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Sunday, 19 July, 1998, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
The non-compact disc turns 50
Vinyl record
Blast from the past: 50 years of vinyl records
Fifty years ago this week, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, made history becoming the first piece of music to be recorded on vinyl.

Dealers and distributors of the company, Columbia Records, gathered in Atlantic City on the east coast of the United States to hear the sound. They were stunned, and broke into spontaneous applause.

Some classical music fans say vinyl has a warmer sound
A revolutionary medium

The Columbia executives had witnessed the launch of a product which would change the face of the record industry.

Vinyl, made of a plastic material replaced the older 78 records, which were made of shellac, a mixture of powdered slate and a resinous gum.

The difference was enormous. On 78s, you listened to music in four minute segments, with vinyl, it was possible to listen through a whole movement in music; this increased the playing time as well as the quality, eliminating the background hissing noise associated with 78s.

CDs now dominate the music market
CDs take over

Long playing discs and singles (45s) quickly replaced the older 78 records and dominated the music market until 1983, when the CD or Compact Disc arrived.

CDs have now almost displaced the vinyl record. In Britain less than 1% of albums and 5% of singles sold are in vinyl format.

But there are many who prefer the warmer sound of vinyl, particularly of music originally recorded on the material and subsequently cleaned up for CD recordings, such as early Beatles albums.

Die-hard vinyl fans

Club dance DJs prefer vinyl as it enables them to mix and manipulate records in a way impossible with CDs.

Dance clubbers
Vinyl is an essential for dance club culture
Classical music fans also prefer analogue vinyl recordings to the digital sound of CDs which they say is too clinical.

Responding to demand London's famous Abbey Road studios made their first vinyl recording in 18 years - a series of sonatas by Johann Sebastian Bach.

And some people just prefer records, because they are bigger than CDs and the record sleeves have artwork which looks better than on a small scale.

So whilst technology will force vinyl to keep its place in history rather than make a comeback, hard-core vinyl enthusiasts will ensure it won't disappear altogether.

BBC News
Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite: the first music ever recorded on vinyl
BBC News
Record collector Patrick Harris says Beatles records "still sound much better on vinyl"
See also:

18 Jul 98 | Entertainment
Cliff Richard makes a return to 78rpm
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