Friends of the Phonograph Go Green

The Edison Phonograph - It's GREEN


The phonograph, a.k.a. record player, is a survivor in the history of media. Various record formats have been used as recording media throughout the twentieth-century. And although challenged in the 1990's, vinyl records made a comeback for various reasons. (1) Vinyl record stores even established a day to celebrate LPs with "Record Store Day" becoming an annual international event in 2008.

Record players and their 33 1/3 RPM vinyl records are currently alive in their niche market. The Edison Phonograph and its wax records, on the other hand, are on life-support being used by a much smaller niche of collectors and phonographians.

I say that Edison wax cylinders are still living only because they have current 'users' and because there are actually a few companies that still make cylinder records for these machines. Compare this with other dead media that really have perished. For those devices we can read about them or visit their remains in museums. The Edison cylinder machines and wax records are likewise in museums but I'm personally not quite ready to think of them as dead media like the phenakistoscope and the teleharmonium because I think the Edison Phonograph is part of a different cultural memory bank. The early phonographs are also too iconic and have a protected niche of collectors and Friends of the Phonograph to label it dead media.

Here's how the Dead Media Project's Manifesto explains this process:

"It's a rather rare phenomenon for an established medium to die. If media make it past their Golden Vaporware stage, they usually expand wildly in their early days and then shrink back to some protective niche as they are challenged by later and more highly evolved competitors. Radio didn't kill newspapers, TV didn't kill radio or movies, video and cable didn't kill broadcast network TV; they just all jostled around seeking a more perfect app."

To this I would add that Radio didn't kill the phonograph, TV didn't kill the phonograph and video and cable didn't kill the phonograph.

The Edison wax cylinder, however, is specifically said to have 'perished' by the Dead Media Project. I love the Dead Media Project but as a Friend of the Phonograph (who listened to an Edison cylinder just the other day) I would add a few comments to the obituary that I think is still being written.

Per the original use and intent of Edison's cylinder Phonograph it is true that it has been replaced. The early talking machine industry spent many advertising dollars promoting the fidelity and life-like performance of their machines. In its time it was state of the art and was the medium that could transport the world of entertainment to one's living room. But when a medium can't compete with newer technologies and when consumers replace it with other formats a 'media death' does occur. After all, who would choose a 1905 wax cylinder version of Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" performed by the Edison Military Band if they wanted the best sound quality available to listen to that song knowing that superior formats exist?

But since there are still collectors who enjoy listening to cylinder wax records on their Edison Phonographs I'd like to continue in my own bubble and not call it a dead medium.

I'd also like to give it a tip of the hat by pointing out not only are Edison Phonographs still being played they could also now be called environmentally clean and green.

How green?

Consider these good citizen of planet Earth factolas about the Edison Phonograph:

1) It is a spring-wound machine and doesn't require any electricity to play a song

2) It uses old records which are passed down from earlier users and recycled

3) It doesn't require new manufucturing or use of raw materials/resources to own one of these machines

4) It provides clean entertainment and enjoyment (with a disclaimer regarding some cylinder recordings that may be offensive due to content that reflects the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times)

5) And finally, very few Edison Phonographs will now end up in landfills.

QED The Edison Phonograph is an environmentally friendly entertainment medium that still has a pulse.

In that spirit, and with its friends and continued use and pop culture connections, I believe Phonographians can proclaim the Edison Phonograph to be alive and "Green."


The motto of Phonographians?



Additional GREEN

The Westminster Colorado chapter of Friends of the Phonograph has adopted the walking path and pond of one of the city's open spaces known as Mushroom Pond. Since this adopted trail is a popular place to walk dogs it seems fitting that Phonographians (who are Go Green and Friends of Nipper), keep this trail clean for people and man's best friend.






Go Green and "Remember the Phonograph"

Mushroom Pond - Westminster, Colorado