An Audio Timeline

An Audio Timeline
Rev 2012-07-23 jm
Rev 2013-08-09, 2014-06-13 wfw/jm
A selection of significant events, inventions, products and their purveyors,from cylinder to DVD

The road that leads us from Edison's tin-foil cylinder to today's audio DVD is a fascinating avenue crammed with remarkable people, inventions and innovations. Our past accomplishments contribute to what we are today, and signpost the future as a never-ending quest to push the envelope of what is possible in audio.

In 1997 the Committee for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the AES was formed to increase the awareness of where we have been and what we have accomplished. Part of that effort was directed to the creation of an Audio Timeline, compiled by Jerry Bruck, the late Al Grundy, and Irv Joel. It is intended to be a selection of significant events, inventions, products and their purveyors.

This Timeline is not complete, and probably never could be, given the wealth of discoveries, inventions and innovative products that did and do appear almost daily. Nor are the dates given always precise, depending as they often do on second hand documents or dim memories.

Its authors would welcome any substantiated corrections or additions to this timeline, for imperfect as it must be, it serves as both backbone and DNA in the evolution of our industry. Please send your comments to us.

We hope you will return to this page often to check on the evolution of our Timeline, as the first of many pieces to be generated by the Historical Committee as this Site expands.

    Thomas Alva Edison, working in his lab, succeeds in recovering Mary's Little Lamb from a strip of tinfoil wrapped around a spinning cylinder.
    He demonstrates his invention in the offices of Scientific American, and the phonograph is born.
    The first music is put on record: cornetist Jules Levy plays "Yankee Doodle."
    Clement Ader, using carbon microphones and armature headphones, accidentally produces a stereo effect when listeners outside the hall monitor adjacent telephone lines linked to stage mikes at the Paris Opera.
    Emile Berliner is granted a patent on a flat-disc gramophone, making the production of multiple copies practical.
    Edison introduces an electric motor-driven phonograph.
    Marconi successfully experiments with his wireless telegraphy system in Italy, leading to the first transatlantic signals from Poldhu, Cornwall, UK to St. John's, Newfoundland in 1901.
    Valdemar Poulsen patents his "Telegraphone," recording magnetically on steel wire.
    Poulsen unveils his invention to the public at the Paris Exposition. Austria's Emperor Franz Josef records his congratulations.
    Boston's Symphony Hall opens with the benefit of Wallace Clement Sabine's acoustical advice.
    The Victor Talking Machine Company is founded by Emile Berliner and Eldridge Johnson.
    Experimental optical recordings are made on motion picture film.
    Lee DeForest invents the triode vacuum tube, the first electronic signal amplifier.
    Enrico Caruso is heard in the first live broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera, NYC.
    Major Edwin F. Armstrong is issued a patent for a regenerative circuit, making radio reception practical.
    The first "talking movie" is demonstrated by Edison using his Kinetophone process, a cylinder player mechanically synchronized to a film projector.
    A patent for the superheterodyne circuit is issued to Armstrong.
    The Society of Motion Picture Engineers (SMPE) is formed.
    Edison does live-versus-recorded demonstrations in Carnegie Hall, NYC.
    The Scully disk recording lathe is introduced.
    E. C. Wente of Bell Telephone Laboratories publishes a paper in Physical Review describing a "uniformly sensitive instrument for the absolute measurement of sound intensity" -- the condenser microphone.
    The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) is founded. It is owned in part by United Fruit.
    The first commercial AM radio broadcast is made by KDKA, Pittsburgh PA.
    Bell Labs develops a moving armature lateral cutting system for electrical recording on disk. Concurrently they Introduce the Victor Orthophonic Victrola, "Credenza" model. This all-acoustic player -- with no electronics -- is considered a leap forward in phonograph design.
    The first electrically recorded 78 rpm disks appear.
    RCA works on the development of ribbon microphones.
    O'Neill patents iron oxide-coated paper tape.
    "The Jazz Singer" is released as the first commercial talking picture, using Vitaphone sound on disks synchronized with film.
    The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) is formed.
    The Japan Victor Corporation (JVC) is formed as a subsidiary of the Victor Talking Machine Co.
