Sep 30 2011: How Your Gramophone Records Are Made (from Wonders of the Modern World, 1930s)

A long article illustrating the process of sound recording and record manufacturing from Wonders of the Modern World, a  children’s and schools reference book published sometime between the 1930s and early 1950s. What’s fascinating about this is not only its clear explanation of how the apparently magical process of conjuring sound from flat slabs of black plastic actually works, but also its antiquated quality: this is very much a pre-digital era, even a pre vinyl era, in that it’s mainly concerned with the manufacture of shellac 78s rather than the later vinyl 33 and 45rpm discs most of us are familiar with. The idea of sound having a physical form (even if that form is the mp3 player on which insubstantial snippets of digital code are held, like a small box of electronic ghosts) and being capable of existing long beyond the moment in which it was first made is often taken for granted, but it’s worth remembering that the technology being outlined here was every bit as revolutionary in its time (and ours) as the printing press in early modern Europe, or the sound recording’s own near contemporaries, the photograph and film.

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