Music timeline - Two centuries of technological change

April 15, 2007

1800s - Thomas Edison creates a device that can play back and record sound mechanically. The device is made of a metal stylus and a foil-wrapped cylinder.

Mid-1800s - Alexander Graham Bell develops a wax-coated cardboard cylinder that produced a better sound. Edison responds by creating his own wax-based device.

Late 1800s - Edison forms the North American Phonograph Company.

Early 1900s - Physicist Guglielmo Marconi lays foundation for modern radio. Emile Berliner introduces the shellac disc, which eventually became the standard for recording and playing music.

1920s - AT&T's Bell Labs introduces electrical recording and playback systems.

1930s - The tape recorder is invented. The record industry faces competition from radio but finds success with a new device, the jukebox. People listen to music on 78 rpm (evolution per minute) records, which store three to five minutes of sound.


1940s - Columbia Records develops the first vinyl LP in 1948. The 12-inch record plays 20 minutes per side. In 1949, RCA Victor introduces a 7-inch 45 rpm. Eventually, LPs will be for full-length albums and 45s are used for single songs.

1950s - Record sales triple. By 1955, 78s fade from the scene.

1960s and '70s - Phillips creates the audio compact cassette, a precursor to the 8-track, which is introduced in 1966. The Sony Walkman is invented in 1979.

1980s - Compact cassette tapes become more popular. Sony and Phillips make the Compact Disc in 1982. Record labels stop making 8-tracks by 1983.

1990s - CDs grow in popularity as more people own personal computers. Napster, a computer application that allows people to share music over the Internet, is created in 1999.

2001 - The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules that Napster is in violation of copyright laws and orders it to stop distributing copyrighted music.

2003 - Apple introduces Apple iTunes Music Store, which allows users to purchase songs online from BMG, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal and Warner. Apple officials say more than 1 million songs are downloaded and roughly 110,000 iPod MP3 players are ordered one week after the launch.

2007 - Reuters reports a 20 percent decline in CD sales. The Wall Street Journal reports that online music downloads are a factor. Artists start considering new ways to distribute music.

- Sources: The Recording Industry Association of America,

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,



The Wall Street Journal,

The Herald-Mail Articles