    Dr. Harold Black at Bell Labs applies for a patent on the principle of negative feedback. It is granted nine years later.
    Dr. Georg Neumann founds a company in Germany to manufacture his condenser microphones. Its first product is the Model CMV 3.
    Harry Nyquist publishes the mathematical foundation for the sampling theorem basic to all digital audio processing, the "Nyquist Theorem."
    The "Blattnerphone" is developed for use as a magnetic recorder using steel tape.
    Alan Blumlein, working for Electrical and Musical Industries (EMI) in London, in effect patents stereo. His seminal patent discusses the theory of stereo, both describing and picturing in the course of its 70-odd individual claims a coincident crossed-eights miking arrangement and a "45-45" cutting system for stereo disks.
    Arthur Keller and associates at Bell Labs in New York experiment with a vertical-lateral stereo disk cutter.
    The first cardioid ribbon microphone is patented by Dr. Harry F. Olson of RCA, using a field coil instead of a permanent magnet.
    Magnetic recording on steel wire is developed commercially.
    Snow, Fletcher, and Steinberg at Bell Labs transmit the first inter-city stereo audio program.
    AEG (Germany) exhibits its "Magnetophon" Model K-1 at the Berlin Radio Exposition.
    BASF prepares the first plastic-based magnetic tapes.
    BASF makes the first tape recording of a symphony concert during a visit by the touring London Philharmonic Orchestra. Sir Thomas Beecham conducts Mozart.
    Von Braunm-hl and Weber apply for a patent on the cardioid condenser microphone.
    Benjamin B. Bauer of Shure Bros. engineers a single microphone element to produce a cardioid pickup pattern, called the Unidyne, Model 55. This later becomes the basis for the well known SM57 and SM58 microphones.
    Under the direction of Dr. Harry Olson, Leslie J. Anderson designs the 44B ribbon bidirectional microphone and the 77B ribbon unidirectional for RCA.
    RCA develops the first column loudspeaker array.
    Independently, engineers in Germany, Japan and the U.S. discover and develop AC biasing for magnetic recording.
    Western Electric designs the first motional feedback, vertical-cut disk recording head.
    Major Armstrong, the inventor of FM radio, makes the first experimental FM broadcast.
    The first of many attempts is made to define a standard for the VU meter.
    Walt Disney's "Fantasia" is released, with eight-track stereophonic sound.
    Commercial FM broadcasting begins in the U.S.
    Arthur Haddy of English Decca devises the first motional feedback, lateral-cut disk recording head, later used to cut their "ffrr" high-fidelity recordings.
    The RCA LC-1 loudspeaker is developed as a reference-standard control-room monitor.
    Dr. Olson patents a single-ribbon cardioid microphone (later developed as the RCA 77D and 77DX), and a "phased-array" directional microphone.
    The first stereo tape recordings are made by Helmut Kruger at German Radio in Berlin.
    Altec develops their Model 604 coaxial loudspeaker.
    Alexander M. Poniatoff forms Ampex Corporation to make electric motors for the military.
    Two Magnetophon tape decks are sent back to the U.S. In pieces in multiple mailbags by Army Signal Corps Major John T. (Jack) Mullin.
    Webster-Chicago manufactures wire recorders for the home market.
    Brush Development Corp. builds a semiprofessional tape recorder as its Model BK401 Soundmirror.
    3M introduces Scotch No. 100, a black oxide paper tape.
    Jack Mullin demonstrates "hi-fi" tape recording with his reconstructed Magnetophon at an Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) meeting in San Francisco.
    Colonel Richard Ranger begins to manufacture his version of a Magnetophon.
    Bing Crosby and his technical director, Murdo McKenzie, agree to audition tape recorders brought in by Jack Mullin and Richard Ranger. Mullin's is preferred, and he is brought back to record Crosby's Philco radio show.
    Ampex produces its first tape recorder, the Model 200.
    Major improvements are made in disk-cutting technology: the Presto 1D, Fairchild 542, and Cook feedback cutters.
    The Williamson high-fidelity power amplifier circuit is published.
    The first issue of Audio Engineering is published; its name is later shortened to Audio.
    The Audio Engineering Society (AES) is formed in New York City.
    The microgroove 33-1/3 rpm long-play vinyl record (LP) is introduced by Columbia Records.
    Scotch types 111 and 112 acetate-base tapes are introduced.
    Magnecord introduces its PT-6, the first tape recorder in portable cases.
    RCA introduces the microgroove 45 rpm, large-hole, 7-inch record and record changer/adaptor.
    Ampex introduces its Model 300 professional studio recorder.
