The 45 rpm record
September 13, 2017 9:33 PM   Subscribe

Fran Blanche shares with us about one of her favorite things: the 45rpm record!
posted by vespabelle (15 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
This is great! I had never heard of Fran before, she reminds me of some of my favorite people irl.

She even has a Commadore 64 video! Thanks for posting.
posted by ethical_caligula at 10:08 PM on September 13, 2017

This is cool, and I'm also going to watch more of her videos!

She only missed one thing that I know about: the vinyl in the middle label part of a 45 is thicker than the edges and groove area so that the grooves don't touch and scratch each other in a jukebox, record changer, or case. 33 1/3 records have this also, as well as a bead around the outer edge to compensate for sag and help hold the grooves off those on adjacent records. It wasn't perfect in either format, but it's there.
posted by rhizome at 10:24 PM on September 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

Oh my God she has a Voyager record video.

The "RIAA curve" she spends some time explaining is the reason why record players sound like crap if you connect them to a modern audio receiver (or a PC line in) without a preamp. I didn't know that it was to be more efficient with the groove spacing.

There was a bit of a curve war in the early 50's, but the prevailing standard had originated with RCA's 45s. Early LPs used a different curve than 45s.

(Yes, RIAA = Recording Industry Association of America = the same folks who like to sue teenagers for downloading mp3s. Different times!)
posted by neckro23 at 11:11 PM on September 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

Very interesting, thanks.
posted by erikgrande at 11:30 PM on September 13, 2017

Its interesting that 45 were such an American invention - and that they seem to have been designed by RCA with no real expectation that they would take off in other countries. The early colour coding idea from RCA is a nice example of those national origins. Other countries would probably find the classifications "country/instrumental/kids/dangerous orange stuff..." to be completely incomprehensible. But they weren't asked. The late 40s was also an era when music was not really expected to travel internationally like it did: British performers could tour in America absolutely fine ...providing they used American musicians only, acquired American citizenship first, didn't export any more than a tiny number of pounds sterling to help them in their quest and paid the huge cost of an air fare. It was equally difficult going the other way.

Which makes it all the more peculiar that both the technical and the cultural influence of the 45 were so successful everywhere.
posted by rongorongo at 11:35 PM on September 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Im hoping her sequel covers 45 RPM Record Adapters in some depth.
posted by fairmettle at 1:21 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

That stacking records idea seems so nifty in concept, but I gotta say my experience was after five or so records dropped the amount of spin on the record that was supposed to be playing wouldn't be all that consistent as the spin from the lower records wouldn't necessarily transfer to the top of the stack if the middle records didn't sit absolutely snug with the ones below and above. It also put some serious wear and tear on the vinyl, but when that's all ya got, you go with it.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:27 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

> There was a bit of a curve war in the early 50's, but the prevailing standard had originated with RCA's 45s. Early LPs used a different curve than 45s.

If there's been any consistency in the audio field, it's been the endless fights over one standard after another.

I have some amplifiers from the late 1950s and early 1960s. One built around 1959 only has RIAA-labeled phono inputs (interestingly, it has two of them, presumably for indulgent home hi-fi hobbyi~sts to do some DJing without a crossfade). Another built in 1961 has a NAB/RIAA switch separate from the input switch, presumably to compensate for tapes recorded off RIAA-eq'd records, or to deal with off-sounding radio broadcasts. A third from 1960 has separate inputs labeled RIAA Phono and LP Phono, plus EQ switches labeled Scratch and Rumble for added high/low frequency padding. So more than a decade after the RIAA curve was effectively nailed down, home audio companies were still having to deal with catering to their early-adopter userbase (the 12" LP was only a couple years old at the time, the stereo LP effectively brand-new) while still accommodating those with collections of 78s.

