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I've been reading about the Grammy award, and found that it was named after the invention of Emile Berliner, the gramophone, after considering the name Eddie (for the phonograph's inventor, Thomas Edison).

I didn't find what's the difference between the two. Sources also mix up the inventors of them.

Notice also that the names kind of consist of the same 2 words, written in different order.

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    Nothing here google.com/search?q=gramophone+and+phonograph ????
    – mplungjan
    Feb 3, 2014 at 12:29
  • 1
    Thirty years and a plastic cover, according to Not the Nine O'Clock News. Feb 3, 2014 at 12:41
  • The people on Not the Nine O'Clock News were probably covering the Phoney awards. Feb 3, 2014 at 12:43
  • Phonograph is the instrument which use sound energy to make its effect on a surface in the firm of a phonogram.
    – user149945
    Dec 2, 2015 at 20:43

2 Answers 2

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Both gramophone and phonograph could be used for any sound recording device, and have been used interchangeably.

Because the words were used by different inventors (sometimes as all or part of a brand name), the distinction is sometimes made where phonograph refers specifically to cylinder-based devices and gramophone to disk-based devices. (Some other terms that were specific to brands such as zonophone have pretty much died out entirely unless one is talking about the history of that precise brand).

So:

Gramophone: Any sound-recording device, or device for playing previously-recorded sounds, especially if it uses a flat spinning disk.

Phonograph: Any sound-recording device, or device for playing previously-recorded sounds, especially if it uses a spinning cylinder.

As such, they would be used interchangeably by some, while others would use them as quite distinct.

As technology moved on and the cylinder-based approaches died out, then while some would still distinguish between the two in this way, they were mostly interchangeable because the flat disk approach was the only approach in current use.

As technology moved on further and first magnetic and later optical and digital storage become more common, the words in their wider senses (that allowed them to be used interchangeably) didn't move with them, so the two terms got stuck at the stage of progress where spinning disks that were physically read by a needle (unlike the spinning disks of minidisc or compact disc).

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  • How does a cylinder differ from a disk?
    – Alaa M.
    Feb 3, 2014 at 12:53
  • A cylinder is cylindrical en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonograph_cylinder and a disk is flat. Feb 3, 2014 at 13:26
  • Mathematically speaking, a disk with a straight edge would also be a cylinder, but in general use we'd use cylinder of something less flat. The particular difference here is whether the recording surface is the round part (as it is on cylinder-based phonographs) or the flat part (as it is on the gramophone records that are still used today, albeit for a more niche market than once was the case).
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 3, 2014 at 14:06
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Check the Wikipedia entry here. The phonograph used a cylinder to record upon, while the gramophone was a modification/improvement on this design with used discs instead.

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  • How does a cylinder differ from a disk?
    – Alaa M.
    Feb 3, 2014 at 12:53
  • A synonym for a cylinder would be a tube, like a toilet paper roll. A disk is like a plate or coin. Feb 3, 2014 at 12:56
  • In this context, it's to do with the difference in the location of the groove - on the curved side, or on the flat surface. Feb 3, 2014 at 14:23
  • Just a personal opinion, but Wikipedia should not be trusted (without a grain of salt) or should not be cited as the only source.
    – hola
    Sep 30, 2020 at 9:57
  • @hola I could copy/paste the 74 sources linked here on the wikipedia page, but how is that any more valid? I feel that this distrust is a knee-jerk reaction to the distrust the site has inherited from academics who rightly find peer-reviewed journals to be a better source for certain academic purposes. Perhaps your personal opinion might be swayed by this article on the reliability of Wikipedia (also on wikipedia ;) ). Oct 7, 2020 at 17:09

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