Co-Developer of the LP Dies at Age 92

27 Dec 2014

His name was Howard H. Scott.  And if you’ve ever put the needle down on a 33 1/3 RPM record, you owe something to him.

Scott was part of Dr. Peter Goldmark’s team at Columbia Records which invented the long-playing (LP) album.

After WWII and at the age of 26, he was assigned to Columbia’s top-secret skunkworks lab where scientists were trying to come up with something to replace the 78 RPM disc.  Scott’s job was to help with transferring music from the old 78s to the new LPs.  Specifically, the boffins needed someone who could read orchestral scores.  Scott was their man.

The way I understand it, transferring music from 78s to LPs was a tricky business in the era before widespread use of magnetic recording tape.  Because louder passages and sections of the score with deep bass required deeper grooves in the vinyl, the person in charge of cutting the new grooves in the LP master had to both listen to the music being transferred in real time and read slightly ahead on the printed score to know when to manually adjust the cutting head so that grooves of the proper depth could be cut.

Another issue was that classical works needed to be stitched together into their proper form.  The old 78s could only hold about 4 minutes per side.  Scott’s job was to take all these bits and put them together for the 22 minutes of each side of an LP.  His contributions were integral to the successful introduction of the first LPs in June 1948.

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