Technology

The table below summarizes, in chronological order, the major technological advances that influenced the development of rock music. As we will see, one or more of these technological developments were key enablers for almost every element of rock music. As with most, if not all, artistic movements, it was new technology that created the possibility for a new art form to emerge.

Year Event Significance
1938 Four out of Five US Homes now contain radios. Listeners have access to a broader variety of music than was possible when they were mostly limited to live music produced in a small geographic area.
1948 Ampex, funded by Bing Crosby, produces the first commercial reel-to-reel tape recorder. Reel-to-reel tape recording resulted in higher-fidelity recordings, and allowed recordings to be edited and enhanced prior to being committed to vinyl.
1948 Columbia releases the first 33 RPM long-playing 12 inch vinyl record (LP). Another step towards higher fidelity, and allowing an artist to showcase a collection of recordings rather than a single recording.
1949 RCA Victor releases the first 7 inch 45 RPM vinyl single. The new records were more durable and higher fidelity than the older 78 RPM records made from shellac.
1950 Seeburg introduces the first all 45 RPM vinyl record jukebox. This advance made relatively high-fidelity popular music available in restaurants, bars and other commercial establishments.
1951 Fender Precision Bass created by Leo Fender. The electric bass became an important instrument for almost all rock music, second in importance only to the electric guitar.
1951 Fender produces the Telecaster, a solid-body electric guitar. This dual-pickup solid-body electric guitar allows guitarists to play more loudly and allows the guitar to become a lead instrument.
1954 Fender introduces the Stratocaster, a high-end solid-body electric guitar. This guitar features three pickups and other improved features, and has become one of the most enduring and popular guitars used in rock music.
1955 Most home record players now capable of playing both 33 1/3 and 45 RPM records (LPs and singles). Listeners can now enjoy at home whatever music is available on record.
1955 Throughout the mid-fifties, high fidelity (hi-fi) playback equipment becomes commercially successful. Home listeners can now listen to music with a fidelity that rivals that of live music.
1958 Stereo records are released. Stereo allowed much more natural sound reproduction
1958 Atlantic Records installs the first eight-track tape recorder in its studios; studios outside the US would not catch up until the mid to late sixties. Multitrack tape recording allowed voices and instruments to be recorded on separate tracks, allowing each to be separately altered, prior to being mixed down into the final two stereo tracks. This allowed the artist to have a greater say in the overall sound of the recording as it was finally released.
1965 Marshall 100-watt amplifiers are produced. These amplifiers offered more volume, allowing rock bands to play in larger halls and still be clearly heard, as well as offering a more aggressive sound.
1967 Wah-wah pedal is first used on rock recordings. The wah-wah pedal and other effects boxes allowed a guitarist to alter the sound of his or her instrument in interesting ways.
1967 US Federal Communications Commission imposes a non-duplication rule for FM radio stations. This new rule prevented owners of FM radio stations from broadcasting a duplication of programming already available on another AM station. Many owners responded by quickly creating music programs in which the disk jockeys were allowed to play whatever music they wanted, thus creating a radio outlet for album cuts that were otherwise too long or too "uncommercial" to have ever allowed them to be aired on radio. FM radio became a popular distribution channel for rock music, which offered increased sound quality and stereo reproduction when compared the AM radio.

The significance of all of this technology will be discussed in greater detail in later chapters.

Next: Poetry Plus