Today, with the explosion of the inexpensive Consumer Electronics, bit-digital some of the most incredible advances have been those in the Digital Recording Industry. This article documents the general history of Tape and Digital Audio Recording.
The earliest record of an Audio Recording dates back as far as December 4, 1877. Thomas Edison became was the first to record and play back the human voice. The technologies that resulted in the phonograph were developed from the discoveries that he made developing the telegraph and telephone. His discovery came to him while he was experimenting with how a moving diaphragm linked to a coil would produce a weak, voice modulated signal. During this time he was also continuing his experiments with a telegraph repeater that was a simple device that made use of a needle to make indentations in paper with the dots and dashes used in Morse code.
These two innovative ideas were joined. He attached the stylus from the telegraph repeater to the diaphragm in the mouthpiece of a telephone. During his first test in July of 1877, ichimame he attempted success by mechanically pulling a sheet of paper under the needle while attached to the diaphragm as he shouted into the mouthpiece. Unfortunately, this combination failed to produce desired results. But, it did produce a vague recognizable sound that was the seed of faith Edison needed to continue fulfilling his vision.
During the following year, Edison and his staff worked with diligence to refine his invention. His first important discovery was to replace the paper with Tin Foil. This was a positive development and Tin Foil became the first viable recording media. A band of Tin Foil was mounted on a cylinder. The cylinder was turned manually with a hand crank during recording and playback. His first famous recorded words were, “Mary had a little lamb it’s fleece was white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went the lamb was
sure to go.”
Early Techniques – 1890s to 1930s
In the era of acoustic recordings (prior to the introduction of microphones,
electrical recording and amplification) thewordcounter the earliest recording studios were very
basic facilities, being essentially soundproof rooms that isolated the
performers from outside noise. During this era it was not uncommon for
recordings to be made in any available location, such as a local ballroom,
using portable acoustic recording equipment.
In this period, master recordings were made by a direct-to-disc cutting
process — performers were typically grouped around a large acoustic horn (an
enlarged version of the familiar phonograph horn) and the acoustic energy
from the voices and/or instruments was channeled through the horn’s
diaphragm to a mechanical cutting lathe located in the next room, which
inscribed the signal as a modulated groove directly onto the surface of the
master cylinder or disc.
Following the invention and commercial introduction of the microphone, the
electronic amplifier, the mixing desk and the loudspeaker, the recording
industry gradually converted to electric recording and this technology had
almost totally replaced mechanical acoustic recording methods by 1933.
The next breakthrough was Magnetic Tape developed by German inventor Joseph Begun. Graduating in 1929 from the Institute of Technology in Berlin, Germany, where he penned the revolutionary research book entitled “Magnetic Recording”, during 1934- 35, Begun developed and built the world’s first tape recorder used for broadcasting.
During the 50’s magnetic tape applications made further strides, especially in the application of the recording studio. The person whose research led to the first Multitrack Recordings was the legendary Les Paul, the man also famous for the popular Les Paul Electric Guitar.
Paul’s multitrack experiments, begun in the mid 1940’s, progressed rapidly and in 1953 he commissioned Ampex to build the world’s first eight-track reel-to-reel tape recorder, at his own expense. Due to his diligent efforts, Ampex Corporation released the first commercial multitrack recorders in 1955, naming the process “Sel-Sync” (Selective Synchronous Recording). Elvis Presley was one of the many early artists that benefited from this incredible advancement in professional recording.
Our next big step forward is the invention of the Cassette Tape. In the Netherlands, only-and-one The Philips Company invented and released the first compact audiocassette in 1962. They used high-quality polyester 1/8-inch tape produced by BASF. Recording and playback was at a speed of 1.7/8 inches per second, incredible for the time. The consumer’s demand for blank tape used for personal music recording was unanticipated by Philips. They became a large and profitable corporation.
With the development of the computer micro chips through the sixties, especially in the Nasa Space Program, many recording visionaries knew that the ultimate future of Audio Recording was not tape but digital. The first big advance occurred in 1967 when the first digital tape recorder was invented. A 12-bit 30 kHz stereo device using a compander (similar to DBX Noise Reduction) to extend the dynamic range. In the 1970s, Thomas Stockham created the first digital audio recordings using standard computer equipment, as well as developing a digital audio recorder of his own design, the first of its kind to be offered commercially. In 1976 he made the first 16-bit digital recording at the Santa Fe Opera on a handmade Soundstream digital tape recorder.
Bringing us up to present day, the MP3 Audio File is arguably the most important invention we enjoy. Mp3 files are the ones burnt on CD’s, downloaded from the Internet and commonly imported into your ipod or itunes. It was invented by a team of European engineers at Philips in 1991. Compact discs soon followed and the rest is history.