Innovations That Changed Music

Get the rundown from phonographs to smartphones

Written by Alain de Leonardis • Photography by Kayla Merrill, Live Nation • December 21, 2016

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Music is both an art and a science. Legendary musicians, from Mozart to Louis Armstrong to Bruce Springsteen, have elevated the human spirit and connected with their audiences in deeply personal ways. Meanwhile, an ever-expanding understanding of science and sustained technological progress has led to groundbreaking machines that have redefined the ways by which we create, perform, share and listen to music.

When Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, he ushered in the modern era of music by unlocking the secret to recording sound. Before that, the only way to enjoy music was through live performance. The music industry as we know it was made possible by this triumph of engineering, which employed wax cylinders and needles to make and read impressions.

When radios were first created, they relied on fragile and energy-wasting vacuum tubes. Two companies, Regency and Texas instruments, teamed up to release the TR-1 transistor radio in 1954. This handheld device would lead a revolution in portability, and its miniaturized transistor circuitry paved the way for the development of the Walkman, portable disc players, MP3 players and smartphones.

Shell recognizes the importance of bright ideas and how they allow us to soar. That’s why they have created the global Shell #makethefuture campaign, to encourage and support innovators and entrepreneurs bringing novel energy solutions to underserved communities.

London-based GravityLight, a Shell Springboard winner co-founded by inventor Jim Reeves, is producing a power system that harnesses the kinetic energy of falling rocks to provide a safe, renewable source of light to those without electricity. This alternative to potentially dangerous, noxious kerosene lamps additionally benefits local communities by providing assembly and maintenance jobs.

Insolar, founded by Shell LiveWIRE winner Henrique Drumond, seeks to provide communities in need with solar power by installing photovoltaic panels. The pilot project is bringing an estimated 185,000 days of free, clean power over the lifetime of the installations to the community buildings and facilities of Santa Maria favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This effort brings together community partners, volunteers and job trainees, making the region a brighter place to live.

Shell is proud to partner with these and many other innovators whose ideas benefit society, the economy, and the environment. Their game-changing inventions are born of passion and intellect—qualities that drive both art and science.

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