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History of Vinyl Record

The vinyl record is a type of gramophone record, most popular from the 1950s to the 1990s, that was most commonly used for mass-produced recordings of music.

A vinyl gramophone or phonograph record consists of a disc of polyvinyl chloride plastic, engraved on both sides with a single concentric spiral groove in which a sapphire or diamond needle, stylus, is intended to run, from the outside edge towards the centre (though it should be noted that on a very small number of albums, like "Goodbye Blue and White" by Less Than Jake, a hidden track, or the entire side, will be played from the centre out).

While a 78 rpm record is brittle and relatively easily broken, both the microgroove LP 33? rpm record and the 45 rpm single records are made from vinyl plastic which is flexible and unbreakable in normal use. 78s come in a variety of sizes, the most common being 10 inch (25 cm) and 12 inch (30 cm) diameter, and these were originally sold in either paper or card covers, generally with a circular cutout allowing the record label to be seen. The Long-Playing records (LPs) usually come in a paper sleeve within a colour printed card jacket which also provides a track listing. 45 rpm singles and EPs (Extended Play) are of 7 inch (17.5 cm) diameter, the earlier copies being sold in paper covers. Grooves on a 78 rpm are much coarser than the LP and 45.

Common formats
12" (30 cm) 33? rpm long-playing (LP) format
7" (17.5 cm) 45 rpm (single) format

Less common formats
12" (30 cm) 45 rpm extended-playing 12-inch (30 cm) single, Maxi Single and EP format
10" (25 cm) 33? rpm long-playing (LP) format
10" (25 cm) 45 rpm extended-playing (EP) format
7" (17.5 cm) 33? rpm extended-playing (EP) format
16? rpm format for voice recording
12" (30 cm), 10" (25 cm) and 7" (17.5 cm) picture discs and shaped discs
Specialty sizes (5" (12 cm), 6" (15 cm), 8" (20 cm), 9" (23 cm), 11" 28 cm), 13" (33 cm))
Flexidiscs, often square 7"s (17.5 cm)
Vinyl record standards for the United States follow the guidelines [1] of the RIAA (the Record Industry Association of America). The inch dimensions are not actual record diameters, but a trade name. The actual dimension of a 12 inch record is 302 mm (11.89 in), for a 10 inch it is 250 mm (9.84 in), and for a 7 inch it is 175 mm (6.89 in).

Records made in other countries follow different guidelines. The record diameters are commonly 30 cm, 25 cm and 17.5 cm in most countries. See:

History and development
In 1930, RCA Victor launched the first commercially-available vinyl long-playing record, marketed as "Program Transcription" discs. These revolutionary discs were designed for playback at 33? rpm and pressed on a 12" diameter flexible plastic disc. In Roland Gelatt's book The Fabulous Phonograph, the author notes that RCA Victor's early introduction of a long-play disc was a commercial failure for several reasons including the lack of affordable, reliable consumer playback equipment and consumer wariness during the Great Depression. A good outline of this unsuccessful product launch can be found at the following site.

However, vinyl's lower playback noise level than shellac was not forgotten. During and after World War II when shellac supplies were extremely limited, some 78 rpm records were pressed in vinyl instead of shellac (wax), particularly the six-minute 12" (30 cm) 78 rpm records produced by V-Disc for distribution to US troops in World War II.

Beginning in 1939, Columbia Records continued development of this technology. Dr. Peter Goldmark and his staff undertook exhaustive efforts to address problems of recording and playing back narrow grooves and developing an inexpensive, reliable consumer playback system. In 1948, the 12" (30 cm) Long Play (LP) 33? rpm microgroove record was introduced by the Columbia Record at a dramatic New York press conference.

The commercial rivalry between RCA Victor and Columbia Records led to RCA Victor's introduction of what it had intended to be a competing vinyl format, the 7" (17.5 cm) / 45 rpm Extended Play (EP). For a two-year period from 1948 to 1950, record companies and consumers faced uncertainty over which of these formats would ultimately prevail in what was known as the "War of the Speeds".

Eventually, the 12" (30 cm) / 33? rpm LP prevailed as the predominant format for musical albums, and the 7" (17.5 cm) / 45 rpm EP or "single" established a significant niche for shorter duration discs typically containing one song on each side. The EP discs typically emulated the playing time of the former 78 rpm discs, while the LP discs provided up to one-half hour of time per side.

After the introduction of high-quality but expensive stereo reel-to-reel tapes in 1955 and the increasing public fascination with stereo sound, intense work was undertaken to devise a scheme for recording stereo sound on 12" (30 cm) / 33? rpm LP. In late 1957, a system of cutting and playing back stereo was devised and generally accepted by the industry. Consumer acceptance of stereo LPs was somewhat cautious initially but grew steadily during the early 1960s, and the industry largely discontinued production of conventional monaural LP records and playback equipment by 1968.

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