By Alex Magoun, IEEE History Center
Whether you grew up downloading MP3s, loading CDs, playing cassettes, or stacking records, you'll want to check out "RCA's Fabulous 45s," the colorful new exhibit on the Library's first floor this fall. An expanded version of one staged at the David Sarnoff Library in Princeton over ten years ago, it's based on a productive collaboration between Alex Magoun of the IEEE History Center here at Stevens, and Phil Vourtsis, retired engineer and the world's leading collector of 45-rpm record changers.
Vourtsis's wonderful book on the subject contains Magoun's dissertation chapter on the 45-rpm record, a topic he pursued because of his record collecting and DJ activities. The subject is ideal for Stevens because the innovation of the 45 record and changer system involved mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineers as well as marketing, music, and executive managers. The story shows how innovation is shaped by market demand, inventive choices, unexpected events, competition from established and new alternatives, corporate promotion, consumer response, and popular culture. It also involves a practically infinite array of music, a tiny sample of which from the 1940s to the 2000s is also displayed through records and picture sleeves.