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The History of Recorded Music

1800's | 1900's-1920's | 1930's-1950's | 1960's-1980's | 1990's

1960 Stereo had almost completely replaced mono as the recording mode. Studios re-equipped with multi-track tape recorders, first 3-track (initially for film work) or half inch or one inch wide tape, then 4 track on one inch wide tape (later reduced to half inch). 8-track on one inch tape increased to 16-track on two inch tape. The maximum tape width has stayed at two inches but the number of tracks has increased still further to 24, 36 and even to 48 tracks.

1963 Philips introduced the Musicassette at the Berlin Funkaustellung.

1965 Pre-recorded Musicassettes were released. Simple to use, the cassette format was to become very popular. However, during its first year on the market only 9000 units were sold. Philips did not protect its cassette as a proprietary technology but encouraged other companies to license its use. The pre-recorded 8 track cartridge appeared on the ‘in-car entertainment’ market. It was considered a convenient medium for this purpose because it could be inserted into the player with one hand and was a continuous loop.

1966 As unwanted background noise had been steadily reduced, so the demand grew for even greater reduction. The film sound engineers had long been using sophisticated devices to achieve noise reduction but recording studios had been slow to follow their example. In 1966 Dr Ray Dolby introduced the Dolby Noise Reduction System which became a universal standard.

1968 By 1968 around eighty-five different manufacturers had sold over 2.4 million cassette players world wide and in that year alone the cassette business was worth about $150 million. By the end of the decade, the Philips compact cassette had become the standard format for tape recording.

1971 Quadrophonic (four channel) records appeared on the market but public reaction was unenthusiastic due to the confusion of incompatible systems and the economic climate.

1975 Recording had become such a complicated process that the computer memory was added to studio equipment.

1977 One hundred years after Edison’s dream that some day in the distant future there would be a talking machine in every home, the average house contained two or three. The cassette had begun to challenge the disc as the most popular format and the number of LPs sold gradually declined while sales of cassettes increased rapidly. Record companies were releasing their product in both formats.

1978 First announcement of Compact Disc from Philips Industries.

1979 Sony introduced the Soundabout cassette player which was later renamed the Walkman. The innovative elements of this machine were the tiny headphones capable of producing good quality sound with only the smallest signal from the amplifier, and the increased output from the batteries which powered the machine. Initially considered a novelty and priced at $200 it was not considered a product for mass marketing.

1981 The Walkman II was introduced. It was 25% smaller than the original version and had 50% fewer moving parts. Its price dropped considerably and it was to become one of the most successful audio products of the post war period. MTV (Music Television), a cable channel began transmitting video clips. During the next few years, the music video became essential for the promotion of a recording and once established as a promotional tool it became an entertainment product in its own right. Philips began to demonstrate their compact disc system to representatives of the audio industry. Research had been carried out jointly with the Sony Corporation of Japan and together they produced a commercial digital play back record.

1982 Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ album released by the Columbia subsidiary Epic Records ultimately sold 40m copies world wide and became the most successful product in the history of recorded sound. With the help of elaborate music videos, the album produced seven best-selling albums. Compact Disc (CD) hardware and software was launched in Japan in October.

1983 CD was officially launched in the UK on 1 March. It was hailed as "the most important development in the recorded music industry since the long playing record".

1984 The CD was firmly established as the finest available music carrier for the present and foreseeable future. Bob Geldof, Irish singer and guitarist, organised Band Aid which, by means of large benefit concerts, recordings and television appearances and keenly supported by the music fraternity and public alike, raised more than £50million to help the starving populations of Africa.

1986 After slow initial sales, 50 million CD units were sold in the year.

1988 For the first time sales of CD were higher than vinyl. By 1989 the CD accounted for over 200 million units and the LP was beginning to disappear from record stores.

1989 DAT was introduced by Sony in the US. It employed the cassette format to record digitally but using a smaller sized cassette. Under pressure from the recording industry the DAT hardware manufacturers agreed to install SCMS (Serial Copy Management System) in all equipment to prevent digital copying.

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Last Update: April 2, 2000