In the 1920s, inventors introduced electronic recording with microphones and amplifiers, and record players were gradually electrified as well. This was a vast improvement over the old mechanical methods. At first, only affordable to the most wealthy (an electronic record player cost as much as a new car), electronic technology began to infiltrate the market.
Several visionary inventors had been working on electronic recording when the first reel-to-reel tape recorder and player, the Magnetophone, entered the arena in the mid 1930s, The first classical recordings were disappointing, however improvements in the tape helped.
In the early 1940s, German engineers accidentally discovered high-bias recording when a “faulty” machine was brought in for repair. Suddenly, tape recording surpassed the existing gramophone recording technology. The new machines were kept a closely guarded Nazi secret for the duration of World War II. Once the machines were discovered after the war, engineers quickly imitated and improved on them, and magnetic tape recording became the industry standard.
The Age of Vinyl
After many fascinating experiments with materials, the first vinyl records were produced in the 1930s and soon demonstrated their superiority. Yet many of the old 78 rpm records were still made of various combinations of shellac into the 1950s.
In 1948, Columbia introduced the first 12-inch 33 1/3 rpm micro-groove LP vinylite record. The following year RCA Victor introduced 7-inch 45 rpm micro-groove “Extended Play” vinylite records and record players. Eventually the 33 1/3 and the 45 rpm were the only ones produced.
Vinyl records remained the primary medium throughout the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. They were not supplanted by the compact disc until 1988.