Searching for an essay?

Browse the database of more than 3800 essays donated by our community members!

Essay on Phonograph

essay on phonograph

Example #1 – Character Analysis for The Portable Phonograph

Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s short story, The Portable Phonograph, is a tale about the last survivors in the world after the total destruction of war.

The author gives clues and hints of this throughout the beginning by writing in a narrative voice and describing the scene in dark war-like terms. The characters are then introduced as a group of men huddled around a fire. The older of the men, Doctor Jenkins, is the leader and his character is full of personality that can be analyzed by the reader. He is the owner of the shelter that they meet in. This paper will point out the different aspects of the old man in this story and state conclusions that can be drawn from them.

Writing service




[Rated 4.9]

Prices start at $12
Min. deadline 6 hours
Writers: ESL
Refund: Yes

Payment methods: VISA, MasterCard, American Express


[Rated 4.8]

Prices start at $11
Min. deadline 3 hours
Writers: ESL, ENL
Refund: Yes

Payment methods: VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover


[Rated 4.75]

Prices start at $10
Min. deadline 3 hours
Writers: ESL, ENL
Refund: Yes

Payment methods: VISA, MasterCard, JCB, Discover

The men in this story are obviously amused by the slightest little things. They occupy themselves through book readings from a collection that one man has. Each of the men has their contribution to the group and together they endure a time of devastation by entertaining each other. The older man has a record player that he brings out once a week for the listening pleasure of the group.

He is very proud of this treasure. It has sustained through these hard times just as he has and he limits his use of it to make it last. He owns only three steel needles and he gets one out to use because, on this particular occasion, there is a musician visitor with them. The other men act as excited as children. They listen to the record and then leave the doctor’s house.

Doctor Jenkins is nervous and suspicious at the end of the story when the other men leave. “With nervous hands he lowered the piece of canvas which served as his door and pegged it at the bottom. Then quickly quietly, looking at the piece of canvas frequently, he slipped the records in the case…” (Clark, page 241). He feels that “everything he has” is at risk with the greed that a time like this could produce in the other men.

He is secure and comfortable with the things that he has and he doesn’t trust the others. He then hides his treasures away in a safe place after they leave. As he gets into his bed he feels the “comfortable piece of lead pipe” with his hand. The doctor has no problem resorting to violence and that actually makes him feel more comfortable.

The greed that the doctor sees in the others is a reflection of the feelings and thoughts that he himself has. His views are distorted through his thick shell and he sees himself in the men. He invites them back every week, it seems, so it is quite possible that his possessions do not make him as happy as the company he receives every week.

The contrast between the happiness that the men get from his musical device and the lack of fulfillment this provides for him is interesting. In the world that this story describes, the reader expects the doctor to be happy with all that he has. As the story unfolds, you gain an understanding of the feelings behind his possessions.

Doctor Jenkins is a normal character. His feelings are presented in a real manner. The reader can conclude that his personality is not unlike anyone else. What he sees is influenced by the way he is and how he feels. He views things in a way that ultimately makes his feelings of suspicion and greed stronger. Therefore never breaking the cycle of how he judges those around him.


Example #2


The invention of the phonograph and other sound reproduction machines began a new way of producing historical archives.

Expressions of the human voice were no longer limited to their abstraction as words on the page, and the artistry and passion of musical performance could be preserved outside human memory. People could bring the sounds of the world into their homes, and a global culture began to arise out of the mixture of influences that a broad diversity of recordings could provide. Before radio and sound motion pictures, the phonograph and other “talking machines” reigned for several decades as the great modern innovation in audio culture and entertainment.

