Edison Gem phonograph, 1903.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Within twenty years of its invention by Thomas Edison (1847-1931) in 1877, the phonograph became a popular means of entertainment, creating a demand for more affordable instruments. Edison's answer was the Gem, introduced in 1899. This cheap, all-metal machine, which could play but not record, continued in production (with many modifications) until 1913. One winding would play two of Edison's two-minute cylinders. Later models were also able to play the four-minute Amberol cylinders which Edison introduced in 1908.