Archive Gallery: The History of Recorded Music

From phonographs to records to iPods, with a few hiccups along the way

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

Our archives are always good for a laugh, whether its frightening carnival rides or bizarre DIY dodecahedral meditation chambers. But with an oeuvre spanning three centuries, the archives are also a great resource to track scientific development, or look back at the legacy of a genius. This week, we trace the history of recording technology from Thomas Edison to Apple.

Click to launch the photo gallery.

Edison’s phonograph, which came about as a happy accident, paved the way for the entire field of recording technology – recordings on thread, ungrooved records for home recording and a whole slew of magnetic wire recorders, initially used during World War II and eventually adopted by civilians.

Several attempts were made to improve the record player, from making it wireless and broadcastable through a radio, to developing hi-fi systems, to installing an in-car record changer that could play up to 14 records with minimal skipping, before cassettes and then CDs took over. Between CDs and iPods, we were treated to the Mini Disc (pictured above), Sony’s attempt to miniaturize CDs and make the players more portable.

And finally, after loading MP3 after MP3 onto their iPods, people became nostalgic for vinyl. Follow the development of recording tech in our gallery.