Filmophone Flexible Record (1930 – 1932)

Filmophone was an early type of flexible record, introduced by Filmophone Flexible Records Ltd for the UK market in 1930.

They were 10-inches in diameter, double-sided and played at 78rpm. Unlike contemporary 10-inch 78s which were made of heavy and brittle shellac, Filmophone records were made of cellulose, and were initially available in a range of colours. Priced at 2 shillings and sixpence, they were popular in the UK for a time, and many of the releases were by British musicians.

Due to their flexibility, they don’t always lay flat on a turntable, and they were designed to last perhaps a dozen plays.

Nearly 400 titles were released on Filmophone records, but they stopped being produced in 1932.

Sources / Resources

Durium record (1932 – 1933)

Durium was the name of a UK record label, and also the name of the material used to make the records it issued, which was a synthetic brown resin invented in the US in 1929. Durium was also used by a US record label called ‘Hit Of The Week’ between 1930 and 1932 to make cardboard-backed flexi-discs, initially with one song, and later with two songs on one side of the disc.

The UK Durium label also used the durium material make inexpensive cardboard-backed flexi-discs containing two songs, and sold at newsstands. Sound quality was as good or even better than the usual shellac used for most phonograph records of the time. They could be played with standard steel needles and were as durable as shellac discs (and less fragile). Like shellac records, Durium records span at 78rpm, but had closer spaced grooves to enable five minutes of playing time (at the expense of bass response).

Most discs were 10-inches in diameter, and were contained in flimsy sleeves. They usually had plain cardboard backings, but some had pictures of the artist.

In the UK, the Durium label released around 40 title from April 1932 to January 1933 at the rate of one per week, on Fridays which was traditionally payday in the UK.

Durium records are still playable today, unless they are badly creased. If the records will not sit flat on the turntable, they can be weighted with a upturned mug or similar object.

Sources / Resources

PocketDisc (1967 – 1969)

PocketDiscs were 4-inch, 33⅓ rpm, flexible phonograph records introduced by Americom. Americom also produced a portable player for the PocketDisc, called The Music Swinger, that allowed the discs to be played in any position (PocketDiscs could also be played on a manual phonograph).

Unlike the similar Hip Pocket Records, PocketDiscs could be purchased through special vending machines. Americom teamed up with around 28 record labels, and releases on PocketDisc were made simultaneously with the release of the 7-inch single version. Releases on Hip Pocket Records were not current releases.

Americom also teamed up with Apple records and released PocketDiscs with Beatles songs as well as songs from other artists under the Apple label such as the Iveys and Billy Preston. For this reason, some Americom PocketDisc releases are highly collectible, selling for up to £900 for titles such as the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.

Due to the limited capacity of PocketDiscs (3.5 minutes), some longer songs such as The Beatles’ Hey Jude could not be played in their entirety.

Both Hip Pocket Records and Pocket Discs were marketed for their portability, and the ability to send them through the post or keep in a pocket without damage.

Sources / Resources

Hip Pocket Record (1967 – 1969)

Hip Pocket Records were 4-inch, 45-rpm, flexible phonograph records manufactured by Philco. Philco also produced portable players for the discs, but they could be played on manual phonographs.

Philco teamed with three major record companies, Atlantic, Mercury and Roulette, to produce music for them, and around 50 titles were released. They were sold for 69 cents at Woolworth, and also at local Ford Dealers.

Hip Pocket Records contained a song on each side, but could only be played about a dozen times before they were worn out by the stylus.

Americom produced a very similar format under the name PocketDisc.

Both Hip Pocket Records and PocketDiscs were marketed for their portability, and the ability to send them through the post or keep in a pocket without damage.

Sources / Resources

Audograph (1946 – 1976)

Audograph was a dictation disc format introduced in 1946 by the Gray Manufacturing Company in the US. It recorded sound by pressing grooves into soft vinyl discs, like the competing, but incompatible, SoundScriber and Voicewriter formats.

Audograph discs were thin plastic discs, recorded from the inside to the outside, the opposite of conventional phongraph discs. Another difference to phongraph discs was that the Audograph was driven by a surface-mounted wheel, meaning that its recording and playback speed decreased toward the edge of the disc (like the Compact Disc and other digital formats), to keep a more constant linear velocity and to improve playing time.

Along with a Dictabelt recorder, an Audograph machine captured sounds recorded at the time of the John F. Kennedy assassination that were reviewed by the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations.

Gray stopped manufacturing the Audograph in 1976.

 Sources / Resources

Voicewriter (late 1940 – 1960s)

The Voicewriter was a dictation format introduced by Thomas A. Edison Industries in the late 1940s. Unlike Edison’s previous cylinder-based dictation machines, this used an almost 7-inch diameter flexible red resin-based disc, labelled as an ‘Edison Diamond Disc’ (not to be confused with the earlier Edison Disc Record / Diamond Disc of 1912 to 1929).

Like the SoundScriber and Audograph systems, sound was embossed in grooves onto the discs, but unlike these competing disc formats, Voicewriter discs can be played back on a phonograph turntable with a microgroove stylus and a US-style adaptor for 7-inch singles (although the speed is slightly-less than 33⅓ rpm).

Sources / Resources

Floppy ROM (1977 – mid 1980s)

A floppy ROM is a flexi-disc vinyl record with computer code in audio form.

The first floppy ROM was published in the May 1977 issue of Interface Age and took the form of a 33⅓ RPM flexi-disc with 6 minutes of ‘Kansas City’ standard computer code.

It was recommend that the audio be recorded onto a cassette and then played back to load the programme.

Although never common, the floppy ROM was used into the 1980s to distribute software through some computer magazines.

Sources / Resources

Television Electronic Disc (TeD) (1975 – 1978)

Television Electronic Disc (TeD) was a video disc format, released in 1975 by Telefunken and Teldec (after being initially announced in 1970) in West Germany.

The format used 8-inch flexible foil discs, which spun at 1,500 rpm on a cushion of air. The discs were claimed to withstand being played 1,000 times and used a vertical recording method with 130-150 grooves per millimeter (compared to 10-13 on an LP). The tracks were read by a pressure pick-up, which translated the surface of the ridges, via a piezo-electric crystal, into an electrical signal.

When released, the discs could hold 10 minutes of colour video, so longer programmes required a lot of disc changes.

TeD never gained wide acceptance, and could not compete against the emerging videocassette systems of the time such as VHS and Betamax. Telefunken adopted VHS in 1978.

Sources / Resources

SoundScriber (1942 – 1960s)

The SoundScriber system was introduced in 1942, and was voice recording format that used a soft flexible vinyl disc onto which the sound was embossed as grooves, using vertical (or ‘hill and dale’) recording rather than lateral recording.

Two different sizes, both bright green with a square centre hole, were produced – 6 inches (known as ‘Mail Chute’) that played for fifteen minutes, and 4-inch ‘Memo Discs’ with eight minutes of recording time.

The soft vinyl meant playback was only possible a few times, but for dictation purposes this was sufficient.

SoundScriber remained popular for two decades and competed against similar formats such as the Audograph and Dictabelt.

Sources / Resources