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Friday, 23 March, 2001, 15:05 GMT
The story of the single
Chart topping acts
The British singles chart has been an essential part of the music industry as well as a cultural barometer for nearly 50 years.

Although the importance of the single has diminished as sales have dipped, tuning into the Top 40 and watching Top Of The Pops are still favourite parts of a music lover's week.

Single life

The story of the single began in the 19th century when Thomas Edison used wax cylinders to capture sound.

He patented his phonograph in 1877 and later went on to form the world's first record company.

UK chart timeline
1952 - The first singles chart is published in the NME
1958 - The NME publishes an album chart
1964 - First broadcast of Top Of The Pops
1969 - BRMB begin audited and compiling the chart
1971 - Chart limited to a Top 40 due to the postal strike
1983 - Chart compilation taken over by Gallup
1991 - The chart, produced in association with the BPI and Bard becomes the copyright of CIN
1994 - Millward Brown takes over chart compilation
2000 - The chart is sponsored for the first time
Ten years later in 1887, the first recognisable single, a flat wax disc, was produced by Emil Berliner.

It took nearly three years for reproduction technology to be developed and for a singles market of 78 rpm records to be born.

The cylinder was virtually obsolete by the advent of World War I when double-sided discs had become the popular technology.

The single remained an unrivalled medium until 1948 when Columbia introduced the long-playing microgroove record, which became the standard format for albums for 35 years.

The first 45 rpm single was introduced in America in 1949 but it wasn't until 1957 that it became common use in the UK.

Pre-recorded tapes made their debut in Europe in the 60s, but cassette singles were not introduced in the UK until 1987.

By 1990, the vinyl 45 became the standard format and the easily breakable 10-inch 78 had gone the same way as the cylinder.

The compact disc arrived on the UK's music market in 1983.

Originally seen as a luxury item, the CD has been challenged by various digital music formats including DAT, DCC and Minidisc.

By 1996, sales of CD singles accounted for 62% of the singles market.

The recording industry is still coming to terms with the internet and the technology which can deliver music straight into the home via a computer.

The World Wide Web may still be in its infancy but it could house the potential to change the face of the music business.

Compiling the chart

The current UK singles chart is arguably the most accurate since the first chart appeared in the New Musical Express in 1952.

Jimmy Saville
Jimmy Saville presenting the first edition of Top Of The Pops
It is produced from the largest market research sample currently in use in the UK by Chart Information Network (CIN) which commissions, markets and distributes the official UK music and video chart.

Data is collected from 5,600 music retailers that represent 99% of the total UK singles market.

Each of the shops involved in the chart compilation process is equipped with Electronic Point of Sale or barcode readers, which record and save information from each product purchased.

When the stores close for business each night, the collected data is sent via a telephone line to market research company Millward Brown.

On the company's centralised computer, the barcodes are matched with information held about each product such as the title, artist and record company.

A series of processes including security checks and mathematical equations take place before final chart positions are calculated.

Each Sunday at 1330 the official weekly chart is produced and supplied to the BBC which has first broadcasting rights.

The UK Top 40 can be heard on Radio 1 on Sundays from 1600 - 1900.

Chart facts

Singles which topped the charts for the most weeks

I Believe - Frankie Laine (18)

(Everything I Do) I Do It For You - Bryan Adams (16)

Love is All Around - Wet Wet Wet (15)

Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen (14)

Rose Marie - Slim Whitman (11)

Top five acts with the most number ones

Beatles (17)

Elvis Presley (17)

Cliff Richard (14)

Madonna (10)

Abba (9)

World's biggest selling single

Candle in the Wind - Elton John (Sales in excess of 33 million)

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