Tagged: music

Record album (late 1900s – 1950s)

Sometime during the late 1900s, record companies began to sell sets of 78rpm disc records in hardback ‘albums’. These were much like photograph albums, but with paper sleeves for multiple 10-inch or 12-inch phonograph discs, and they allowed record companies to sell complete musical works such as operas or classical works. The 78 rpm records of the time were only able to contain around 3 minutes of playing time on the 10-inch version, and 5 minutes on the 12-inch versions, so a longer complete work had to be spread across several discs.

Around the same time, empty record albums became available to allow listeners to store and protect their own discs, write information about the contents on an index page, and display the album on bookshelves.

Record albums eventually came to be used to contain compilations by artist, or by genre, in addition to longer works, and a set of 4-5 discs could contain 8-10 songs. Later releases had cover artwork and liner notes.

With the advent of the Long Play microgroove record in 1948 that could hold the same number of songs on a single disc there was no longer a need for record albums containing several discs, and indeed by the late 1950s the 78 rpm disc itself was being phased out. However, the term ‘album’ continues to be used to describe a collection of songs, whatever the format.

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Metal tape Microcassette (1981 – mid-1980s)

The Microcassette was introduced in 1969 by Olympus for dictation purposes, but in 1981 and 1982 several devices were introduced that used the Microcassette for music recording and playback.

Several personal stereo devices, similar to the Sony Walkman were introduced, such as the Olympus SR-11, and there were also several Microcassette decks for Hi-Fi separates systems from brands such as JVC, Sanyo, Technics and Sony.

The Microcassette for music was a little different to the standard Microcassette and used metal tape (coated with pure metal particles rather than oxide) which had been introduced for the Compact Cassette in 1979 as this offered higher sound quality. Many of the new Microcassette music devices offered Dolby noise reduction, and of course this version of the Microcassette offered stereo sound.

A few pre-recorded tapes were released (mostly in Japan), but the format failed to take off and seems to have disappeared fairly quickly. Even at the time the tapes had limited availability and were expensive, and it’s now hard to find original metal tape Microcassettes.

Despite being used for music playback in its metal-tape form, the cassette seen in the 1971 film ‘A Clockwork Orange’ was the similar Mini-Cassette format and not a Microcassette.

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Yaboom MCD Musical Key Chain (1999 – 2001)

Yaboom was a toy manufacturer of the late 1990s and early 2000s that specialised in celebrity musical dolls. It also made a couple of different formats for music, one of which was the MCD Musical Key Chain which was a small music player on a key chain.

Like similar formats such as HitClips, it was aimed at the teenage market. And like HitClips, sound quality was poor but the single songs were at least full length. As well as a play button, there was a switch that meant a 20 second sample was played when the play button was pressed, and this allowed users to hear a sample before buying as the play button could be pressed whilst the device was still in its packaging. There was no volume control and no headphone socket so the song could only be played through the tiny built-in speaker.

Artists such as Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, TLC, B*Witched and Five were released on MCD Musical Key Chains.

Yaboom also made the Yaboom Box, a very small replica boom box on a key chain, that could be used with tiny interchangeable cartridges.

Yaboom appeared to have ceased trading sometime in 2001.

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Copy-protected Compact Disc (2000 – 2006)

The original specification for Compact Disc Digital Audio, known as the Red Book, did not make any provision for copy protection, and by the late 1990s millions of ripped audio tracks from Compact Discs were compressed as MP3s and shared over the internet.

The music industry did several things to try and rectify the situation, including setting up online music stores selling music through a subscription model, and the Recording Industry Association of America also prosecuted over 20,000 individuals they accused of sharing pirated MP3s.

Starting around 2000, the music industry also began to put copy-protection onto audio Compact Discs. Companies such as EMI, Sony, BMG, and for a time Warner used copy protection as a means to prevent ripping of audio tracks onto a computer.

Since the discs were non-compliant with the Red Book standard, they were not supposed to display the Compact Disc Digital Audio logo on either the disc or inside the jewel case. There was also a consumer outcry against the disks as they prevented tracks from being copied to the purchaser’s personal audio devices, and some CD players such as those in cars would not play the disks (since these sometimes used some CD-ROM components, especially if they were intended to play disks containing MP3 or other types of compressed files).

In 2005, it was discovered that Sony BMG were using a type of copy protection called Extended Copy Protection (XCP) which installed a rootkit on a user’s computer. This sparked a scandal as it could be used by malware, and Sony announced a recall of disks using XCP and suspended its use.

