Berliner gramophone, c 1891.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The first gramophones, like this one which allowed three people to listen in via rubber tubes, were little more than toys. Though based on Emile Berliner's (1851-1929) 1887 patent for a disc with a laterally-cut spiral groove, they gave little indication of the future potential of this system. Early records included nursery rhymes, bugle calls and farmyard imitations. The repertoire was limited by Berliner's tiny 13 cm discs which were spun by hand at 70 rpm.