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Roger Hicks -- Author of The Rangefinder Book

Roger Hicks is a well known photographic writer, author of The Rangefinder Book, over three dozen other photographic books, and a frequent contributor to Shutterbug and Amateur Photographer. Unusually in today's photographic world, most of his camera reviews are film cameras, especially rangefinders. See www.rogerandfrances.com for further background (Frances is his wife Frances Schultz, acknowledged darkroom addict and fellow Shutterbug contributor) .


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This is a wind-up
Old 06-20-2016   #1
Roger Hicks
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This is a wind-up

Recently I did something I haven't done for a while: I bought a 78 rpm record. I've had a wind-up gramophone for years. They're in the same class as sewing machines (my wife has five) and, yes, mechanical film cameras when it comes to superbly developed mechanical technologies.

So here's a picture of the gramophone; a bit of recording history; and links to internet renderings of some of the stuff I have on 78 rpm: http://rogerandfrances.eu/vide-greniers/wind-up

Who else still has any 78s? More people, I bet, than have wind-up gramophones... And what do you have recordings of?

Cheers,

R.
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Old 06-20-2016   #2
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Wow! Is there a modern version?
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Old 06-20-2016   #3
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An old girlfriend gave me a milk crate full of old 78’s many years back. They’re still in the milk crate. Haven’t looked at them in years, but as I recall, most are old jazz, circa 1930/1940.

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Old 06-20-2016   #4
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There are modern gramophones, with the option for 78 rpm. I have also seen records with 16 rpm (recording of someone talking or reading).

I've spent a few times with friends who owns collections and we've been sitting around enjoying the wonder of yesteryear.

I distinctly remember a teacher who played a Spike Jones record to us young'uns and I remember thinking that it was rather peculiar that one could actually record things like that.
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Old 06-20-2016   #5
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These days, music reproduction by mechanical means alone seems more like magic than doing it with a million transistors.
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Old 06-20-2016   #6
newst
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I remember that as a kid my grandmother had a number of these, either her own or from my aunts/uncles before they left home

I never found out what happened to them when she passed. Hopefully one of my relatives got them and they weren't just tossed.

Of course, during the same period there was the wind-up ROBOT camera. No, I don't remember ever seeing one of those at grandma's place.
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Old 06-20-2016   #7
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Quote:
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I remember that as a kid my grandmother had a number of these, either her own or from my aunts/uncles before they left home

I never found out what happened to them when she passed. Hopefully one of my relatives got them and they weren't just tossed.

Of course, during the same period there was the wind-up ROBOT camera. No, I don't remember ever seeing one of those at grandma's place.
The Berning Robot I came into being approximately 1936, if I recall correctly. I have a Robot II (manufactured in 1940) with Zeiss Sonnar 40mm f/2 and Tessar 38mm f/3.5 lenses (and since updated to Robot IIa specs, which allows me to use standard 35mm film cassettes in it). I had it overhauled a couple of years ago; it makes lovely photos and is a kick to shoot with. The derivative models of the Behring Robot cameras (the Robot Star, etc ... there were a lot of them!) were in production up through the 1980s, along with the higher end Robot Royals. These cameras didn't have a huge presence in consumer sales, but were often used in industrial applications like traffic recording camera boxes and manufacturing process control.

My grandfather had shelves and shelves full of 78 RPM recordings, lots of jazz and classical music from the late 1920s to 1940s. We used to play them quite a lot when I was a child ... we had both a wind-up player and a 'modern' turntable equipped with the right speed and needle to play them. Sadly, most of the recordings were destroyed in a move and a house fire in the late 1970s; the rest were sold off at pennies on the platter when my mother sold that house in the late 1990s.

G
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Old 06-20-2016   #8
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I've many 78s to play with - some from my late father and several modern decks to play them on; sometime I'll record them all into the computer as MP3 files etc. I too just washed them - I used warm soapy water and warm water to rinse them off and just them air dry vertically.

I understand the synchronous motors of modern decks and the like, but how did the clockwork mechanisms maintain a constant enough speed to play back the records without a lot of motor noise?

