The modern recording studio would not be possible without electronics. So this month we will take a look at a number of electronic terms. It is also a good time to look at the history of electronics, and how it helped shape the development of the recording studio.
In 1883, Thomas Edison discovered that certain materials heated by a filament in a vacuum emitted electrons that were attracted to an positively-charged electrode. This discovery, which became known as the Edison effect, was the basis for the invention of the vacuum tube in the early twentieth century.
A vacuum tube is an electrical device containing various electrodes and elements inside an evacuated container (usually made of glass, but sometimes metal). They are sometimes called thermionic tubes, electron tubes, or simply tubes. In Great Britain, they are called valves.
In the early twentieth century, John Ambrose Fleming was first to use a diode tube to detect radio signals. In 1906, Lee De Forest developed the audion, the first triode, which was also used as a radio detector. A diode is a vacuum tube with two electrodes, a triode has three, and a pentode has five. Soon vacuum tubes were being used to rectifying—converting alternating current (ac) into direct current (dc).
Eventually it was discovered that vacuum tubes could amplify a signal, taking a weak signal and making it much stronger. This led to the beginning of the electric era in recording. Previously during the acoustic era, recordings were made by capturing sound vibrations using a horn and using those vibrations to cut grooves in a recording medium. Now a signal from a microphone could be amplified and used to cut the groove. Not only did this improve audio quality, but it made it possible to use more than one microphone to make a recording, paving the way for multi-track recordings later on.
In 1947, John Bardeen, Walter Houser Brattain, and William Bradford Shockley, researchers at Bell Laboratories, developed the transistor, for which they received the Nobel prize in 1956. The transistor essentially could do the same things that vacuum tubes were used for. Soon nearly everyone was listening to transistor radios, the first truly portable radio receivers. Before long transistors were replacing tubes in amplifiers and other electronic equipment. Not only were transistors much smaller than vacuum tubes, but they operated much cooler, used considerably less energy, and lasted much longer.
Originally, all electronic circuits were hand wired, meaning a person would individually solder wires between components, a process called point-to-point wiring. As you can imagine, this process was tedious, labor intensive, and expensive. In 1936 Paul Eisler invented the printed circuit board (PCB) in England, but they did not become commercially available until the 1940s. A PCB consists of a thin sheet of non-conductive material onto which thin strips of a conducting material is attached or printed. Components are soldered to the printed circuit board rather than wiring them individually.
Transistors are called semiconductors, because they have the property of conducting electricity somewhat between that of a conductor and an insulator. An electronic device that uses semiconductors rather than vacuum tubes is called a solid-state device. The next development in solid state electronics came in 1958 with the integrated circuit (IC). Instead of transistors and other components being attached to a PCB, they were etched or imprinted onto a tiny slice of silicon or other semiconducting material. This made the miniaturization of electronic circuits possible.
Over the next several decades, further refinements would make the IC ever smaller and faster, making the way for the microchip. The microchip incorporates numerous ICs in a single unit. The microchip is what made the personal computer possible. The modern digital recording studio would not be possible today microchips and personal computers.
• In November, 1899, the very first jukebox was installed at the Palais Royal Hotel in San Francisco. Because it cost a nickel per play, it soon became known as the "Nickelodeon." Within the first six months the machine earned nearly $1,000. Fifty years later, the song "Music! Music! Music! (Put Another Nickel In)" [the nickelodeon] by Teresa Brewer became a No. 1 hit and a million-selling single.
• The song "Penny Lane" by the Beatles was named after a street in the their hometown of Liverpool. It was a local colloquialism for a busy shopping area near Allerton Road and Smithdown Road. It was named after James Penny, an 18th century slave trader.
• Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley, is the second most-visited residence in the US. The White House is No. 1.
Give a Gift Certificate for Christmas
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Present this coupon when you come in for a recording session and receive $50.00 off the regular rates when you book a session of 8 hours or more. This coupon is good for new clients only, can be used only one time (only one coupon per person or band), and cannot be combined with any other offers. If you pay by phone using a credit card, please use coupon code NEWSLETTER. If you have any friends or relatives looking for a recording studio, please clip this coupon and pass it along to them.