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The Development Of Cylinder Records - Part 2

As with Edison, Charles Sumner Tainter also promoted his new invention and in the July 14 issue of Scientific American for 1888 wrote the following about the advantages to the business community of his "Phonograph-Graphophone" and the Graphophone cylinder record:

"In its (the Graphophone's) construction, efficiency has, of course, been the first consideration, after which the matters of simplicity, facility of management, and the practical hand- ling of the records or messages have been disposed of.... The paper cylinders are very light, perfectly portable, and may be transmitted by mail with the same facility as an ordinary letter.... The cylinder will fit any Graphophone without any adjustment of the instrument... The Graphophone has been in practical use for some time past, carrying on correspondence between New York and Washington."

Included were various testimonials of the day which also sang the praises of Tainter's achievement:

"Previously all my dictation had been done directly to typewriter operators. I now use the Phonograph-Graphophone for all my work and it is as superior to the old method as is the locomotive to the stage coach. The speed of the dictation is only limited by ability to articulate distinctly, and often runs over 200 words per minute.... I can turn out at least twice as much copy per day with the Phonograph-Graphophone as I ever could before.... The more one uses it the more numerous are its convenient services, and the more necessary it seems to a busy man."

Both Edison's Phonograph and Bell and Tainter's Graphophone were therefore poised, in the hands of the North American Phonograph Company, to revolutionize the way correspondence was generated in the business office.

However, a rosy future for the cylinder machine as a business aid was not as assured as the many testimonials implied. There were numerous mechanical problems and inconveniences with the early machines. As well, there was immediate opposition from a number of stenographers who foresaw the eroding away of their jobs by .the new mechanization. One can imagine the occasional sabotage which took place to the, at best, marginally reliable early instruments.

Edison's Phonograph, with its reusable cylinders, proved more practical and reliable than Tainter's Graphophone and the North American Phonograph Company very quickly fell behind its contractual agreement to purchase, for lease to businesses, 5000 machines a year from the American Graphophone Company. As a way of trying to attract more public favour, the Graphophone was redesigned in 1890 to accept the all-wax, two-inch diameter cylinder and from this point on cylinders were interchangeable on both the Phonograph and the Graphophone. Nevertheless, by 1890-91, North American, still in its infancy, found itself on the brink of financial disaster and, without the timely intervention of a new and more profitable direction for the recording medium, the cylinder record could well have disappeared before it had had a chance to prove itself.