Snippets 190. The early 20th Century was a time of great innovation in technology, but not all good ideas are born equal. Sometimes just because you can make something, it doesn’t mean you should. From one of innovation’s blind alleys, step forward…. the chocolate record.
The following quote is taken from the March 1904 issue of The Talking Machine News, a monthly magazine for “users and makers of talking machines”; in other words, phonographs, or what we would now term “record players”.
Wax records we know, celluloid records, compo records, but it was not until the other day that we heard of chocolate records. There was some excuse; as we understand they have not yet been introduced over here. They are, or were, “made in Germany” by a famous firm of chocolate manufacturers. The chocolate disc was, we are given to understand, coated with gelatine or some other protective envelope, – why not sugar, and if not why not? – so as to resist the action of the needle for at least a while. We confess to some misgivings from the adult point of view, as to the desirability of eating a used record even though of chocolate. Doubtless, however it was keenly appreciated in the nursery where, when its music – perchance wedded to immortal verse – had first served to soothe the savage breast of the enfant terrible, its edible qualities were to the full as keenly appreciated.
Which naturally leads us to a story which is going the rounds to the effect that we are to have a metallic disc record before long. A metal disc would be even more indigestible, we should imagine, than the ordinary compo one. Neither would compete with a chocolate record in point of view of edibility. But to be serious. We await further news of the promised metal record with great interest. What metal, or alloy of metals, for example will the new disc be composed of? And then the needle. We should have thought that a steel needle, however highly tempered, would lose its point, and therefore its value, almost directly it came into contact with a metal record. These are, of course, speculations in the dark; it is all mere surmise at present. Perhaps, however, we ought to say, that the tale of a new metallic disc record is not altogether a mere canard coming from no-one and no-where in particular. It came to us – at second-hand, it is true, – as on the authority of a gentleman high in the confidence of one of the leading firms in the talking. machine trade. And though, of course, he may be mistaken as to the possibilities of a metal disc, there is no doubt that at present he has good grounds, as he thinks, for believing in those possibilities.
The prediction of metal records did actually prove correct. From the late 1920s, aluminium discs became available for purchase, and their use continued through the 1930s into the early 40s. However, during the war metal was too important to the war effort to be used for entertainment purposes, and very few aluminium records survived the need to recycle metal for the war effort.
As for chocolate records, I suppose they were a bit more useful than a chocolate teapot. But not a lot.
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