The early history of the phonograph can be organized into the following sections:

  • Leon
  • Scott’s Phonautograph
  • Edison’s Phonograph
  • The Bell-Tainter Graphophone
  • Early Recording Industry
  • Berliner’s Gramophone
  • The Major Talking Machine Corporations
  • Worldwide Recording Boom
  • Innovations
  • Through World War I
  • Recording in the Jazz Age
  • Radio and Electronic Recording
  • Depression and Decline
  • Leon Scott’s Phonautograph

The first successful sound recording device was developed by Leon Scott de Martinville in 1855. Scott’s “phonautograph” used a mouthpiece horn and membrane fixed to a stylus that recorded sound waves on a rotating cylinder wrapped with smoke-blackened paper. There was no way at the time to play the sounds back, but the Frenchman’s device was a crucial foundation for the developments that would come two decades later. Scott’s phonautograph was manufactured and sold as a laboratory instrument for analyzing sound beginning in 1859.

Edison’s Phonograph

In 1877 Thomas Edison designed the “tinfoil phonograph” and directed John Kruesi, one of his top laboratory mechanics, to build a prototype. The device consisted of a cylindrical drum wrapped in tinfoil and mounted on a threaded axle. A mouthpiece attached to a diaphragm was connected to a stylus that etched vibrational patterns from a sound source on the rotating foil.

For playback, the mouthpiece was replaced with a “reproducer” that used a more sensitive diaphragm. Edison recited “Mary Had a Little Lamb” into the mouthpiece for the first demonstration. Even though he expected success he was startled to hear the “tinny” version of his own voice echo his performance. Edison prepared an encore presentation for the editor of The

Scientific American, a close friend, who wrote the following in the Nov. 17, 1877 issue:

It has been said that Science is never sensational; that it is intellectual, not emotional; but certainly, nothing that can be conceived would be more likely to create the profoundest of sensations, to arouse the liveliest of human emotions, than once more to hear the familiar voices of the dead. Yet Science now announces that this is possible, and can be done….

Speech has become, as it were, immortal.

The invention of the first “talking machine” is most commonly attributed to Edison, in part because of the publicity that attended his celebrity and the theatrical power of his demonstrations, and in part because previous inventions had earned him the means to have the device built. The first to build a phonograph, of course, was Kruesi.

The first to conceive of a workable design was most likely the Parisian Charles Cros, who delivered viable plans for a machine that would use discs to the French Academie des Sciences in April of 1877. This occurred several months before Edison happened on his idea while working on a telegraphy device designed to record readable traces of a Morse code signal onto a disk.

In January of 1878, investors created the Edison Speaking Phonograph Company to oversee the manufacture and exhibition of the talking machines. Edison received $10,000 and periodic royalties. He continued to refine the tin-foil phonograph through mid-1878, feeding a popular enthusiasm for stage demonstrations of the “magic” machine which could imitate any language, cough, or animal sound that a skeptic from the audience could produce in an attempt to expose the “trick.”

By October of the same year, however, Edison was coaxed away from the phonograph by an offer of substantial backing to pursue the invention of electric light. As the novelty of the phonograph exhibitions waned, the audiences tapered off and the invention went through a dormant period nearly a decade long before it would transcend its status as a curiosity.

The Bell-Tainter Graphophone

The late 1870s and early 1880s were full of inventive breakthroughs and rapid advancements in communication technologies that came from a number of well-organized laboratories. Fast-shutter motion photography, the first crude motion pictures, the electric light, the telephone, and vast improvements in the telegraph were all developed within a few years of the phonograph. Alexander Graham Bell had invented the telephone in 1876, and Edison had become financially independent by designing a carbon transmitter for Bell’s invention a few months before he began designing the phonograph.

While the two inventors’ ability to inspire each other never yielded a particularly amicable partnership, it did fuel a competitive drive in both men that would entangle their lives for decades. The telephone won Bell the $10,000 Volta Prize from the French government, which he used to establish a laboratory for experimenting with electrical acoustic devices.

He gave his cousin, an engineer named Chichester Bell, and Charles Tainter, a scientist and instrument maker, the project of improving the phonograph.

The Bell-Tainter “graphophone” released in 1887 displayed some key improvements to the Edison model. Cylinders were made entirely of wax instead of cardboard and tinfoil, which allowed for longer and more clearly defined recordings. The graphophone also used a loosely mounted “floating” stylus for clearer conversion into sound, and it resolved the pitch fluctuations associated with Edison’s hand crank by using a foot treadle or an electric motor.