Regards

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Old 06-20-2016   #9
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I collected a small set a few years back some collections of opera pieces and classical pieces on Bakelite. Also a 1930s set of 'Songs of the Service' which featured the US military marches of the specific branches of service at the time.
The phonograph I used was a 1926 Sears and Roebuck portable set.
Sold it all off in the last two years, as I wasn't listening to them anymore.
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Old 06-20-2016   #10
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Got some 78 rpms and a windup gramophone but that one isn't functional (the spring is broken). The lp's range from popular songs of the time, classical multi lp sets, some folklore (chines and russian) and a few opera arias.

A wind-up gramphone is a nice piece of furniture but a disaster for your discs. Do yourself a favor and get a cheapo DJ turntable that will do 78rpm. Then get a conical 2.7 needle (like the Shure M78S) and enjoy them without ruining them. You'll have to tweak the equaliser of your stereo a bit as they are mostly not RIAA and some are not even 78rpm.

Those spring motors mostly have centrifugal governors to regulate speed. Often it isn't more than springloaded arms with friction pads. When the speed gets higher they rub against the cup they turn in and reduce the speed. Same was used for spring driven 8mm film cameras.
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Old 06-20-2016   #11
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Quote:
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I understand the synchronous motors of modern decks and the like, but how did the clockwork mechanisms maintain a constant enough speed to play back the records without a lot of motor noise?
Andrew More
I believe there was some sort of flywheel
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Old 06-20-2016   #12
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I have a beautiful floor model I think is a Victor. It works great too. I also have a lovely Edison cylinder player with the morning glory horn and both 2 and 4 minute cylinder reproducers. Love playing both but especially the cylinder player. For those that have never seen one the 2 Knute cylinders are wax and extremely delicate. If I get a chance I'll snap a photo and post it. I'm in the middle of packing to move so I'm a bit busy at the moment.
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Old 06-20-2016   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spanik View Post
Got some 78 rpms and a windup gramophone but that one isn't functional (the spring is broken). The lp's range from popular songs of the time, classical multi lp sets, some folklore (chines and russian) and a few opera arias.
LPs = Long Playing = 33-1/3 rpm. 78s are not LPs, regardless of diameter. 78s were often sold in "albums" that resemble photo albums with several pages/pockets to hold the multiple discs.

When the LPs came along, a 13" disc could hold as much material as a whole album of 78s. The 13" 33-1/3rpm LPs became known as "albums", alluding to the true albums of 78s that they replaced, despite the fact that they were a single disc.

My brother has our mom's true albums of some Broadway sound tracks. These have 6-8 discs and have a spine about 1" wide. I have an old acousticly recorded 78 (single sided) of Caruso.
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Old 06-20-2016   #14
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Quote:
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I believe there was some sort of flywheel
It was often the turntable itself that acted as the flywheel.
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Old 06-20-2016   #15
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Quote:
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LPs = Long Playing = 33-1/3 rpm. 78s are not LPs . . .
Some 78s were marketed as Long Playing. I have at least one: I noticed it yesterday. After all "Long Playing" is only a marketing term.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 06-20-2016   #16
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Some 78s were marketed as Long Playing. I have at least one: I noticed it yesterday. After all "Long Playing" is only a marketing term.

Cheers,

R.
Those are probably the newer 13" size that could hold more material than the older 10". Still, you could generally only get a single popular song per side or, perhaps 2 short dittys. I have a 78rpm recording of Modest Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" that had to be recorded significantly up-tempo to fit a single disc and even then spans both sides.
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Old 06-20-2016   #17
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I had collected quite a lot of 78s when I was very young, mostly looking for instrumental tracks (I was not then very fond of operatic voices or crooning style singing).

When I moved away they stayed at my mom's place, and were stolen by a lady who was supposed to consign some furniture for my mother, but instead took everything and ran. One of my favorites from the bunch was My Sahara Rose played on accordion, the same record is in the Library of Congress, and can be heard here.
I remember having a few other memorable ones like a recording of Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Sheen, Hard to Get Gertie, Fireworks, and even a pretty early recording of Liberace.
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Old 06-20-2016   #18
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Roger, that's a nice machine.