    Magnecord produces the first U.S.-made stereo tape recorder, employing half-track staggered-head assemblies.
    A novel amplifier design is described by McIntosh and Gow.
    Guitarist Les Paul modifies his Ampex 300 with an extra preview head for "Sound-on-Sound" overdubs.
    IBM develops a commercial magnetic drum memory.
    The "hot stylus" technique is introduced to disk recording.
    An "Ultra-Linear" amplifier circuit is proposed by Hafler and Keroes.
    Pultec introduces the first active program equalizer, the EQP-1.
    The Germanium transistor is developed at Bell Laboratories.
    Peter J. Baxandall publishes his (much-copied) tone control circuit.
    Emory Cook presses experimental dual-band left-right "binaural" disks.
    Ampex engineers a 4-track, 35 mm magnetic film system for 20th-Century Fox's Christmas release of "The Robe" in CinemaScope with surround sound.
    Ampex introduces the first high speed reel-to-reel duplicator as its Model 3200.
    EMT (Germany) introduces the electromechanical reverberation plate.
    Sony produces the first pocket transistor radios.
    Ampex produces its Model 600 portable tape recorder.
    G. A. Briggs stages a live-versus-recorded demonstration in London's Royal Festival Hall.
    RCA introduces its polydirectional ribbon microphone, the 77DX.
    Westrex introduces their Model 2B motional feedback lateral-cut disk recording head.
    The first commercial 2-track stereo tapes are released.
    Ampex develops "Sel-Sync" (Selective Synchronous Recording), making audio overdubbing practical.
    Les Paul makes the first 8-track recordings using the "Sel-Sync" method.
    The movie Forbidden Planet is released, with the first all-electronic film score, composed by Louis and Bebe Barron.
    Westrex demonstrates the first commercial "45/45" stereo cutter head and cuts a few sample disks. Sidney Frey, of Audio Fidelity, introduces a mass-produced demonstration disk to encourage development of stereo cartridges.
    The first commercial stereo disk recordings produced by Audio Fidelity.
    Stefan Kudelski introduces the Nagra III battery-operated transistorized field tape recorder, which with its "Neo-Pilot" sync system becomes the de facto standard of the film industry.
    EMI fails to renew the Blumlein stereo patent. Hello - anybody home?
    3M introduces the first 2-track closed-loop capstan-drive recorder, the M-23.
    The FCC selects the Zenith/GE multiplexing method for FM stereo broadcasting.
    The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) sets the standard for the time code format.
    3M introduces Scotch 201/202 "Dynarange," a black oxide low-noise mastering tape with a 4 dB improvement in s/n ratio over Scotch 111.
    Philips introduces the Compact Cassette tape format, and offers licenses worldwide.
    Gerhard Sessler and James West, working at Bell Labs, patent the electret microphone.
    The Beach Boys contract Sunn Electronics to build the first large full-range sound system for their rock music concert tour.
    The Dolby Type A noise reduction system is introduced.
    Robert Moog shows elements of his early music "synthesizers."
    Eltro (Germany) makes a pitch/tempo shifter, using a rotating head assembly to sample a moving magnetic tape.
    Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass tour with a Harry McCune Custom Sound System.
    Richard C. Heyser devises the "TDS" (Time Delay Spectrometry) acoustical measurement scheme, which paves the way for the revolutionary "TEF" (Time Energy Frequency) technology.
    Altec-Lansing introduces "Acousta-Voicing," a concept of room equalization utilizing variable multiband filters.
    Elektra releases the first electronic music recording: Morton Subotnick's Silver Apples of the Moon.
    The Monterey International Pop Festival becomes the first large rock music festival.
    The Broadway musical Hair opens with a high-powered sound system.
    The first operational amplifiers are used in professional audio equipment, notably as summing devices for multichannel consoles.
    CBS releases "Switched-On Bach," Walter (Wendy) Carlos's polyphonic multitracking of Moog's early music synthesizer.
    Dr. Thomas Stockham begins to experiment with digital tape recording.
    Bill Hanley and Company designs and builds the sound system for the Woodstock Music Festival.
    3M introduces Scotch 206 and 207 magnetic tape, with a s/n ratio 7 dB better than Scotch 111.
    The first digital delay line, the Lexicon Delta-T 101, is introduced and is widely used in sound reinforcement installations.
    Ampex introduces 406 mastering tape.
    Denon demonstrates 18-bit PCM stereo recording using a helical-scan video recorder.
    RMS and VCA circuit modules introduced by David Blackmer of dbx.