Early Recording Industry

By this time Edison had renewed his interest in the phonograph and pursued improvements of his own, most notably replacing the tinfoil sheath with a coating of wax and developing a battery-powered electric motor to drive the instrument. He insisted the phonograph should be more than an amusement, and advocated its dignified use as an office dictation machine. Amid competing patents and corporate plans for the talking machines, and against Edison’s protests, a market for their use arose again.

Very few office stenographers warmed to the newfangled dictation method, but by 1891 coin-operated phonographs installed in corner drug stores and cafes that charged a nickel for approximately two minutes of music began to take in an average of $50 per week.

Something of a commercial recording industry had started up in 1890. Musicians would record on several phonographs at once, repeating their performance until enough cylinders were produced to satisfy demand. Wax was a poor medium for capturing music of any quality and the cylinders could only hold two minutes of music, but the entertainment value of having a wide variety of recordings to choose from made the new industry quite attractive nonetheless.

Numerous “phonograph parlors” popped up to exploit the invention’s lucrative possibilities. A customer could speak into a tube to request one of as many as 150 titles and listen to a recording played on the floor below that was piped into two ear horns at the customer’s private desk.

The leisure culture that the parlors spawned soon included individual coin-operated kinetoscopes that flipped photographs past a viewer, creating the first common motion picture illusions. The phonograph proved to be a useful advertising medium.

Machines that could be activated by the touch of a button were mounted in conspicuous places, in keeping with the logic of an 1894 promotional statement: “Nobody will refuse to listen to a fine song or concert piece or oration, even if interrupted by the modest remark, ‘Tartar’s Baking Powder Is Best’, or ‘Wash The Baby With Orange Soap’.”

It became clear that the phonograph was meant to be part of the entertainment world. Thomas Macdonald, the manager of a graphophone factory, developed an inexpensive and reliable clockwork motor. This enabled the Bell-Tainter camp, now doing business as the Columbia Phonograph Company, to launch a full-fledged retail venture with a clockwork-driven machine they called the “Graphophone Grand.”

Berliner’s Gramophone

While the cylinder machines were finally enjoying a period of wide public acceptance, a device that had already gone through several years of development was introduced to the U.S. market. Emile Berliner’s “gramophone,” which used discs pressed in hard rubber instead of cylinders, was launched with minimal backing in 1893. The plan behind the first small-scale release was to attract more substantial backers by demonstrating the unique advantages of the gramophone. The discs were much cheaper to produce and any number of copies could be made from a zinc master. Berliner based his model on Scott’s phonautograph and Cros’s disc machine design. Berliner described the process this way:

Gramophone: a talking machine wherein a sound is first traced into a fatty film covering a metal surface and which is then subjected to the action of an acid or etching fluid which eats the record into the metal. This record being a continuous wavy line of even depth is then rotated and not only vibrates the reproducing sound chamber but also propels the same by the hold its stylus retains in record groove. The original record can be duplicated ad infinitum by first making an electrotyped reverse or matrix and then pressing the latter into hard rubber, celluloid or similar material which is soft when warm and quite hard when cold.

Eclipsed by the cylinder machines’ new heights of success, Berliner’s gramophone was slow to attract attention. By 1896 Berliner’s company had finally found some backers and were able to release the Baby Grand Gramophone, a spring-driven machine which could legitimately compete with the cylinder models.

The Major Talking Machine


There were now three major selling agencies that would dominate the sale of home machines for years to come: The National Gramophone Company, which sold Berliner gramophones; the Columbia Phonograph Company, which sold Bell-Tainter graphophones; and the National Phonograph Company, which sold Edison phonographs. Corporations that held and manufactured under patent rights added to the tangle. Among these were Volta Graphophone, associated with Bell-Tainter machines, and the Victor Talking Machine Company, which was Berliner’s partnership with Eldridge Johnson, the man who had developed the gramophone’s spring drive.

