required, the tape is housed on two separate 3-inch reels with ¼-inch tape and cine spindle holes suitable for domestic open reel tape recorders. Removing a clip from the cartridge shell allows the reels to be removed.

Like some other dictation machines, the microphone also doubles as a speaker, and contains some tape controls. A foot pedal and external speaker were also available.

Philips later introduced the much smaller Compact Cassette format in 1963, followed by the mini-cassette in 1967 and it doesn’t appear the EL 3851 was produced for long.

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Minifon wire reel (1959 – 1967)

The Minifon name was applied to a range of miniature wire recorders introduced initially by the German company Monske & Co GmbH in 1951, and then produced by Protona GmbH from 1952 until 1967, although they were also sold under the Telefunken, ITT and EMI brands.

The recorders ran on batteries, and could record over 2 hours on a single reel of wire (later models allowed for 5 hours of recording). As the reels turn, the recording/playback head moved up and down so the wire was spooled evenly on each reel.

They were popular for covert recordings, and an accessory microphone that was made to look like a wristwatch was available. Minifon recorders were sold in overseas markets such as the US and UK.

In 1959 the Minifon Ataché was introduced, using a tape cartridge for the first time, but the wire-based recorders continue to be produced until Protona ceased production of all Minifon models in 1967.

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Pye magnetic disc (1953 – late 1950s)

From around 1953 to the late 1950s the UK company Pye produced the Record Maker. This device allowed the user to record onto pre-grooved 12-inch discs that had a magnetic coating. Users could record to the disc at one of four different speeds (16⅔, 33⅓, 45 and 78rpm) but the slower the speed, the poorer the quality of recording.

The Pye Record Maker could also be used to play ordinary phonograph records, with an optional pick-up head attachment.

Telefunken also made a similar machine, but this could not play phonograph discs, used a larger centre hole, and had a single speed of 10rpm.

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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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