An early sound-recording machine invented by Thomas Edison; the recorded material was played back on a cylinder.
A machine invented by Emile Berliner that could play prerecorded sound on flat discs rather than cylinders.
high fidelity (hi-fi)
A combination of technologies that allowed recordings to reproduce music more accurately, with high high notes and deeper bass, than was possible with previous recording technologies.
Music such as a folk song or jazz solo that does not exist in written form.
The first system for using wires to send messages at a distance; invented by Samuel Morse in 1844
Guglielmo Marconi’s name for his point-to-point communication tool that used radio waves to transmit messages.
Radio Music Box memo
David Sarnoff’s 1915 plan that outlined how radio could be used as a popular mass medium.
A company that provides common programming to a large group of broadcast stations.
golden age of radio
A period from the late 1920s until the late 1940s, during which radio was the dominant medium for home entertainment.
Serialized daytime dramas targeted primarily at women.
Music that people play and sing for one another in the home or other social settings. In the absence of radio, recordings, and later, television, this was the means of hearing music most readily available to the largest number of people.
rock ‘n’ roll
A style of music popularized on radio that combined elements of white hillbilly music and black rhythm and blues.
A term used by the recording industry prior to 1949 to refer to recordings by popular black artists. It was later replaced by more racially neutral terms such as R&B, soul, or urban contemporary.
Songs recorded by someone other than the original artist. In the 1950s it was common for white musicians to cover songs originals played by black artists, but now artists commonly cover all genres of music.
A musical group composed of several women singers who harmonize together. Groups such as the Shirelles, the Ronettes, and the Shangri-Las, featuring female harmonies and high production values, were especially popular in the late 1950s and 1960s.
The British take on classic American rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and R&B transformed rock ‘n’ roll and became internationally popular in the 1960s with groups such as the Beatles and, later, the Rolling Stones and the Who.
An album by a solo artist or group that contains related songs on a common them or even a story, rather than a collection of unrelated hits or covers.
The person who puts together the right mix of songs, songwriters, technicians, and performers to create an album; some observers argue that the producer is the key catalyst for a hit album.
The name of the heavily produced techno club dane music of the 1970s, which grew out of the urban gay male subculture, with significant black and Latino influences. In many ways, it defined the look and feel of 1970s pop culture, fashion, and film.
A cultural movement that originated in the 1970s and 1980s that features four main elements: MCing, or rapping over music; DJing, or playing recorded music from multiple sources; B-boying, a style of dancing; and graffiti art.
This genre arose out of the hip-hop culture in New York City in 1970s and 1980s. It emerged from clubs where DJs played and remixed different records and sounds and then spoke over the top.
Originally referred to as hillbilly or “old-timey” music, this genre evolved out of Irish and Scottish folk music, Mississippi blues, and Christian gospel music and grew in the 1950s and 1960s with the so-called Nashville sound.
long-playing record (LP)
A record format introduced by Columbia Records in 1948. The more durable it could reproduce 23 minutes of high-quality music on each of two sides and was a technological improvement over the 78 rpm.
This record format was developed in the late 1940s by RCA. It had high-quality sound but held only about 4 minutes of music per side. It was the ideal format for marketing popular hit songs to teenager, though.
compact disc (CD)
A digital recording medium that came into common use in the early 1980s. It can hold approximately 70 minutes of digitally recorded music.
A method of recording sound – for example, that used to create CDs – that involves storing music in a computer-readable format known as binary information.
An electromechanical method of recording in which a sound is translated into analogous electrical signals that are then applied to a recording medium. Early analog recording media included acetate or vinyl discs and magnetic tape.
Short for Moving Picture Experts Group audio layer 3; as standard for compressing music from CDs or other digital recordings into computer files that can be easily exchanged on the Internet.
A style of radio programming designed to appeal to a narrow, specific audience. Popular formats include country, contemporary hits, all talk, all sports, and oldies.
Radio personalities such as Howard Stern, who attract listeners by making outrageous and offensive comments on the air.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
The federal agency charged with regulating telecommunications, including radio and television broadcasting.
AM and FM broadcast radio stations.
Sometimes also referred to as high-definition radio, this technology provides listeners with CD-quality sound and the choice of multiple channels of programming, but it is not yet commonly available in mass-market outlets nor as standard equipment in cars.
The radio service provided by digital signal broadcast from a communications satellite. Supported by subscribers, this service covers a wider area than terrestrial radio and offers programming that is different from cooperate-owned terrestrial stations. However, it is costly and doesn’t provide local coverage, such as traffic and weather reports.
Audio programming transmitted over the Internet.
An audio program produced as an MP3 compressed music file that can be listened to online at the listener’s convenience or downloaded to a computer or an MP3 player. Sometimes contain video content as well.