The phonograph, record player, or gramophone, is a device introduced in 1877 for the recording and reproduction of sound recordings. The recordings played on such a device generally consist of wavy lines that are either scratched, engraved, or grooved onto a rotating cylinder or disc. As the cylinder or disc rotates, a stylus or needle traces the wavy lines and vibrates to reproduce the recorded sound waves.
The phonograph was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. While other inventors had produced devices that could record sounds, Edison’s phonograph was the first to be able to reproduce the recorded sound.
His phonograph originally recorded sound onto a tinfoil sheet phonograph cylinder, and could both record and reproduce sounds. Alexander Graham Bell’s Volta Laboratory made several improvements in the 1880s, including the use of wax-coated cardboard cylinders, and a cutting stylus that moved from side to side in a “zig zag” pattern across the record.
At the turn of the 19th century, Emile Berliner initiated the transition from phonograph cylinders to gramophone records: flat, double-sided discs with a spiral groove running from the periphery to near the center. Other improvements were made throughout the years, including modifications to the turntable and its drive system, the needle and stylus, and the sound and equalization systems.