EMI was the last major label to abandon copy protection in 2006.

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Yaboom Box (1999 – 2001)

Yaboom was a toy manufacturer of the late 1990s and early 2000s that specialised in celebrity musical dolls. It also made a couple of different formats for music, one of which was the Yaboom Box which was a very small replica boom box on a key chain, that could be used with tiny interchangeable cartridges.

This was very similar in concept to HitClips, and was aimed at the teenage market. Like HitClips, sound quality was poor, and the songs only lasted for one minute. Artists such as LFO, Sisqó, Christina Aguilera, Aaron Carter and Mandy Moore have been released on Yaboom cartridges.

Yaboom also made the MCD Musical Key Chain that contained a full-length song but without interchangeable cartridges.

Yaboom appeared to have ceased trading sometime in 2001.

Shaped Compact Disc (1996 – )

Shaped Compact Discs first appeared in the mid-1990s, the first being The Flaming Lips Compact Disc single entitled ‘This Here Giraffe’ released in 1996 on a 8-pointed star-shaped disc.

The most common form of shaped Compact Disc is the business card sized CD-ROM introduced in 1998, but shaped CDs can come in a variety of shapes. Generally, Compact Disc audio discs can be symmetric or asymmetric, whereas shaped CD-ROMs are generally symmetrical so they do not cause vibrations in high-speed CD-ROM drives.

Shaped CDs contain less audio or data than standard 12cm discs, and may not work in all drives.

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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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Enhanced CD (1994 – )

An enhanced CD (or ECD) is a Compact Disc that contains both audio content playable on a standard CD audio player, and multimedia content playable on a computer CD-ROM.

Introduced in 1994, the idea behind enhanced CDs was to offer the music buyer some extra bonus features using space on the disc that was unfilled by the music. This might take the form of music videos (similar to the earlier idea of CD Video), interviews, wallpapers, pictures, lyrics, or links to an artists website.

Rather confusingly, there were three different ways on combining the different content on the disc. Prior to 1996, enhanced CDs were created in one of two ways. One was to have the multimedia content in the first track, but this meant that track 1 needed to be skipped when played in a standard CD audio player or else the multimedia track could cause an unpleasant noise to be heard. A subsequent solution was to have the multimedia content in the pre-gap before track 1 (rather like the way a CD-i Ready disc worked). Both of these methods were known as ‘mixed-mode’, combining Red Book Digital Audio and Yellow Book CD-ROM information in a single ‘session’ on the same disc.

To get around the problems of mixed-mode discs, Philips and Sony released the Blue Book standards in 1995, and worked with Apple, Microsoft and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to develop them. This new standard specified multisession technology that used two sessions on the disc, the first one containing audio tracks, and the second one containing data that is invisible to CD audio players. In 1996, most enhanced CDs used mixed-mode with the multimedia in the pre-gap, but by 1997 most were using Blue Book standards. The only downside to the newer multisession technology was that CD-ROM drives made before 1996 might not recognise them if they were not multisession capable.

Enhanced CDs can usually be recognised the official ‘Enhanced CD’ logo recommended by the RIAA. They may also have the CD EXTRA logo (previously known as CD Plus), which was trademarked by Sony for use on Blue Book discs.

Later technologies like DVD-Audio or DualDisc tried to perform the same function of offering the music album with bonus material such as videos, but later albums often came instead with the videos on a separate DVD-Video.

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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.

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CD-i Ready (1991 – 1998)

CD-i Ready was a hybrid optical disc format, combining audio tracks readable by any Compact Disc audio player, and multimedia or interactive elements readable on a CD-i (Compact Disc Interactive) player. It was introduced by Philips in 1991.

The audio tracks conform to Red Book Compact Disc Digital Audio standards, while the CD-i part conforms to Green Book standards, and could contain interviews, photos, biographies, games and more. The CD-i component is located in the ‘pre-gap’ area before track 1, which is skipped over by Compact Disc audio players.

The idea, like CD-i generally, was not a commercial success, and there appear to be fewer than 20 titles released as CD-i Ready discs.

The ideas behind the hybrid CD-i Ready discs were used in later types of hybrid audio/data discs such as the Enhanced CD that contained content which could be read on a standard computer CD-ROM drive rather than requiring a dedicated CD-i player.

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