Another characteristic of stereo equipment of this era is the channels were labeled "A" and "B" rather than "Left" and "Right", and each channel had separate treble, bass, and volume controls. This allowed people who wanted stereo some extra control to compensate for using mismatched speakers. Fisher amps also had a channel "C" output which was a mono A+B, for when the stereo speakers were too far apart or to serve as a satellite speaker in another room. The manual for the X-202-B explains what stereo sound is and how it works, because that was the sort of user education necessary sixty years ago, and it also spends considerable space on how to wire up a pair of speakers because contrary to the expectations of our era it's not the slightest bit intuitive.
posted by ardgedee at 5:53 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is where I confess that I spent 25 minutes of my life watching Fran restore and then "unleash the might" of a 1977 Tandy Digital Computer Kit - which must have been the most sure-fire way to discourage a nerd-kid of the era from any interest in computing. And where I say how enjoyable that time was.

And that I'll measure all my wires with straws from now on.
posted by rongorongo at 6:51 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Her deep dive into the Apollo DSKY display is also fascinating, I've wasted too many hours watching her channel. I hope she does more.
posted by beowulf573 at 7:40 AM on September 14, 2017

ardgedee: It's even worse than you think. The A/B/C channel was a hold over from early (non-stereo) radio equipment, which had to separate channels: Audition and Broadcast, so DJs could cue things up or check levels before putting audio out over the air. The C channel is an oddity, but I remember an old amp a freind had that used out of phase left right channels (basically the left positive output hooked up the the right positive output) to create a "third" channel to be a sort of fake quad experience.* Audio equipment has been a deeply nerdy eternal war and the many bloody but small battles are fascinating.

Oh and yes, 45rpm adapters are amazing to me because once upon a time someone would decide, I have a better way to make a 1 cent chunk of plastic, I need a patent! And some record manufacturer would decide, I'm not paying that royalty, we're gonna come up with our own! And thus we heave the multitude of styles. Like Darwin's finches. I still love the novelty of finding a 45 with the built in 45 adaptor that hadn't been punched out yet, it is like finding an un scratched lottery card. A small treasure of surprise, that you're never sure whether to keep or enjoy. Sometimes I punch them out, just to enjoy that crackle of old vinyl letting go after doing its short term task for much longer than its designers ever dreamed.

*Back in the early days of the Internet, I remember a webpage documenting all the cool stuff you could find on Beatles stereo records using this process. (Hey, and here it is!) It was probably one of the first moments I realized that the Internet was Home for me.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:02 AM on September 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Fran Blanche worked as an engineer for Electro-Harmonix and designed the Big Muff Pi NYC. Her company Frantone also brought us the Peach Fuzz. I made a clone of the Peach Fuzz because they were impossible to find, and if you did find one, were going for big bucks from collectors.
posted by cazoo at 8:18 AM on September 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I always wondered what 45 RPM Record Adapters were called! We always called them "Those little plastic thingies you put in the middle of 45 RPM records and the cat loves to carry them off in his teeth so you can never find one when you want it."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:56 AM on September 14, 2017

Why do different countries follow a different standard for the holes in a 45rpm record?

Big Holes: USA, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal.

Small Holes: UK, Ireland, Holland, South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden.

The Victor Company may be the explanation:

The 1949 RCA Victor record player only played 45s with large holes.
From the mid 1950's onwards players which could handle 45s and 33s became popular.

So it seems possible that the large holes only became standard in countries where RCA had a strong market presence. Once established the standard stuck around long after that type of player fell out of popular use.
Digging through a few Wikipedia pages, RCA acquired Victor Talking Machine Company in 1929 and at that point The Gramophone Co. in England was spun off to became EMI.

So from 1929 onward there was a geographical split with RCA covering the USA, Canada, Germany and Japan and EMI selling to the UK, Ireland and presumably British territories.
posted by Lanark at 4:59 PM on September 14, 2017

I still love the novelty of finding a 45 with the built in 45 adaptor that hadn't been punched out yet

That leads me to the three kinds of 45 centers: knock-out, solid, and dinked (the classic big-hole).
posted by rhizome at 5:13 PM on September 14, 2017

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