The commercial success of the machines in the late 1890s sparked a number of corporate lawsuits and patent battles and fueled several new technical innovations. The Berliner people developed a new disc-stamping process and Duranoid, a shellac-based plastic material that proved far superior to rubber. Edison’s camp came up with a machine that could play two cylinders with one winding of the spring drive. An inventor named Harold Short developed a compressed-air amplifier.

Some odd new twists on turn-of-the-century talking machines included an intriguing variety of handsome and at times bizarre cabinets and horns, a disc design that allowed for 12 minutes of play and moved the stylus from the center outward, a method of linking the sound patterns to a mouthpiece so people could plug their ears and “listen with their teeth,” and records made of chocolate that could be eaten when they were too worn out to play.

Worldwide Recording Boom

As executives of the Gramophone Company sought greater international influence, they sent a young musician and talent scout named Fred Gaisberg to the great cities of Europe and Asia with an elaborate and bulky assemblage of recording equipment. Gaisberg’s tireless enthusiasm for recording all manner of church and military music, street and tavern acts, and folk performances provided an enormous variety of recordings the company could offer gramophone enthusiasts.

The talking machines were enjoying a tremendous surge in popularity among Europeans near the turn of the century. It was easy to persuade local acts to record, but the Gramophone Company was presented with a formidable challenge when it sought to record Europe’s great opera stars. Most of the singers scoffed at the idea of being associated with an amusement gadget, but a new wax engraving process improved recording quality dramatically and by 1901 the Gramophone Company made sixty records by four stars of the Russian Imperial Opera.

This coup prompted Gaisberg to pursue the great young tenor, Enrico Caruso, whose name became, in Gaisberg’s words, the “decoy that brought other hesitating celebrities to our recording studios.” Caruso’s records would yield over $2 million by the end of his career about two decades later.

Innovations Through

World War I

A global culture of recording enthusiasts continued to expand through the years of World War I. Technological advances included a pleated and varnished paper diaphragm speaker which could replace the horn, more durable cylinders and discs which also facilitated longer and better quality recordings, and a way of installing a tone arm mount for the stylus in a box lid that made possible the “Decca,” the first truly portable talking machine. Hundreds of portables were sent to the British front lines to relieve tedium and jangled nerves, and post-war Decca sales literature portrayed the machines as war heroes:


I was ‘Mirth-Maker-in-Chief to His Majesty’s Forces’; my role being to give our Soldiers and our Sailors music wherever they should be. In that capacity I saw service on every Front–France, Belgium, Egypt, Palestine, Italy and the Dardenelles; right in the Front Line and away back in Camps and Hospitals. All told, there were 100,000 ‘Deccas” on Active Service from start to finish of the War. And now that the War is over, I still pursue my calling but under pleasanter conditions…

The recording industry experienced unprecedented growth after the war. In 1914 the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) was formed to ensure that its members were paid for the use of their work. By 1920 more than 200 manufacturers had taken advantage of lapsed phonograph patents and went into production.

Recording in the Jazz Age

The corporate push to expand the range of music coincided with the emergence of a few white musicians who began to emulate black New Orleans jazz.

Soon after the Original

Dixieland Jazz Band cut the first jazz record in 1917, the “authentic New Orleans sound” found its way into white homes and became a national craze. As music historians Russel Miller and Roger Boar put it, “…before radio and talking pictures, gramophone records were the trend-setters, the star-makers, the catalyst jazz needed to take the country–and later the world– by storm.”

During Prohibition, speakeasies and dance halls, often run by gangsters, built a thriving culture around black jazzmen from New Orleans who brought their sound to Chicago. To capitalize on the talent pool while maintaining the decorum of segregation, record companies created cheap ‘race record’ subsidiaries of their established labels to sell the music of black artists exclusively in black residential areas. Jazz musicians were usually more than happy to record. Whites who hungered for jazz could always find it.

Records allowed the improvised sound that inspired a passion for dancing in some and puritan rage in others to burst across geographic and racial borders and leave its mark on all forms of popular music.

