History Through Philately—U.S. Patent #200,521

History Through Philately stamp

On this date in 1878, Thomas Alva Edison was awarded U.S. Patent #200,521.

Scott #945 Thomas Edison

Scott #945, Thomas A. Edison
Issued February 11, 1947

Thomas Edison and his second phonograph, April 1878Without that neat little device that Edison invented, I would never have discovered my wise old grandmother’s 78 RPM collection of Big Band music. That neat little device was the phonograph (picture ►).

I was forbidden from playing my wise old grandmother’s records on the stereo but, being the little juvenile delinquent that I was, being forbidden from doing something certainly didn’t stop me. I never got caught, but I suspect my wise old grandmother knew since I usually did my chores and homework while humming new tunes that I had listened to on her records. Whenever she confronted me about a tune, I always told her that I had heard it in music class, chorus class, or orchestra, to which I got “the look.” Yeah. She knew. Wise old grandmothers are like that…. They know.

While researching this post, I discovered that a guy from France, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, invented a device in 1857 that recorded sound, but Edison’s was the first to both record and reproduce sound.

Dual turntablePhonographs were the prevailing way to listen to music in the 20th century, but that began to change in the 1980s with the advent of commercially available digital music. Vinyl record sales of both LP and 45 peaked in 1976, which happens to be the year that I bought my first cassette player. Once alternate methods of listening to music arrived, I was pretty quick to leave vinyl records behind. I absolutely hated coming home from the music store to put on a brand new record that was warped, skipped, was already scratched, or had clicks and pops that were just flat-out annoying.

CassetteStore-bought cassettes solved that problem; self-recorded cassettes did not since I was recording from vinyl records. When digital music and the compact disk (CD) arrived, though, I was forever hooked—no skipping, no clicks and pops, no warping, no melting when left in the car in the hot Texas sun….

52nd StreetThe first CD was pressed in 1979, and the first album to be released on CD was Billy Joel’s “52nd Street,” released on October 1, 1982. I do not know the story of why “52nd Street” was chosen to be the first CD release because the album itself had been released in October 1978. I would have thought that in 1982 someone like Michael Jackson or Paul McCartney would have had the first CD release.

I already had the vinyl record of “52nd Street” in my music collection so I did not buy the CD since it was pretty expensive. It wasn’t until February 26, 1987, that I left vinyl records and cassette tapes behind forever. That was the date when the first four Beatles LPs were released on CD. I was first in line at the store to buy my copies—almost $75 on four CDs of music that I already had. The new CD sound, though, was so beautiful and clean, whereas my LPs had been bought almost 20 years earlier, and sounded like it.

78 rpm Big Band musicWe’ve come a long way from the phonograph to the digital music downloads of today. The first 78 RPM records had a maximum of four minutes of music per side. Vinyl LPs from the late ’60s could hold up to about 24 minutes per side; cassette tapes, up to 60 minutes per side; CDs, up to 80 minutes.

All of those are gone from my music collection, which, as of this morning, contains 1,679 hours, 44 minutes, and 55 seconds in my non-classical collection (my classical music collection is even larger). I listen to an average of 11½ hours of music, and since I listen to my music in chronological order, it takes me 146½ days to listen to my non-classical collection.

I no longer have a room full of vinyl records, cassette tapes, or CDs, either. My non-classical collection is stored on an external hard drive capable of holding 500 GB of files; it’s only half full. When I venture out and about, I take music with me on a little MP3 player that holds 7.85 GB of files, or about one hundred hours of music.

I’m never without music!

500 GB external hard drive

7.8 GB MP3 player

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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7 thoughts on “History Through Philately—U.S. Patent #200,521

  1. Naomi Baltuck

    Very interesting post! I am always late to switch over. I finally caved and started buying CDs, but I never got rid of my LP collection and still enjoy rare recordings that my mother listened to when we were kids, like “Raphael Boguslav Sings Songs From a Village Garrett” kind of thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I understand completely. I got rid of my record collection to quickly because I had a complete collection of George Harrison. It was several years after he died that all of his catalog was finally released digitally.


      1. Naomi Baltuck

        I think it’s interesting that vinyl recordings are coming back, or at least they are now selling record players again. I was afraid for awhile that I wouldn’t be able to find a replacement needle for my phonograph.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Throwback Thursday: Reliving The Glory Days Of CD Collections | South Carolina Music Guide

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