In 1887, Emil Berliner (1851–1921) invented the gramophone, the mechanical predecessor to the electric record player. Later, with the shellac record, he developed a medium that allowed music recordings to be mass produced. As a smart businessman, the German-American knew how to market his patents and founded one of the first major record labels.
Emil Berliner (1851-1921) is the inventor of the gramophone and the shellac record.
The German-American's first significant invention, however, was the carbon microphone, which he developed at the same time as Hughes and Edison.
He sold his patent in 1877 to Alexander G. Bell in a lucrative deal, who used it as a component of the Bell telephone. The sale made Berliner financially independent, and as a result, he was able to found his own research laboratory.
First sound recordings:
In 1877, Thomas A. Edison managed to successfully record sounds acoustically-mechanically, and to store and reproduce them with the tin foil phonograph.
The recording medium is the cylinder covered with tin foil. If it is rotated and one speaks into the funnel, the sound is recorded in the vertical recording process.
Berliner's inventions: In 1887, Emil Berliner obtained the US patent for the gramophone and the associated record. The mechanical predecessor to the electric record player was born.
A major improvement to his speech device, which was filed for patent in 1887, was the zinc record. Unlike the Edison cylinder, the sound track here is created using the lateral recording process on the recording medium.
The early gramophone had a horn made of papier-mâché, which is firmly connected to the tonearm and the sound box. The hand crank is used to set the record in motion, which produces the sound.
"Voice Mail": In 1907, Emil Berliner sent a record as a "spoken letter." A few years later, anyone could send such a record with their own voice message by post.
The legacy of Berliner – vinyl as a lifestyle: Today we mainly store and consume music digitally. Gramophone and record players are already displayed in museums. Nevertheless, the vinyl record is currently experiencing a revival. Music lovers appreciate the look, the feel and longevity of the analogue recording medium.
The ritual of playing the record makes listening to music a fascinating event – as it did back then when Emil Berliner played the first shellac record on the gramophone more than 100 years ago.
Music from a tin: Emil Berliner and the gramophone
A virtual exhibition by the Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation.
Curator: Helene Weidner
All objects from the collection of the Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation.
Gauß, Stefan: Nadel, Rille, Trichter. Kulturgeschichte des Phonographen und des Grammophons in Deutschland (1900-1940), Böhlau Verlag, Köln, Weimar, Wien 2009
Große, Günter: Von der Edisonwalze zur Stereoplatte, Lied der Zeit Musikverlag, Berlin 1989
Haffner, Herbert: „His Master’s Voice“ Die Geschichte der Schallplatte, Parthas Verlag, Berlin 2011