Through most of the jazz era, recording artists had to crowd around and sing or play directly into the mouths of large metal recording horns. They also had to redo from the beginning any performance with a glitch in it. Recorded music had to do without drums, which made the recording stylus vibrate too much. As radio began its meteoric rise in the early 1920’s the contrast in quality between tinny crackling records and clean, live broadcast sound prompted many to predict that recording machines were in their declining years.

Radio and Electronic Recording

Research in “wireless telephony” conducted during World War

I yielded viable microphones and amplifiers that made the radio broadcast boom possible. When the recording industry began to apply these technologies and embraced electronic recording in 1925, the studio experience and the quality of recordings improved dramatically. Individual microphones replaced shared recording horns, and artists could now overdub mistakes. Electric amplification made it possible for studio acoustics to emulate the atmosphere and clarity of live performances.

A much-expanded frequency range allowed for the improved definition of sharper treble and the weighty force of deep bass. These innovations sparked another surge in enthusiasm for recorded music that now appeared to complement the popularity of radio. A number of radio-phonograph combination machines were marketed successfully. The grandest symbol of corporate confidence in the alliance was RCA Victor, the result of the Radio Company of America’s acquisition in early 1929 of the Victor Talking Machine Company.

Depression and Decline

Later in the same year, however, the predicted death of the phonograph seemed to suddenly become a reality. The industry ground to a halt almost overnight in October when the stock market crashed. People saw little point in spending bread money on records when the radio continued to provide free entertainment.

In November, eighty-two-year-old Edison and his corporate allies discontinued the production of records and photographs. Cylinder records had already begun a sharp and steady decline since the advent of electronic recording. The Edison announcement finally rendered them extinct. Thomas Edison died in 1931.

In 1927, 987,000 machines were produced and 104,000,000 records were sold. In 1932 those numbers dropped to 40,000 and 6,000,000 respectively. With the exception of a few die-hard collectors, consumers not only quit buying records, but they also began to think of the whole phenomenon of “canned music” as part of an outdated culture.

Free live radio and the first sound motion pictures (the first feature-length “talkie,” The Jazz Singer, was released in 1929) seemed to provide more vibrant, immediate, and modern cultural outlets. Millions of machines and records found their way into attics and junkpiles.

In decades to come, of course, recording would be revived and go through even more dramatic technological, cultural, and corporate transformations. However, the Depression, the death of the phonograph’s inventor, the drastic decline in consumer interest, and the competition from new forms of audio technology marked the end of the beginning for talking machines.


Example #3

The phonograph is not a new concept or tool. Different names have been used to refer to it in different places for an instance record player, turntable or gramophone. The device was introduced towards the end of the 19th century, in 1877 by Edison Alva Thomas while he was carrying out his normal duties at his laboratory in New Jersey. The purpose of the phonograph was to record and reproduce sound recordings.

The phonograph has undergone a lot of notable evolutions, the first invention being marked by some wavy lines that were either etched or grooved on a cylinder that rotated in order to produce the desired results (Pingree, 2004). This paper gives a general overview of the phonograph with much emphasis being given to its invention and evolution as well as how it has affected arts and its connection to humanities.

The time period the phonograph was invented and the circumstances that led to the invention.

Edison’s phonograph was invented in 1877. The device comprised of a drum in a cylindrical shape which was wrapped in tinfoil and mounted on an axle threaded in an organized manner. It also had a mouthpiece through which sound would be recorded. The invention was a product of Edison’s other inventions, the telephone, and the telegraph.

Although the phonograph is greatly attributed to Edison’s efforts, various people had come up with the idea earlier, for example, Kruesi and Charles Cros.

The circumstances that surrounded the invention of the phonograph include the desire of man to have documentation whereby they would have a reference of what happens for instance expression of the human voice/ speech and various artistic performances such as music that proved a bit hard to preserve in the human memory. The need for entertainment also contributed to its invention since things like radios and TV were not present at the time (Moore, 1908).

Just like any other development, the phonograph was not invented in one day. It took some time, considerations, and a combination of different ideas. Its evolution has been deemed to have a lot of impact on various life aspects, especially in art and humanities. The early invention involved the use of tin foil cylinders. Wax cylinders were later developed to deal with problems associated with tin foils like wearing out quickly. Hard plastic cylinders were then developed in the early 20th century.

