From phonographs to MP3 players, popularized music players drastically have evolved in the last two centuries. For many people, music can represent a sense of comfort, community or enjoyment. The most widely used music players include MP3 players, vinyl record players, audio cassette tape decks and compact disc players.
Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877. The device, which could record and playback sound, consisted of a metal cylinder wrapped in tin foil and mounted on a rotating axle. There was mouthpiece next to cylinder, and it contained a needle and diaphragm. When someone spoke into the mouthpiece, the cylinder would spin. The sound waves caused the needle to vibrate and transcribed the sound onto the tin foil. Though Edison originally invented the phonograph for the purpose of dictation in office settings, the device became a popular music player in many homes.
In 1887, Emile Berliner invented one of the first record players--the gramophone. Though the gramophone used technology similar to the phonograph, Berliner’s music player produced sound through a flat disc instead of a cylinder. The gramophone, which played 78 rpm records, remained popular until 1948. Columbia Broadcasting Systems Laboratories revolutionized the record player technology when it released the LP to the general public. These “long-playing” discs quickly became the most popular disc form because of the extended playback time and enhanced sound quality.
Cassette tape technology was introduced by Philips, a Netherlands-based electronics firm, in 1963. Though this technology was created for dictation purposes, Sony successfully marketed the cassette player as a personal music player. Sony introduced cassette tape technology to the public in the late 1960s. These players later were installed in car stereos, and they replaced 8-track systems. In 1979, Sony continued to dominate the music player market with the inception of the “Walkman," a portable cassette tape player. Cassette tape players dominated the music player market throughout the 1980s.
In 1983, Sony released the first compact disc player (CD player) to the American public. The model was called the CDP-101, and it cost nearly $900. Unlike cassette players, CD players allow music enthusiasts to play their favorite albums in digital format. A CD player also gives users the option to change music tracks with a push of a button. CD sound quality trumped previous music formats and virtually eradicated the sales of cassette tapes by the 1990s.
Though MP3 format was invented in 1991, MP3 players weren’t introduced to the American public until in 1998. Saehan, a company based in Korea, mass-produced the first MP3 player—the MPMan. MP3 players continue to dominate the music market and have caused CD and CD player sales to dwindle. Instead of purchasing CDs, music enthusiasts instantly can download their favorite albums online and transfer the digital music files to their music player. Though there are numerous MP3 players on the market, Apple’s iPod is one of the best-selling MP3 players.
Christina Shaffer is a freelance writer based in New Jersey and has been writing arts and entertainment articles since 2005. Her articles have appeared in "Philadelphia City Paper." Shaffer received a B.A. in journalism and gender studies at Rutgers University.