Inventing The LP – An Interview With Dr. Peter Goldmark – Past Daily Weekend Pop Chronicles

Dr. Peter Goldmark and lps versus 78s
Dr. peter Goldmark and the results of his handiwork – His 14″ stack of lps equaled an 8 foot behemoth of 78s.(Getty Images)
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If you came along after 1986 you might have missed all the brouhaha associated with the introduction of the Compact Disc to the consumer market and how it was going to affect and effectively wipe out the lp market, for time anyway.

But go back a couple decades, back to around 1949, the year the long-playing record was introduced to the consumer market and the almost instant prediction that the 78rpm shellac record, the standard the world came to know since the turn of the 19th-to-20th century, would be extinct within a few short years, and this new medium was superior, a whole lot smaller and, best part, unbreakable.

The extinction of the 78 shellac disc came true, with the last known 78s manufactured in India around 1960 (some claim Russia was still cranking them out as late as 1969).

78’s, for those of you not familiar, were discs ranging in size from 10″ to 12″ – made of Shellac or Bakelite (an early precursor to vinyl), ran at 78 revolutions per minute – lasted anywhere from 2 1/2 to 5 minutes a side (depending on size), were often noisy, easily scratched and were heavy when lumped into albums and worst of all, were not unbreakable. The photo above gives you an example of what the issue was; stacked in front of Dr. Goldmark are early lps. Those comprise the same number of albums the two towers of 78s beside him represented; thus showing what you were getting for your money. The extra added bonus was a quieter surface, longer duration and best of all, lightweight.

Flash forward to 1986 and the small stack of lps Dr. Goldmark was holding towered over the tiny stack of CD’s when they were first introduced.

And in 2019 we’ve come full-circle (to a degree) where lps have come back into the marketplace with a vengeance and for the first time since the late 1980s, have outsold cd’s. Lp’s have always carried a certain amount of nostalgia with them; mostly tactile and perceived. The inability to truly appreciate liner notes and artwork on CD’s that you could (and now can again) appreciate on lps is a plus. The idea that lps sound better is debatable – many swear the sound of vinyl is much “warmer” and immediate, while some say the “warmth” is an illusion brought on by the inherent limitations of lps in the remastering process and the equalization used to compensate for those limitations produce a “perceived warmth” – it goes on and on.

Suffice to say, most collectors aren’t rushing to dump either their lps or their CD’s anytime soon. Casual collectors no doubt will. Many consider the uptick/overtaking of lps in terms of sales is because this latest generation of lps is roughly twice to three times the price of CD’s and the sales figures alone reflect that. Just like CD’s were roughly twice to three times the price of lps in 1986. Seems it’s always about money.

But all that said – here is an interview with Dr. Peter Goldmark, the inventor of what became the long-playing record discussing that invention as well as his views of future inventions during the 1970s, when the interview was conducted. He offers a few startling insights – remember, we hadn’t gotten into Satellite broadcasting during this time yet and personal computers were the fodder of Science Fiction.

Interesting stuff – especially if you aren’t aware of all the nuances and history behind various cultural artifacts like this one.

Listen and be amazed.

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