The invention and advancement of the phonograph and its operations have had a part to play on other inventions. This is because the later inventions like the radio and TV have drawn ideas on the earlier phonograph and made some improvements to enhance efficiency and effectiveness (Millard, 2005).

Phonograph has had a part to play in the different forms of art including music, theatre, and drama among other arts. Phonograph has been deemed to have contributed positively to the field of art and humanities through bringing about diversity which in turn makes these fields interesting.

The phonograph added importance to the art arena by providing a way through which the different works would be recorded and archived for use at a convenient time by any individual that could own the instrument.

Music and drama would, for example, be recorded and reproduced later and this aspect contributed to the growth of the art industry where artists enhanced their talents and were able to create their presence among the public as opposed to earlier times where they would only be known at the time of performance since there was no form of retrievable storage (Du Moncel, 1974).

How the advancement of the phonograph is connected to the humanities

According to Ramadhan (2011), the invention and advancement of the phonograph have not existed in isolation but rather amongst many other concepts where some form of dependence has been witnessed. It has, for example, played a great part when it comes to the field of humanities.

The phonograph has made human life easier because they don’t have to rely solely on their memory for their works. People were also in a position to bring different aspects of the world into their homes, an aspect which led to the emergence of global culture as a result of the integration of different elements from different cultures provided by the recordings. Entertainment was also enhanced by the phonograph in a great manner.

Technology advancement is inevitable. It is a concept that has been there all along with the speed and sophistication increasing day by day. The phonograph is an instrument that is deemed to be a reference point when it comes to the field of art and humanities especially Music.


Example #4

Modern society constantly throes of a technology revolution that has a variety of technical changes that marks the advances in society. The rapid improvement in communication technology has resulted in a closely integral society. The prevalence of the phonograph has made a drastic impact since its creation which is still evident today. The new generation of the phonograph shattered the past evolutions and unquestionably is a scientific revolution.

Before the emergence of the internet and other modern telecommunications facilities, there were numerous strides to send information as efficiently as possible. The transition from a speaking community to written tradition allowed for the progression into retaining and distributing knowledge and information. The first experimental acoustic mechanical telephone was credited to Robert Hooke in 1672.

Hooke discovered that sound could be transmitted over wire or string into an attached earpiece or mouthpiece. The Chappe brothers, two French inventors, created the first optical telegraph system in 1790. The optical telegraph was a system of pendulums set up at a high area to send sign messages to different towers. In 1838 Samuel B. Morse worked on the idea of a recording telegraph with Alfred Vail and Leonard Gale. This became known as Morse code and lay the foundation for modern land-line phones.

From 1876-1915 big strides have been made by Alexander Graham Bell as he invented the telephone. Thomas Alva Edison made incredible studies in sound recording and transmission when he completed the first acoustic phonograph in August of 1877. He had been trying to improve the model for the telephone when he realized that by adding a needle to the phonograph diaphragm and a tin-foil cylinder, one could record and playback sound. Throughout the evolution of communication technology, there was no evidence of any means to record audio until the phonograph.  A new assumption requires the reconstruction of prior assumptions and the evaluation of prior facts.

Ergo, there was not a prior theory or invention in the same umbrella as the phonograph. Evidently “noncumulative developmental episode in which an older paradigm is replaced in whole or in part by an incompatible new one“. (Kuhn, pg.92) A paradigm shift occurs if there is a failure in the existing paradigm or crisis that needed to be solved as “the failure of existing rules is the prelude to a search for new ones.” (Kuhn. 68) When analyzing the periodic advancement of communication technology there is distinctly no failure in the field to which a new paradigm can arise. Consequently, the creation of the phonograph does not result in a scientific revolution and is simply a gestalt shift.

In history the phonograph was the first recording device however on March 27th, 2008 a group of American audio historians found the phonautograph created by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinsville. This was a device that converted lines on the paper to sound and “this is a historic find, the earliest known recording of sound,” said Samuel Brylawksi, the head of the recorded-sound division of the Library of Congress. (Rosen, 2008) The device patented on March 25th, 1857 had the capability to record sound and consisted of a cone-shaped horn with a flexible membrane on the smaller end and a sharp needle.

