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This Day in History: The LP is Unvieled


Before the iPod, the discman, or even the walkman there was the LP, the “Long Playing Disc”. On this day in 1948 Dr. Peter Goldmark of CBS unvelied the LP, and by doing so, revolutionized the music industry. Below is an excerpt from the American National Biography Online, by Charles W. Carey, Jr., about Dr. Goldmark.

Goldmark, Peter Carl (2 Dec. 1906-7 Dec. 1977), inventor, was born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of Alexander Goldmark, a hatmaker, and Emmy (maiden name unknown). In 1919 Goldmark’s family fled to Vienna, Austria, to escape the Communist revolution in Hungary. Goldmark studied for a year at the Berlin Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, Germany, and then transferred to the Physical Institute of Vienna, where he received his B.Sc. in 1930 and his Ph.D. in physics in 1931.

Goldmark’s lifelong interest was telecommunications. In 1926 he built a miniature television receiver from a British-made kit and shortly thereafter earned an Austrian patent for a television picture-enlarging device. From 1931 to 1933 he worked for Pye Radio, Ltd., in Cambridge, England, as a television design engineer and then relocated to New York City to work as a television and radio consultant. In 1936 he joined the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in its radio department but soon became its chief television engineer. Goldmark became a naturalized citizen in 1937. In 1939 he married Frances Trainer, with whom he had four children. After being promoted to director of engineering research and development in 1944, he became vice president of CBS Laboratories in 1951 and president in 1954, a position he held until 1971.

When Goldmark joined CBS, the fledgling television industry broadcast programs in black-and-white only, a situation that he resolved to change in 1940 after being enthralled by the vivid technicolor of the epic movie Gone with the Wind. He quickly invented the field-sequential system, which recorded images on a whirling disk of red, green, and blue and then transmitted the images to a similar, synchronized disk in the receiver. This system was used to make the first known color television broadcast in 1940.

Although its development was delayed by World War II, the field-sequential system became the system of choice in closed-circuit applications such as medical education. However, despite being smaller, lighter, and simpler to operate and maintain than other methods of color broadcasting, Goldmark’s system never gained widespread commercial acceptance because of the initial reluctance to retrofit millions of existing black-and-white sets with the whirling disk. However, in 1954 Goldmark invented a color television tube wherein the red, blue, and green phosphor dots were placed directly on the inside surface of the tube instead of on a phosphor screen attached to the tube in an unwieldy sandwich-type construction. This invention reduced the cost of manufacturing color tubes while also permitting the use of larger screens and was soon adopted as the industry’s commercial standard.

During World War II Goldmark worked for the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development as a group leader for the Radio Research Laboratory. His group designed a jamming device that interfered with German radar and later created an “electronic spook navy” during the Normandy invasion by bombarding German radar with radio signals that imitated communications among naval vessels.

After the war Goldmark began developing the long-playing (LP) record. An accomplished cello and piano player, he loved listening to classical music on the phonograph but hated having to change the record every few minutes. By slowing a record’s revolutions per minute from 78 to 33-1/3, multiplying the number of grooves, and using vinyl instead of shellac as the pressing medium, he lengthened its playing time to about twenty minutes per side, long enough to hold an entire classical movement, while greatly improving the quality of the sound. Unveiled in 1948, the LP revolutionized the recorded-music industry and helped CBS to become a giant in the record business. He divorced his first wife in 1954 and that year married Diane Davis, with whom he had two children.

Under Goldmark’s direction, CBS Laboratories invented more than 160 devices or processes in the field of acoustics, television, phonograph recording, and film reproduction. Two deserve special mention. The laboratory designed a lighter and smaller version of the field-sequential system for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Project Apollo, and in the late 1960s this system transmitted to Earth the high-resolution, close-up pictures of the Moon taken by both the Lunar Orbiter and the first people to walk on the Moon. More important, the laboratory created Electronic Video Recording (EVR), which permitted in-home viewing of a prerecorded film cassette via television and served as the forerunner of videocassette technology.

A resident of Stamford, Connecticut, Goldmark in 1968 joined its Urban Coalition to effect housing rehabilitation and job training for low-income residents. This involvement caused him to become increasingly concerned about the problems of America’s cities, and he thought that one answer might be to get urbanites to move to the country to create what he called the “New Rural Society.” An integral part of this society would be a sophisticated telecommunications network built around EVR linking small towns with urban centers so that rural dwellers would not be deprived of educational and cultural events. In conjunction with Stamford’s Fairfield University and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, he began studying ways in which to implement the New Rural Society in northeastern Connecticut’s Windham County. In 1971 he retired from CBS to form Goldmark Communications, a subsidiary of Warner Communications, in order to “fulfill the promise of telecommunications as the instrument for social change,” but his efforts in this regard were cut short by his untimely death.

Goldmark received a number of awards and honors recognizing his achievements, including the Institute of Radio Engineers’ (IRE) Morris N. Liebman Memorial Prize (1945), the Television Broadcasters Association Medal (1954), the IRE’s Vladimir K. Zworykin Television Prize (1961), the National Urban Service Award (1968), the Franklin Institute’s Elliott Cresson Medal and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ David Sarnoff Gold Medal (1969), the Carnegie-Mellon Institute Medal and the Industrial Research Institute Medal (1972), and the National Medal of Science (1977). He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (1967), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1972), and the National Academy of Sciences (1972). He died near Rye, New York.

Although Goldmark’s relationship with his employees was normally a cordial one, he often became quite demanding, if not unreasonable, when hot on the trail of an important innovation. He regarded himself as a gadfly because many of his inventions did not gain widespread acceptance. However, his contributions to the development of color television, the LP, and EVR mark him as one of the major shapers of twentieth-century culture.

Recent Comments

  1. Matt

    Thank you Mr. Goldmark, becuase without you I would have heard my first Beatles album through a wax recording Edison style!

  2. Dave

    That was a great article. Classical music saves the day again. I’d also hate to be getting up every few minutes to replace those nasty 78s.

  3. greg pickens

    that is a great story. but i have one question. when did they did first seal the lp in plastic. looking forward to your response. have a great day.

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