If you have heard of a gramophone or a record player you know what a phonograph is; it is the same thing.
The phonograph is an ancient device that is able to play back recorded music, and it is considered very valuable for its antique value today.
Like we listen to music from CDs and the digital mp3 formats, our great grandparents listened to music from gramophones.
The official license (patent) for the phonograph was awarded to Thomas Edison in 1877, even though people were said to have used it even before that.
The word ‘gramophone’ comes from the Greek term “gramma” which means ‘letter’, and “phone” which means ‘voice’.
Even though the phonograph is considered to play back recorded music, when it was first made it was even able to remake sounds.
For the phonograph to produce sound, a disk with sound waves, which are engraved into it, is placed on a turning cylinder or disc. There is also a stylus or a little needle that is placed on the disc, which vibrates according to the patterns engraved onto the disc.
When it does so, it “plays” these recorded sound waves.
Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877. Even though other inventors had made instruments that could produce sound before Edison’s, his was the first one that could reproduce recorded sound. That why it is considered special.
The reason this marked a huge change in the way people enjoyed music was that now, unlike earlier, people could listen to their favourite tracks anytime they wanted at home.
At the very beginning, Edison’s phonograph recorded sound onto a tinfoil sheet and later on music used to be recorded onto cylinders.
Alexander Graham Bell improved on Edison’s design in the 1880s and added wax coated cardboard cylinders instead of tinfoil sheets, and the cutting stylus, which zig zags across the engraved sound waves.
Emile Berliner pushed Bell’s design even further. He was the first to replace the cylinders with sound recording disc and renamed the “phonograph” the “gramophone”.
Even though at the beginning Berliner’s disc did not have as good sound quality as the earlier cylinders, his partner Eldridge Johnson improved it.
They worked together for many years, and formed the Victor Talking Machine Company, which ruled the music market for a long time to come.
The phonograph/gramophone went through many changes over the years to come and is considered a very valuable article because it is very rare.
Today the famous Grammy Awards are nicknamed after the gramophone, and the trophy given looks like the Victor gramophone, in honour of this great invention that changed the way people listened to music forever.