On June 20, 1948 – Yes, 70 years ago – the vinyl long play record album was introduced by Columbia records. Up to that point the two competing formats were the 10″ 78 and the 7″ 45. The 78 rpm phonograph disc had been in existence since the 1890’s but were only capable of holding 2 to 3 minutes of recorded music. Given the shellac that they were manufactured from, they were also very fragile. Looking for improvements, RCA worked on reducing the format size and making records less breakable. The 45 was 7″ in diameter rather than the 10″ size of the 78. This was done by decreasing the groove size. RCA also used vinylite – a vinyl type material more durable than shellac. But RCA was still stuck with the notion of a single song on each side of the record.
Columbia took a similar approach in reducing the groove size for more playing time in a smaller area and using vinyl for more durability, but Columbia increased the disc diameter in order to increase play time. The original focus was on classical recordings which often ran for 20 minutes uninterrupted – neither the 78 nor the 45 could accommodate more than 3 minutes of play time.
By the mid 50’s most record manufacturers were releasing music on both 33 and 45 formats. The 45 was used to release hits and title tracks from the full albums that were released on 33 LPs. This held well until the 80’s and 90’s when the CD format almost obliterated the vinyl LP.
Now 70 years later, the CD is all but dead and vinyl is filling the desire for a physical medium as streaming services fill the convenience desire.
To celebrate – spin the first LP you ever owned.