A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record (in American English), vinyl record (in reference to vinyl, the material most commonly used after about 1950), or colloquially, "a record", is an analog sound storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove. The groove usually starts near the periphery and ends near the center of the disc. Phonograph records are generally described by their diameter in inches (12-inch, 10-inch, 7-inch, etc.), the rotational speed at which they are played ("331⁄3 rpm", "78", "45", etc.), their time capacity ("long playing"), their reproductive accuracy, or "fidelity" ("high fidelity", "Orthophonic", "full-range", etc.), and the number of channels of audio provided ("mono", "stereo", "quadraphonic", etc.).
Phonograph records were the primary medium used for music reproduction for most of the 20th century, replacing the phonograph cylinder, with which it had co-existed, by the 1920s. By the early '80s, the audiocassette had largely supplanted records, and by 1988 digital media had gained a larger market share, and the vinyl record left the mainstream in 1991. They continue to be manufactured and sold in the 21st century.
The phonograph, record player, or gramophone (from the Greek: γράμμα, gramma, "letter" and φωνή, phōnē, "voice"), is a device introduced in 1877 for the recording and reproduction of sound recordings. The recordings played on such a device generally consist of wavy lines that are either scratched, engraved, or grooved onto a rotating cylinder or disc. As the cylinder or disc rotates, a stylus or needle traces the wavy lines and vibrates to reproduce the recorded sound waves.
The phonograph was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. While other inventors had produced devices that could record sounds, Edison's phonograph was the first to be able to reproduce the recorded sound. His phonograph originally recorded sound onto a tinfoil sheet phonograph cylinder, and could both record and reproduce sounds. Alexander Graham Bell's Volta Laboratory made several improvements in the 1880s, including the use of wax-coated cardboard cylinders, and a cutting stylus that moved from side to side in a "zig zag" pattern across the record. At the turn of the 20th century, Emile Berliner initiated the transition from phonograph cylinders to gramophone records: flat, double-sided discs with a spiral groove running from the periphery to near the center. Other improvements were made throughout the years, including modifications to the turntable and its drive system, the needle and stylus, and the sound and equalization systems.