On this day, June 21st, in 1948, Columbia Records launched their new vinyl disc which played at thirty-three and a third RPM – changing records forever.
Columbia Records launched a vinyl revolution that is still thriving to this day 70 years ago to the day. Their 12-inch, 33-⅓ LPs launched in New York on June 21st in 1948 and revolutionised music with their ability to fit up to 20 minutes on each side and shrink vinyl grooves down to a millimetre in size.
Other record companies had attempted to extend the capabilities of the standard 78-RPM vinyl records at the time but suffered a variety of failures. RCA Victor even launched the first commercially available vinyl long-player in 1931 that was capable of playing at 33-⅓ records but it’s capabilities’ utility was delayed thanks to the Great Depression.
American Records Corporation president Edward Wallerstein reminisced: “When I became general manager of the Victor Division of RCA on July 1, 1933, my first act was to take them off the market. Most of the records were made from Victorlac, a vinyl compound [and] the pickups available at that time were so heavy they just cut through the material after several plays. The complaints from customers all over the US were so terrific that we were forced to withdraw the LPs.”
Columbia released 33-⅓ 10-inchers, but quickly phased them out in 1932, thanks to similarly maddening technical difficulties. The commercial public would not be able to consume and listen to sturdier, lengthier LPs for another 15 years.
Today is a great day to celebrate the revolutionary disc by busting out your player and cracking your favourite 33-⅓ records on. Streaming may be the music format of the future but Vinyl is alive and well thanks to Columbia Records 70 years on.