Thread Number: 81516  /  Tag: Other Home Products or Autos
Records: The 1949 Format War Between Columbia (33-1/3) & RCA (45)
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Post# 1055473   12/25/2019 at 08:06 (194 days old) by Frigilux (The Minnesota Prairie)        

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Being someone who thought vinyl singles and LPs had always coexisted peacefully, I found this video really interesting. Had no idea of the format war that took place between Columbia, who introduced the 33-1/3 rpm LP in 1948 and RCA, who introduced their 45 rpm "singles" format the following year.

As a kid, I had one of the little 45-rpm record changers shown in the video, as well as many singles and 45 rpm boxed sets of albums.

Also learned why many of my old RCA 45s were on colored vinyl. It was for purposes of categorization, not novelty. Nor did I know that RCA did not make LPs until 1950, when sales figures made it clear that despite RCA's much-touted "23 Reasons Singles Are Better Than LPs" hype, the public made it clear they preferred LPs.

I highly recommend watching all 38 minutes of the video; but if time is of the essence, jump to the 15-minute mark, which gets to the meat of the format war with the introduction of 45s.

Post# 1055503 , Reply# 1   12/25/2019 at 11:13 (194 days old) by kenwashesmonday (Haledon, NJ)        

I enjoy Techmoan's videos, but being all the way over in England he get's a few facts wrong in this video.  People often call RCA the bad guy in the "war of the speeds", and I'm not fan of David Sarnoff, but the RCA 45 system was actually developed in 1939 and put on hold due to WWII.  

I commented on the video:


Thank you for another excellent video, but I'd like to add 3 points. 
1) Your RCA 45 machine is the 2nd design.  The original design from 1949 changed records much faster, doing it in one revolution of the record. 
2) The reason for the large hole was so the entire record holding and dropping system could be contained in the spindle. 
3) Columbia did not make 45s right away, they had a 7-inch 33 1/3 single format with records pressed on cruddy styrene rather than vinyl.



Post# 1055513 , Reply# 2   12/25/2019 at 14:02 (194 days old) by RP2813 (Sannazay)        

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Very interesting.  My cousins who were much older had one of those RCA 45 players, but I never saw it in use.  Even back then I thought a limited use item like that wasn't practical.


I remember when I was younger, a friend and I became interested in collecting 78s and he found a very early 20th century Columbia demonstration record for their "Double Disc" system, where both sides of the record could be played instead of just one.  A portion of the narrative was, ". . . Double everything except price!"


It seems that Columbia was ahead of Victor with introduction of new technologies.  I tend to prefer their early "Viva-Tonal" electrical recording process over that of Victor's "Orthophonic" method, but am not sure which came first.  I know that by 1927, both companies had switched to the electrical process, and both of them redesigned their labels to reflect it.

Post# 1055526 , Reply# 3   12/25/2019 at 15:54 (194 days old) by LordKenmore (The Laundry Room)        

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I haven't watched the video, but I'm aware of the format war. I remember reading this when I was teenager. I'm not sure of this point, but it's very possible, given an interest in audio--and the fact that I remained an analog diehard--that I've seen the discussion of this format war discussed since then.


Past this, I've been told my grandparents had what must certainly have been a RCA 45 RPM changer.

Post# 1055530 , Reply# 4   12/25/2019 at 16:43 (194 days old) by wayupnorth (On a lake between Bangor and Bar Harbor)        

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My sister had one of those RCA 45 players with a radio. I remember the change of the record was fast.

Post# 1055533 , Reply# 5   12/25/2019 at 17:16 (194 days old) by RP2813 (Sannazay)        

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Also, RCA's 45 changer is the only one I've ever seen where the whole spindle revolves along with the stack of records that it's holding, but I kind of like it!  This would explain why RCA designed the 45s to have a shoulder that would keep them from making contact with each other when stacked.


One thing I'm not sure about.  Did RCA use the same colors for labels after they stopped making the discs in various colors?  I know I've come across RCA 45s with labels in red, blue and green on black vinyl, but can't recall ever seeing them with yellow or a lighter shade of blue.  I've also only seen red vinyl RCA 45s in my thrift store searches.  The other colors must be fairly rare.

Post# 1055536 , Reply# 6   12/25/2019 at 17:30 (194 days old) by LordKenmore (The Laundry Room)        
a friend and I became interested in collecting 78s

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78s have interested me, although it's one of those things I've never gotten around to doing seriously. I recall playing a bit with 78s when a teenager, but under less than optimal conditions--although truly optimal (special electronics, a variety of cartridges or styli to accommodate different groove geometries and record wear, etc) probably makes 78 RPM records a money pit of a hobby ...


I have always had a weakness for old/obsolete technology, and then there an argument for 78s having material that will never be released again (although in some cases that might be a good thing), or, if released, it may be overly processed. (I remember one letter to an editor talking about his original 78 having more life than the heavily processed, noise reduced CD reissue.)


Plus I amused myself for years thinking that being active with 78s could be fun when people started in on: "Why do you play LPs? They are obsolete." I could then say: "If you want real obsolete, look over there at the 78s!"

Post# 1055542 , Reply# 7   12/25/2019 at 18:43 (194 days old) by rickr (.)        

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Interesting video, I watched it this morning. I have an large record collection, and just received an actual truck load of 78 rpm records. From the turn of the century to the late 1950's I am still "sorting"

Post# 1056158 , Reply# 8   1/1/2020 at 14:01 (187 days old) by cornutt (Huntsville, AL USA)        

"RCA's 45 changer is the only one I've ever seen where the whole spindle revolves along with the stack of records that it's holding."

My dad's Zenith console (1964) does that. The 45 spindle is a clamshell mechanism that folds down into the turntable surface when not in use. When it's in use, the records sit on top of its release mechanism -- no balance arm needed. And the spindle and the records on the stack rotate with the turntable.

Post# 1056160 , Reply# 9   1/1/2020 at 14:13 (187 days old) by cornutt (Huntsville, AL USA)        
Found a video

I got reminded that the changer is called the Zenith Microtouch. This video is from a 1963, but it's basically the same mechanism. Fast forward to 1:30 to see the 45 spindle being used.


Post# 1056182 , Reply# 10   1/1/2020 at 17:58 (187 days old) by kenwashesmonday (Haledon, NJ)        

Zenith tried their best during the war of the speeds.  The Zenith "Twin Seven" record changer is a rarity from that time period:

CLICK HERE TO GO TO kenwashesmonday's LINK

Post# 1056190 , Reply# 11   1/1/2020 at 18:48 (187 days old) by CircleW (NE Cincinnati OH area)        

My parents had purchased a Zenith radio-phono combination in 1947, which only played 78's, of course. Therefore, we didn't get a player capable of other speeds until 1958. At that time, we got a Symphonic portable that played 16, 33, 45 & 78. They got it because few if any new records were being released on 78. I still have the Zenith, but without the original turntable. Sometime in the 70's I took the turntable out of the Symphonic (which had a bad amp), and put it in it. It worked for several years, but something in its amp has failed, so hasn't worked for several years. Maybe I'll get it fixed at some time.

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