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End XIXth - beginning of XXth century... It was the time of gramophones with mechanical (spring) disk drive an huge bell-shaped trumpets, which magnified weak vibrations of a steel needle gliding on a disk. People hearing an old gramophone for the first time are usually surprised by the loud sound it produces. The megaphone had another important function - that of cutting off high-frequency noises and cracking of the disk. The magic of a gramophone playing even nowadays finds its admirers among the listeners. But indeed, the disks themselves greatly "suffer" from such exotic pleasures - the steel pick-up arm weighing some tens of grams causes marked damage to the disk after every playing.

Having the above in view, producers of discs sometimes duplicated the recording on the reverse - which could be played after complete deterioration of the face side. In our times the fans try to find a way out by using wooden styli that are less harmful to the soundtrack.
The first Berliner's disks had vertical modulation of the sound groove but after some time lateral modulation has become standard. Playing of the most "ancient" disks with vertical recording brings about some difficulties, so a special phono cartridge should be used. Stereophonic cartridges which are capable of reproducing the vertical part of the sound groove modulation help to solve the problem.

In the beginning of the XXth century the gramophone industry of Russia consisted mainly of small factories. The biggest of them were the following enterprises: two factories were located in Moscow - "Pishuschiy Amur" ("The Recording Amour") and "Pathee Bros."; one - in the suburb near Aprelevka railway station - "Metropol Records" and one more in St.Petersburg (the factory of Russian-American corporation "Gramophone" with a subsidiary in Riga, Latvia. In Russia there were also branches of foreign gramophone concerns (e.g. "Zonophone Records", "Bermener Records", "Beka". A substantial quantity of disks produced by leading companies were imported (including records of Russian performers).

Such giant companies as "Columbia", had branches in the majority of the developed countries. The picture (right) shows a very rare in this country disc of that company, made in Japan.
The radial velocity of recording the first disks was ca. 78 r.p.m. "Circa" - due to the fact that various companies had slightly different standards of velocity and secondly - mechanical recorders did not produce the exact velocity required. All this causes difficulties with remastering of vintage records. Old mechanical playing devices had smooth lever of velocity regulation within small limits.

After Revolution of 1917 all the factories producing disks have been expropriated by "Narkomprod" (People's Commissariat of Food-Stuffs"). Emission of disks with pre-Revolutionary records continued using old supplies of the raw material until it was completely used up. In 1918 gramophone industry was subordinated to "Tsentropechatj" ("Centerpress") - the newly formed agency of A.R.C.E.C. ("All-Russia Central Executive Committee"). We should note that one of the main difficulties in mass production of gramophone records was the necessity of using shellac - an expensive natural stuff which had to be imported. Shellac is composed of excrements of some tropical insects that feed on definite species of trees. At that time the necessary mechanical properties of the gramophone disks were attained only with the use of that stuff.
The nearest plans of "Tsentropechatj" were recordings of propaganda speeches of Russia's public figures and a way out of deficit of the raw material was found in using of splinters (scrap) of pre-revolutionary disks - fortunately, their supplies in factory stores were considerable. Even old labels were used: on their reverse the new emblem of "Tsentropechatj" was printed. The first records of speeches of A.M.Kollontay and A.V.Lunacharsky were made in 1918. Somewhat later (in 1919) the first recordings of V.I.Ulyanov (Lenin) were produced. But it was for those that the first serial numbers had been reserved in the first home catalogue of gramophone matrix recordings (from 001 to 008).
In 1922 within the "Gosprossnab" ("State Supplies of School and Educational Equipment on Commercial Basis") the "Gramoplastinka" association was created, to which production of disks was transferred. In the same year on the basis of the former "Pathee Bros." factory in Moscow the First State Factory of Gramophone Records "Fifth Anniversary of October" was set up. Later the factory was incorporated into "Muzpred" (Amalgamation of musical enterprises at the Narkomat of Education).

In those days disks were produced in two sizes - "grand" (25 cm diameter) with 3 min sounding each side, and "giant" (30 cm - 4 min respectively). For issuing of larger musical pieces (symphonies, operas) plates were combined in sets of some tens of disks. In the same way speeches of state leaders were issued. Right - you can see one of the set of disks with an excerpt of the speech by I.V.Stalin at the VIIIth Extraordinary Congress of Soviets on November 25, 1936 "On the Draft Constitution of the USSR". (An example of a label of "Gramplasttrest" which differs from the earlier published one (in the Internet) by the inscription "Narkomtjazhmash".)

From 1925 on, the former factory "Metropol Records" for a long time will be called "Aprelevsky Works in Memory of 1905", and in 1933 "Gramplasttrest" was formed, uniting all the disk factories, also including the newly opened big factory at Noginsk (near Moscow). Pre-war (WW2) plates with large insignia "Gramplasttrest" and "Noginsky Works" can be most often found now. Right: a rare label of Aprelevsky Works on a disk of 1940.

With setting up the "Gramplasttrest" a new numeration of recording matrixes began, that was kept up to 1969 when production of disks for 78 rpm was stopped in the USSR. Towards mid-1930s compact and portable gramophones with complicated megaphones , placed inside the case became widespread in this country. Up to the middle of the XXth century such devices, named "pathephones", were widely used everywhere: in towns, villages and even at the fronts of WW2. Having spring drive, they needed no power sources and came very handy. The picture of a pathephone was placed on disks of pre-war period (right).

From 1918 to 1950s in gramophone trade there was peculiar practise of "barter" of new disks for scrap - breakage of old plates. That was caused by the shortage of raw stuff and the necessity of its utilization. There remained evidence of that practise of disk distribution on the labels. Left you see the label of a plate made in 1940 by Aprelevsky Works with an inscription - "Not for sale. Exchange stock". Right - a label of Leningrad artel "Plastmass" (mid-1950s) with a similar inscription after the number of recording.

At that time recording of a disk was made at the studio directly on a wax plate (from which then pressing matrixes were manufactured). That's why there was no possibility of any editing the record at the studio. Preliminary recording on magnetic tape started to be used constantly only since 1947. Left - a rare variety of a label of Noginsky Works (1940-41).

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