I have a Victrola cabinet-style player with 20 volumes of records, my father acquired it back in the 1970s. It has a selection of steel needles, along with triangular bamboo needles and a needle cutter. Obviously, the bamboo needles don't deliver as loud of a sound, nor with as much treble, as the steel.

I've learned the steel needles are originally ogive-shaped on the tip; they can safely be used once, then rotated 90 degrees and used once more. Each use grinds off a set of flat spots on the needle, after which reusing the needle will wear the record groove.

I used a high-power loupe and sorted through the steel needles, finding the ones that were fresh and segregating the used ones.

Evidently the original Victrola discs employ an abrasive compound in the disc formulation to purposefully wear down the steel needles after one play, as a means of preserving the record groove itself.

My reading online also suggests that the audio modulation in the groove is different for Victrola discs than later, non-Victrola 78s. I can't personally confirm this, however. IIRC, Victrola discs used side-to-side modulation, while later monaraul 78s used up-and-down modulation. Once stereo 33-1/3 records came to market, they used the up-and-down modulation for L+R monaraul, and side-to-side modulation for the L-R stereo difference signal; both signals are summed in the cartridge to produce L and R channel output. I think this is called quadrature modulation.

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Old 06-20-2016   #19
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This is one I used to have until recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CJvWE_At1Q

I've had a collection of 78's since I was 12 years old, and I still have the tabletop Columbia Grafanola that my father bought at an auction sale 38 years ago for $60. I've also had weird 78 players like a Mikiphone (look it up), and I still have a small collection of records.

I had been trying to find blues and rock and roll on 78, and managed to get some Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Lightning Hopkins, T-Bone Walker, Little Richard, The Clovers, Frankie Lymon, The 5 Royales, and Bill Haley, among others. Tough to find, but there was an overlap of production of 45's and 78's in the 1950s, and 78's pretty well ceased being made in about 1960.
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Old 06-20-2016   #20
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I recently bought a Thorens turntable (to add to my SOTA) because I could play my parents' 78s, some of which were bought second hand around the time of World War 2 because of the import restrictions in Australia. We also have some 78 square dance records (square dancing at home was popular in the 1950s: it was a way to get together with your neighbours). One does need a 78 stylus which can be swapped in when playing the broad and perhaps a bit abrasive grooves.
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Old 06-20-2016   #21
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My grandparents had an upright piano with a Victrola built-in! Now that was some rig. It could also do the music rolls. Their 78 collection was mostly Italian opera stars, with a smattering of Luis Prima and the like. I have at least one of the records somewhere in my stash of family memorabilia.

As for wind-up cameras, one of my favorites from back in the early seventies was the Kodak X-45, until it broke. Never got another one, but my last trip home I found an X-25 in an antique store. Maybe I'll get another X-45 , and X-35, to go with the X-15 and 25.

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Old 06-20-2016   #22
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I had one as a kid and also had a stack of 78s I used to play on it .. one record that sticks in my mind was Tuiti Fruiti by Little Richard. My father was a serious music lover and had boxed sets of several Gilbert and Sullivan operas and in 78s that was a lot of records per opera and like everything my father owned they were still like new the day he died ... which was only a few years ago.
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Old 06-20-2016   #23
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Wow! Is there a modern version?
Why would you want a "modern version"?
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Old 06-20-2016   #24
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This is one I used to have until recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CJvWE_At1Q

I've had a collection of 78's since I was 12 years old, and I still have the tabletop Columbia Grafanola that my father bought at an auction sale 38 years ago for $60. I've also had weird 78 players like a Mikiphone (look it up), and I still have a small collection of records.

I had been trying to find blues and rock and roll on 78, and managed to get some Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Lightning Hopkins, T-Bone Walker, Little Richard, The Clovers, Frankie Lymon, The 5 Royales, and Bill Haley, among others. Tough to find, but there was an overlap of production of 45's and 78's in the 1950s, and 78's pretty well ceased being made in about 1960.
I have quite a few Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and others from the big band era. I don't care for opera but found some never played Russian opera from the 30's and 40's.

In cylinders I have a half dozen original recordings by John Philip Sousa. Also some very politically incorrect Irish humor and black humor.
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