How does a gramophone work

Emil Berliner

Berliner's first successes

In 1877 Emil Berliner was able to capitalize on his hobby for the first time: he sold a microphone he had developed for $ 75,000 to the Bell Telephone Company.

He also experimented with Edison's phonograph and found ways to improve: he changed the angle between the needle and the carrier film by 90 degrees, thereby inventing lateral sound recording. This process - also known as Berlin script - made it possible to play a flat sound carrier.

That was the main innovation compared to Edison's phonograph cylinder, which made duplicating a recording much more difficult. While Edison's roller was far too expensive for a large number of copies, Berliner's dream was to build a new branch of industry that would enable his new product to be copied a thousand times.

On November 8, 1887, he applied for his patent "Procedure and apparatus for registering and reproducing sounds" at the Imperial Patent Office, after having had his invention patented on September 29, 1887 in Washington.

The hour of birth of the "gramophone"

With a flat disc, a completely new sound carrier was available to Berliner. This first record was made of zinc sheet, had a diameter of twelve centimeters and ran at 150 revolutions per minute. That brought a playing time of about a minute. He called the player suitable for this "gramophone".

In May 1888, Emil Berliner presented his invention at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. In the following year he brought the gramophone to Germany and entrusted the toy factory Kämmerer & Reinhardt in Thuringia with the production.

Shellac instead of hard rubber

From 1890, the records were no longer made of zinc sheet, but of hard rubber. However, since the background noise from these records was very strong, the record was initially not taken seriously as a medium for music conservation.

That changed in 1895. Emil Berliner began to experiment with a mixture of shellac, rock flour, soot and plant fibers. This was the hour of birth of the shellac record.

Shellac is a resinous substance produced by insects (Cocus lacca) on a specific East Indian plant. Washing and remelting creates a red raw material that is ideal for the production of lacquers, varnishes and records. This material remained the leader in the panel industry for almost 60 years.

Between 1883 and 1895 Emil Berliner founded two gramophone and record companies in the United States, the first in Europe in 1898. In London the Gramophone Company and in Hanover the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft. The Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft was the first company to exclusively produce records. A new branch of industry was born.

Emil Berliner, inventor of the gramophone and the record, died on August 3, 1929 at the age of 78.