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Anatelostaxus's avatar

How did vinyl records come to be?

Asked by Anatelostaxus (1428points) January 12th, 2011

Or better: how was the chemical composition discovered and considered fit for reproducing sound?

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4 Answers

Austinlad's avatar

Google Tom Edison.

YoBob's avatar

Well, the technology started as wax cylinders. That quickly moved to wax disks because they were easier to load on the player. Vinyl was the next step because it is a more durable material than wax.

thorninmud's avatar

Before vinyl, record discs were made of shellac, which is a natural secretion of the lac beetle. Southeast Asia was major source of shellac, but the Pacific war created a shortage of the raw material. Besides, shellac records were very breakable.

There weren’t a lot of plastics at the time. Celluloid could be used for records, but generated a lot of surface noise. Meanwhile, chemists were busy exploring ways to derive new polymers from petroleum and caol, and eventually hit on vinyl.

Vinyl chemistry is based on ethylene gas. One of the compounds you can derive from this gas is vinyl chloride gas. This was first turned into a solid polymer in 1872. But pure vinyl has a lot undesirable properties, so experimentation began to find a way to make it less problematic in production.

In the 30’s, Union Carbide developed Vinylite, which was a copolymer of vinyl chloride and vinyl acetate. It was formally introduced to the public at the 1933 Chicago Exposition. Vinylite was flexible, so it wouldn’t break easily. When it was eventually tried for records (around 1939), it was found to have better surface noise characteristics than shellac. That sealed the deal.

Anatelostaxus's avatar

@Austinlad Yes, yes.. I do appreciate you answer, but I know about him.
@YoBob Indeed.. I actually did not know about the wax origins.. cheers for that.
@thorninmud A perfect illustration of the historical/contextual background.. thank you much.

Though I must say.. my question always remains rather ..hmm… unfulfilled..
I always want to know the exact “HOW”.. so, what stories are there to tell about the scientist(s) that actually discovered that a certain type of material, undergoing a specific treatment could be a potential Sound/video reproducer..
that’s always what’s bugging me.
It’s almost as if I were asking something like: How did man discover how to generate fire by combing tender wood and friction?

As a matter of fact, I think I’ll post this last question too..
see you in the next question room, mates!
thanks again.

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