Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The History and Development of the Microphone

The various histories of music technology, microphones. Converting sound to an electronic voltage and then back again is the task of a microphone and an amplifier/ speaker. The microphone can change a sound source into an electronic signal and then send this signal through to a speaker to re-produce the sound. This signal is then able to be recorded for a permanent reference of the original sound.

Like so many inventions the ideas and developments have come from a need in this particular case the need was the telephone and later the radio. Below is a brief timeline of the existence and development of the microphone.

1827 - Sir Charles Wheatstone was the first person to coin the phrase "microphone"

1876 - Emile Berliner invented the first microphone used as a telephone transmitter. The Bell company later bought Berliner's microphone patent for $50,000 to improve their own telephone device

1878 - The carbon microphone was invented by David Edward Hughes. Hughes carbon microphone forms the basis to many of the microphones still in use today.

1916 - The condenser microphone invented at Bell Labs by E. C Wente and can also be referred to as a capacitor or an electrostatic microphone

Mid 1920s - The invention of the Electronic vacuum tube amplifier gave greater volume output for devices including the microphone

Late 1920s - The omni directional dynamic microphone was developed by Wente and Thuras and called 'The Westenr Electric 618A'.

1942 - The Ribbon microphone was invented for the new format of radio broadcasting the most popular were the 44BX and the 77DX developed by Harry Olson at RCA. The first ribbon microphones were extremely fragile and needed to be handled with care to maintain their high quality sound.

1962 - Bell Laboratories researchers James West and Gerhard Sessler patented The Electret microphone which offered greater reliability, higher precision, lower costs and smaller size and revolutionized the microphone industry.

The history of the microphone is a lot bigger than this brief overview and other areas that could be researched include: makes and models of microphones, polar patterns, types and different designs and also recording techniques using singular or multiple microphones.

For the A2 music technology (GCE 2008) exam (Question 4) if a relevant question came up the above information would be enough to get you the full 16 marks, but remember your answer needs to be well written and structured (bullet points are not excepted for this question).