History of wireless telegraphy and broadcasting in Australia/Topical/Publications/Australian Radio History/Recorded Sound

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Laid-out tinfoil record Tinfoil record player

Recordings were made on sheets of tinfoil up to 5” by 15”. A hand crank turned the cylinder under the stylus, with the thin metal speaker dome on top. Typically, tinfoil records were only suitable for two or three plays, as the stylus would shred the tinfoil. Travelling showmen often tore tinfoil records into pieces after playing them, to be given away as souvenirs to spectators. Only ten tinfoil records are known to exist in museums, and only two of these are regarded as still being in a playable condition.


Edison Cylinder Player Hand-written cylinder label Edison cylinder with cover

Various early manufacturers of cylinder records insisted on their own specifications, which resulted in cylinder records being incompatible with the players of other manufacturers. Eventually the Edison Gold Moulded cylinders were accepted as the standard. These were manufactured from 1902 – 1912 and operated at 120 R.P.M. Their recording time was three to four minutes (earlier cylinders only lasted for two minutes). Flat 78 R.P.M. ten and twelve inch discs were introduced in 1913, resulting in cylinder players being phased out by 1929.

JUKEBOX – 1889

Ten ear-tube Edison cylinder player One ear-tube player Cylinder orchestra recording session

The first jukeboxes, known as ‘Automatic Coin-operated Phonographs’ or ‘Nickel-in-the-Slot’ machines until the 1930s, consisted of an Edison cylinder player and a coin slot to activate them. The owner of the player would change the cylinder record every day. From one to ten listening tubes were provided, to be placed in the listeners ears. In 1928, the first jukebox with amplification and a speaker was introduced with primitive automation, allowing a selection of eight 78 R.P.M. discs from eight separate turntables. These records were usually changed weekly.