Looking at LPs, CDs, and DVDs with an electron microscope

Week Three: Ninth Anniversary Fund-Raising Drive for Behind the Black

It is now the third week in my annual anniversary fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black.

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An evening pause: This video is even more interesting than my title above, in that the guy making it used his electron microscope to make an animation showing what it looks like when a record needle is running through the tracks of a record. Most cool.

And since vinyl appears to actually be making a comeback, I think that even the younger members of my readership will know what a record is.

Hat tip Thomas Biggar.



  • wayne

    Yes– this is (and always has been!) very cool!

    (I still have a 3 foot stack of 78 rpm records from the early 50’s, but no longer have a working 78 rpm speed turntable.)

    Tangential– does anyone remember and/or have any quadrophonic records? It was a short lived format (late 70’s if I recall correctly), wherein they managed to encode 4 channels onto two tracks. They would play normally on any turntable, but if you had the correct equipment (and 4 speakers) you could get a decent 4 channel effect.

    “Vinyl LP sales in the USA hit record numbers during the first half of 2018. Over 7.6 million LPs were sold between 29th December 2017 through the 28th June 2018, a 19.2% increase from the same period in 2017.Vinyl sales now account for over 18% of all physical album sales in the US, a 5% increase from 2017.”
    Source: The Vinyl Factory 2018

    A tangential, but very cool video:

    Suzanne Vega (the ‘mother’ of the MP3 format)
    “Tom’s Diner”
    (Suzanne Vega records herself to a wax cylinder at the Thomas Edison Historical Park in New Jersey 2013.)

  • eddie willers

    I worked for the old CMC stereo chain in Atlanta in the early ’80s. We had a record of the 1812 Overture where they used real cannons for the “This is the cereal that’s shot from guns” part. No electron microscope necessary. One glance and you saw the huge jagged line where the cannons went of. Cheap needles would jump out of the groove in fright.

    As to Quadraphonic, there [mainly] two (incompatible, of course) formats. One was CD-4 (four discrete channels) and the other was SQ (a matrix recording/decoding method)

    One good thing that came out of it was that Dolby Stereo was basically the SQ matrix with the channels turned 45 degrees. (Think of a square turned to the right until it was diamond shaped. What had been the left channel became the center channel and so on)

  • Coolest thing I’ve seen this week.

  • wayne

    Great stuff!
    -If I recall correctly, I have 2-3 discs that utilized the “SQ” methodology.

    (Har– my solution to records that skipped too much?– put a penny on the

    Not sure if he mentioned in the video—commercially mass-produced DVD’s and CD’s are physically pressed, in contrast to the disc’s one would create on a PC which are actually “burned” by your disc-writer.

    Yo, Blair–

    (mid) 1940s Record Pressing Factory

    (These are shellac discs for 78 rpm records. Same methodology was adapted for vinyl. The first “LP” was released in 1948.)

  • wayne

    excuse me…
    “Har– my solution to records that skipped too much?– put a penny on the arm. Ground down the grooves a bit further, but what the heck.”

  • Joe

    The last images looked like brail, all very cool stuff, I had no idea that this is the operation of a tone arm, great post.

  • wayne

    Soul Asylum

    >>great visuals of a CD factory.

  • wayne

    last one…

    “Submerged Turntable”
    by Evan Holm

  • Joe

    Regarding submerged turntable, very cool Wayne

  • wayne


    Who is old enough to remember…when it was super-cool to go check out your friend’s new amplifier, turntable, equalizer, and/or speakers? (or making a cassette copy of a new album?)

  • Max

    Wayne, turntables not so much. But I do have a large collection of eight track tape’s.
    I wonder if there is any videos that show turntables in moving cars… That’s how Motorola got its name.

  • wayne

    8-tracks are becoming quite popular with the Hipster-element.

  • Joe

    Wayne, yes more than old enough to remember going to a friends house and ogling their latest turn tables and amplifiers, then I got old and started listening to am radio………..

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