The Role of Chemistry in History

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Vinyl Records: LPs and 45s

April 20th, 2008 · No Comments ·

Because of its structure, Polyvinyl Chloride could be molded much more complex forms. This led to the microgroove technology that is responsible for modem day albums. Because vinyl was more durable and flexible the groove carved into the disc was one third the size of the groove in the old records. The groves themselves could be more intricate and thus the record could be recorded and played back much slower.

Two record formats were released in this time.

  • In 1948, Columbia Records developed a record that rotated thirty three and one-third times per minute and was twelve inches in diameter. This dramatically increased the amount of recorded sound on a single record to about a half hour on each side from the original 4-5 minutes per side. The new format was christened the LP, for Long Play, to differentiate it from the old 78s
  •  In 1949, RCA Victor developed a 45 rotation per minute format to compete with the new LPs. However these records were much smaller, having only a 7” diameter and much larger holes in the middle (Katz, 2004).  Thus, the 45 was very similar to 78’s in length.

            These two formats, that were only possible because of polyvinyl chloride, contributed fundamentally to popular music, the album and youth culture of the 20th century.  The long playing vinyl records allowed for much larger collections of songs to be on one record. This created a completely different listening experience. It allowed for listeners to hear a corpus of an artist with just purchasing a single record. The brief 45s allowed for radio and jukebox play thus creating a force for popularizing music.  These factors contributed to the development of fandom of musicians among the youth.  Polyvinyl chloride allowed American teenagers to become familiar with multiple songs by an artist and bands.

Tags: Polyvinylchloride/Vinyl