When sound was picked up the stylus moved beneath resulting in a visible line recording in the soot of the paper. The crisis raised with the phonautograph was that it was not able to replay sound. A problem resists and is identified as a failure in the field to organize the needed tools to be solved in the future. The phonograph was able to replace the phonautograph as it became an alternate candidate.

It became the new scientific theory as, “the assimilation of either a new sort of phenomenon or a new scientific theory must demand the rejection of an older paradigm.” (Kuhn, pg. 95) The phonautograph was eradicated as the paradigm of the phonograph gained status and in turn became more successful in solving problems and offered a promise of success. The new assumptions of the phonograph completely reconstructed of the prior facts. It is accepted as a paradigm because the phonograph is “seen better than its competitors and… explains all the facts with which it can be confronted”. (Kuhn, pg.17-18) The transition from the phonautograph to the phonograph in the field of communications deems the phonograph as a scientific revolution.

In the race to improve communication, Thomas Alva Edison changed history with the phonograph. It became one of the earliest recording devices and Edison identified his phonograph as a textual device for taking diction. In the North American Review in June 1878, Edison offered several uses for the phonograph. He believed that the phonograph could be used for books, education, music, family record, and other electrotype applications. (Edison, 1878) In 1878, Edison stated, “the phonograph will undoubtedly be liberally devoted to music”. (The North American Review, 1878) It becomes evident that the outcome anticipated by Edison does not fall into the expected results.

It is still accepted as a lucrative paradigm as a “successful new paradigm/theory permits predictions that are different from those derived from its predecessor”. (Kuhn, pg.98) The phonograph made a drastic impact on ethnology, music production, and business. Edison’s experiment paved the future for the music industry and is said to redefine music. The phonograph was said that “The possibilities are so illimitable and the probabilities so numerous.” (Edison, 1878) The means of music drastically changed to fit the phonograph. A new method of producing recordings was brought into place as the mechanical procedure differed to fit the medium. Jazz bands replaced their drums with different equipment to acquire the wanted sounds and became the operation of “on-demand” music.

The business phonograph was “a faithful servant that will conduct business like a setting hen, and will never strike for higher wages” (Sterne, 2003) The implicit message being that the phonograph was to replace skilled position such as a stenographer. Edison’s machine became one of the basic tools of anthropology. It gave researchers the method to preserve folk songs but, also abled the investigation of distinct vocal expression giving a grasp of the culture. The phonograph recordings are used as sound archives and become the new mechanical “third presence” for anthropologists and hold descendants of the people recorded.

As the advancement of technology was a gradual process, there was a heightened sense of techno-paranoia when the phonograph was introduced. Many believed that it is the commencement of the disorganization of society. On March 25th, 1878 a New York Times article stated that the invention is an impediment to society. It shows how people at that time believe that, “This machine will eventually destroy all confidence between man and man” (The New York Times, 1878) and that Edison should be hung for his invention. Ultimately, “In the days of persecution and it was said…that the walls had ears” (The New York Times, 1878).

Musicians believed the phonograph decreased the fine arts and the real understanding of music. John Philip Sousa, an American composer, believed that the phonograph destroyed the finer instinct of the ear and put professional musicians out of work. He believes that an aspect of the music is lost when it is captured permanently, “The nightingale’s song is delightful because the nightingale herself give is forward”. (Souza, 1906)

Progress has become inherent in the definition of science and is evident in the evolution of communication technology. New discoveries and development in this field led to an important side product the phonograph which was debatably a catalyst and impediment to society at that time. The evolution episode of communication technology ultimately portrays the replacement of old paradigms with the phonograph being accepted. The phonograph is transformational and has made a revolutionary impact thus, is deemed as a scientific revolution.

Cite this page

Choose cite format:
Essay on Phonograph. (2020, Aug 26). Retrieved June 18, 2021, from