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  • Zoe Lim

Evolution of Music Devices & Machines


a vinyl record of an album

Over the decades, music grew from Mozart to Madonna to Megan Thee Stallion. As music itself evolved, so did the way we listen to them. Right now, most of us are listening to music on our music applications and streaming platforms. The convenience and portability of current music apps have enhanced almost every area of our lives, such as grocery trips, road trips, festivals and events that we love to attend.

However, do you know how people use to listen to recorded music? In the earlier days, it was a rare and exciting luxury to be able to listen to recorded music. Let's journey back to the 1800s to learn more about the history of music machines.

  1. Gramophone

A gramophone, also known as a phonograph is a device for mechanically recording and reproducing sound. It uses a rotating cylinder or disc, called a "record", to recreate the sound. The surface of the disc is rotated while a playback stylus traces the groove and with its vibration, it faintly reproduces the recorded sound. It was also the device that made its to way to what we call "vinyl" now.

2. Music Boxes

A music box is a must-have for antique and vintage collectors of today. It produces sound by using a set of pins on a revolving cylinder or disc to pluck the tuned teeth of a steel comb.

As we enter the 1900s, music players are evolving rapidly and frequently. Below shows the quick transformation of music devices with the invention of radios, jukeboxes and boomboxes.

3. Radios

The early history of radio is the history of technology that produces and uses radio instruments that use radio waves. Radios were used during World War 1 for point-to-point communication. However, as radio technology grew, the interest in owning a personal radio grew tremendously in the 1920s. This has allowed people of all classes to enjoy music in the comforts of their own homes. Previously, listening habits of music patrons had been strongly dictated by class affiliation. Listening to classical music performances was a cultural experience, often reserved for the upper and middle classes.

4. Self-playing Pianos

Also known as a player piano, a self-playing piano contains an electro-mechanical mechanism that operates the piano action via programmed music recorded on perforated paper or metallic rolls. The popularity of player piano grew in the late 19th and early 20th century. Sales peaked in 1924, but declined as there were improvements in phonograph recordings, along with radio technology.

5. JukeBoxes

A jukebox is a partially automated music playing device, usually coin-operated. The patron inserts a coin and selects a song from its self-contained media. The classic jukebox has buttons, letters and numbers on them. It was most popular from the 1940s throughout the mid 1960s, particularly the 1950s. However, the decline of the jukebox started when portable cassette tape deck began to take over in the 1960s.

6. Walkman & Cassette Tapes

Walkman is a brand of portable media players manufactured by Sony. The 1980s was the decade of the intensive development of the Walkman lineup. Along with Walkman, cassette tapes came into widespread use as well. With the release of the Sony Walkman "personal" cassette player, peopl