A gramophone or phonograph record is a disc-shaped object with analog audio stored in a groove (groovy!) which runs in a spiral from the outside of the record to the center, where there is usually a label and a hole in the middle to allow the record to be placed on a turntable to be played. It is played by placing a needle in the groove and starting the record rotating on the turntable, so that the needle tracks the groove and vibrates to produce sound which is amplified by a receiver. Monaural records have only one track of sound, while stereo records have two tracks represented by different walls of the groove. Records are also known as "vinyl" based on one of the materials they have been manufactured from, though not all are actually of this substance. Supplanting the early phonograph cylinders in the early 20th century, records were in turn replaced by CDs in the late part of the century as the mainstream music medium, though a niche market persists.
Early records were of variable speed, but eventually 78 RPM became the standard. At that speed and the groove density in use at the time, each side of a record would generally fit just one song, and was not long enough for longer classical pieces, which required flipping and changing records to play the entire thing. Sometimes a collection of songs would be released in a bound volume of sleeved records resembling a photo album, which is why compilations of songs sold together are called "albums" even now. In the 1950s, the long-playing (LP) record was introduced at a playing speed of 33 1/3 RPM; this slower speed and the more compact microgroove technology allowed an entire album to fit on the two sides of one record. LPs were usually 12 inches wide, but another format, 7-inch 45 RPM singles, was also introduced around the same time to hold a similar length of music to the old 78s in a smaller size. These had a large hole in the center, requiring a plastic adapter to fit it on the smaller spindle of record players designed to play the other formats as well. While 78 RPM was no longer the dominant record speed, some children's records were released at that speed as late as the 1970s. Yet another record speed, 16 RPM, was supported by some record players and used for spoken-word records where long playing time was more important than high fidelity.
Apparently 3" turntables, and their corresponding record size, also exist, probably more as a novelty item than a practical format.
Since the rise of CDs, then MP3s and other digital audio formats, vinyl records are no longer a "mainstream" format, but they have continuing interest from a community that includes some audiophiles who feel they sound better than digital music, dance and hip-hop DJs who like to "spin discs" (or sometimes make sound effects by scratching the record with the needle), and hipsters who find "retro" formats to be trendy once again. Sales of vinyl records are actually increasing lately, while CDs decline. Take those old records off the shelf!
Occasionally, as a novelty, joke, or artistic statement, a record has been made with more than one groove on a side, interleaved with the other grooves so that what music or other program is played depends on which groove you happen to place the phonograph needle within when you begin playing the record. Monty Python, Mad magazine, and National Lampoon have been among the users of this technique. This is known as "parallel grooves" or "multisided records".
Info on transferring to other formats
- Old records come in, CDs come out (NY Times article about machine to transfer records to CD)
- Transferring records to CD (Links to resources)
- Portable USB record player / cassette deck
Unusual uses of format
- 3D-printed record
- Now You Can 3D Print Any MP3 Into A Vinyl Record
- Record made from ice
- Record made from chocolate
- Laser-cut wooden record
- History of Echo, a magazine published on playable phonograph records from the 1950s
- Recovering sound from picture of old record
- What does a $4,000 vinyl record sound like?
- Turntable that "plays" the rings of a tree
- Recycling old records into eyeglasses
- Floppy ROM: Software distributed on records
- Picture disc with psychedelic animation when played
- Spooky music made by abusing turntables and cutting up and reforming vinyl records
- This record contains a computer programme in N.O.S. BASICODE.
Parallel groove info
- Gramophone record (Wikipedia)
- Scratch that
- Library of Congress: National Recording Preservation Plan
- Recording of Alexander Graham Bell's voice discovered
- The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age
- Saving India’s Musical Heritage, One Record at a Time
- Vinyl records are making a comeback
- The resurgence of vinyl
- Why records should face the vinyl curtain
- Do records really sound warmer than CDs?
- Preservation of groove
- How vinyl records are made (1956 video)
- Is Record Store Day In Crisis? A Quietus Investigation
- Vinyl Records Excavated at Famous ’60s Commune Challenge ‘Hippie’ Stereotype, Study Says
- Library of Congress Recommended Format Specifications: Audio Works
- Weight of old records collapses 2nd floor