Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Lilly. Lilly Wonders, “how does a record player work” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Lilly!
Imagine a time not so long ago. (OK. It's a bit of a long time ago, but don't tell your parents that!) You're having a sleepover party with friends. You're in the mood to dance, so you turn on the radio to your favorite station.
Just then a new song you've never heard before comes on. You turn up the volume and listen with your friends. By the end of the song, you've memorized the chorus and you sing along at the top of your lungs.
You hope fervently that the radio disc jockey will tell you the name of the song and who sings it. That way you can head down to the record store tomorrow to buy your new favorite song in the form of a shiny black plastic disc about the size of a small Frisbee.
That's right. This is the age before digital music. There's no app on your cell phone to use to identify the song instantly. There's no digital music store you can log onto to purchase and download the song immediately.
Nope. This is the era when vinyl records were the latest and greatest in music technology. Have you ever seen an old (or new!) vinyl record up close? Perhaps you've even had a chance to flip through an old record collection at some point. Have you ever put one on a turntable and listened to it play?
Vinyl records used analog technology, which is sort of the opposite of digital technology. Instead of music being recorded in digital form in a series of 1s and 0s, vinyl records stored music in physical engravings in their grooves.
If you look at a vinyl record up close, you'll see a bunch of grooves that look like smaller and smaller circles as they approach the center of the record. These circles are actually all part of one long continuous groove that starts at the outer edge of the record and goes to the center.
Once recorded, a vinyl record can then be played back. A playback stylus travels along the grooves and vibrates at the same frequencies, recreating the sounds that were recorded when the record was made.
Thomas Edison first discovered these properties of recording sound in the late 1800s. His work led him to invent the phonograph, which used tinfoil to record the first primitive sounds. Over time, more sturdy materials were used, including wax and shellac.
These first vinyl records were 12 inches across (diameter) and played back at 33 revolutions per minute (RPM). Other size records were produced at different times, including ones that played back at 45 RPM and 78 RPM. Different size records could hold different amounts of music.