    Electro-Voice and CBS are licensed by Peter Scheiber to produce quadraphonic decoders using his patented matrixes.
    D. B. Keele pioneers the design of "constant-directivity" high-frequency horns.
    The Grateful Dead produce the "Wall of Sound" at the San Francisco Cow Palace, incorporating separate systems for vocals, each of the guitars, piano and drums.
    3M introduces Scotch 250 mastering tape with an increase in output level of over 10 dB compared to Scotch 111.
    DuPont introduces chromium dioxide (CrO2) cassette tape.
    Digital tape recording begins to take hold in professional audio studios.
    Michael Gerzon conceives of and Calrec (England) builds the "Soundfield Microphone," a coincident 4-capsule cluster with matrixed "B-format" outputs and decoded steerable 2- and 4-channel discrete outputs.
    EMT produces the first digital reverberation unit as its Model 250.
    Ampex introduces 456 high-output mastering tape.
    Dr. Stockham of Soundstream makes the first 16-bit digital recording in the U.S. at the Santa Fe Opera.
    The first EIAJ standard for the use of 14-bit PCM adaptors with VCR decks is embodied in Sony's PCM-1 consumer VCR adaptor.
    A patent is issued to Blackmer for an adaptive filter (the basis of dbx Types I and II noise reduction).
    3M introduces metal-particle cassette tape.
    3M, Mitsubishi, Sony and Studer each introduces a multitrack digital recorder.
    EMT introduces its Model 450 hard-disk digital recorder.
    Sony introduces a palm-sized stereo cassette tape player called a "Walkman."
    Philips demonstrates the Compact Disc (CD).
    MIDI is standardized as the universal synthesizer interface.
    IBM introduces a 16-bit personal computer.
    Sony introduces the PCM-F1, intended for the consumer market, the first 14- and 16-bit digital adaptor for VCRs. It is eagerly snapped up by professionals, sparking the digital revolution in recording equipment.
    Sony releases the first CD player, the Model CDP-101.
    Fiber-optic cable is used for long-distance digital audio transmission, linking New York and Washington, D.C.
    The Apple Corporation markets the Macintosh computer.
    Dolby introduces the "SR" Spectral Recording system.
    The first digital consoles appear.
    R-DAT recorders are introduced in Japan.
    Dr. Gunther Theile describes a novel stereo "sphere microphone."
    Digidesign markets "Sound Tools," a Macintosh-based digital workstation using DAT as its source and storage medium.
    ISDN telephone links are offered for high-end studio use.
    Dolby proposes a 5-channel surround-sound scheme for home theater systems.
    The write-once CD-R becomes a commercial reality.
    3M introduces 996 mastering tape, a 13 dB improvement over Scotch 111.
    Wolfgang Ahnert presents, in a binaural simulation, the first digitally enhanced modeling of an acoustic space.
    Alesis unveils the ADAT, the first "affordable" digital multitrack recorder.
    Apple debuts the "QuickTime" multimedia format.
    Ampex introduces 499 mastering tape.
    The Philips DCC and Sony's MiniDisc, using digital audio data-reduction, are offered to consumers as record/play hardware and software.
    The Nagra D is introduced as a self-contained battery-operated field recorder using Nagra's own 4-channel 24-bit open-reel format.
    In the first extensive use of "distance recording" via ISDN, producer Phil Ramone records the "Duets" album with Frank Sinatra.
    Mackie unveils the first "affordable" 8-bus analog console.
    Yamaha unveils the ProMix 01, the first "affordable" digital multitrack console.
    The first "solid-state" audio recorder, the Nagra ARES-C, is introduced. It is a battery-operated field unit recording on PCMCIA cards using MPEG-2 audio compression.
    Iomega debuts high-capacity "Jaz" and "Zip" drives, useful as removable storage media for hard-disk recording.
    Record labels begin to add multimedia files to new releases, calling them "enhanced CDs."
    Experimental digital recordings are made at 24 bits and 96 kHz.
    DVD videodiscs and players are introduced. An audio version with 6-channel surround sound is expected to eventually supplant the CD as the chosen playback medium in the home.
    The Winter Olympics open with a performance of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," played and sung by synchronizing live audio feeds from five continents with an orchestra and conductor at the Olympic stadium in Nagano, Japan, using satellite and ISDN technology.
    Golden Anniversary celebration held in New York on March 11, the exact date of the first AES meeting in 1948, with ten of the original members present.
    MP-3 players for downloaded Internet audio appear.
    Audio DVD Standard 1.0 agreed upon by manufacturers.

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