Monday, August 19, 2013

The Mystery in the Middle of the 7 Inch Single

For 50 years, these wee pieces of plastic were at
the very centre of popular music.
There were millions
of them in homes and radio stations and all the other
places music lovers kept their collections.

Even when the record companies decided to eliminate
the 45rpm single and then vinyl itself, this shape refused
to leave the stage and in a digital age, has become for many

a symbol of music itself...

... and most people don't even know what they're called!

And the Answer Is...

Truth be told, it's something of a trick question,
because they were know by a number of different
names, including:

  • 45 rpm adapter
  • 45 rpm record insert
  • 45 rpm spindle adapter
  • a "middle"
  • an "ad" (short for adapter)

and my personal favourite...

  • a spider

Technically, a spider is a small plastic or metal insert
that goes in the middle of a 45-rpm record so it will
play on a turntable.

It was RCA president David Sarnoff who commissioned
inventor Thomas Hutchison to find a way
to make RCA's
preferred music format - the 45 rpm record - compatible
with the smaller spindle size of the 33⅓ rpm LP record
player that most music lovers already owned.

"The spider" was
Hutchinson's solution, and by the 1960s,
tens of millions of them were being sold every year.

Mr. Hutchison was once asked about the story behind it all:
" (Sarnoff) asked our company to design a better adapter
than was on the market at that time. So my plastic molder
worked on it, and we came up with this plastic adapter
with interlocking drive pins.

I sold my adapters so cheap, I had an advantage over them.
My molder also sold to Mattel Toys, so Mattel would supply
him with the plastic in silos. We purchased their surplus plastic,
5,000 pounds a week, so we kept the costs very low - almost
1/10th of a cent per adapter in the 1950's.

I paid $1.50 per thousand to have them made, and I sold
them for $2.50 per thousand, in lots of one million."

When one considers that Elvis alone sold over two million copies
of his "Heartbreak Hotel" single and more than four million copies
of the "Hound Dog" seven-inch, selling spiders was a very good
business to be in...

Sometimes, they were even made of metal!

If there was a drawback to the 7 inch single, it was the fact
that no matter which adapter you were using, you could only
play one song at a time.

While the disc itself could be impressed with seven or even
ten minutes of audio, radio stations at that time had a policy
of not playing songs longer than three minutes.

The solution?

Automatic Spindle Adapters

With one of these, you could stack up to ten
of your favourite songs on your player, press "start"
and really get into the groove.

Of course, given the nature of the free enterprise system,
these too would ultimately come in a wide variety of shapes,
sizes and capacities:

The Modern Adapter...

All of the old adapters are still available, either used
or new but as the vinyl revival has spread beyond DJs
and early adopters, the adapter itself has been adapted
to suit contemporary record playing needs and it continues
to morph into new and exciting forms...

This next one not only lets you play your singles,
it also helps you ensure that your turntable is perfectly
level to facilitate the highest possible quality of reproduction...

... and is anyone really surprised to learn that fans in Japan
      have taken the humble spider to new heights of cool?

Awesomely useful & curiously
compelling links about 45 adapters:

if you want to know all - and i do mean ALL - about these elegant,
iconic wee thingies, click here now to go to the best article in the world
about the rise and role of The Spider!

Fidelitone Aluminum 45 rpm Record Spindle Adapter

45 Record Adapter and Turntable Level

get your own Custom imprinted spiders!

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