Boomers Adapted Their 45s

There are many objects that were commonplace in our boomer years that have either disappeared from view or have taken a back seat at best. A case in point is the 45 rpm adapter. Its shape is immediately identifiable to boomers, yet today it is mainly audiophiles who know of its purpose.

45 RPM recdord adapters
Here are two 45 rpm record adapters that Mister Boomer owns. The first one slips over the spindle to play one record at a time. The second, Hutchinson adapter, is meant to be inserted into the middle of the record. It’s the classic shape people recognize as a boomer object.

The story of how it came into being is an interesting one, and its origins go back to before the first boomer hit the scene. Throughout the early 1900s and into the 1920s, there was only one size of record, and that was a 10-inch disc with a small hole in the center that slipped over the phonograph spindle. The record speed was played at 78 revolutions per minute (rpm), and this became the de facto standard.

Throughout the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, there were two companies that dominated the phonograph market: RCA Victor and Columbia. Each manufactured machines and created record companies to produce the records to play on them. Enmeshed in a competitive battle, each worked to find ways to get one leg up on the competition. In 1948, their paths veered when Columbia introduced the first “long-playing” 12-inch album, played at 33 1/3 rpm. This speed change would require all future phonographs to play at either 78 or 33 1/3 rpm. RCA went a different route and created a new format, which they defined as a 7-inch record with a large, 1 1/2 inch hole in the center. Further, it was meant to be played at 45 rpm. RCA manufactured the phonographs to play their new-format records. Shortly after, RCA introduced the first drop changer spindle that allowed the listener to stack multiple records all at once. The machine would drop each record one after the other to be played. This increased the amount of time that you could listen to music before having to get up and change the records.

By the 1950s, all brands of phonographs had to allow for the possibility of playing records at 78, 33 1/3 and 45 rpm. Since RCA was a major figure in releasing popular music, even if your record player was not an RCA brand, it needed to find a way to play RCA 45 rpm records, too. Over time, other record companies began to produce records in the format, too. Phonograph companies supplied spindles made of metal or hard plastic to fit over their own, but as can be expected, over time the mechanics of it broke down or the spindle was lost. So the stage was set for the Boomer Generation and the dawn of rock & roll to catapult the use of the 45 rpm adapter into an everyday object.

In 1950, the first separate adapter was released by the Webster Chicago Company. It was made of zinc and, once inserted, was nearly impossible to remove without breaking the record. Soon after, companies experimented with various shapes; ideally, the adapter needed to be easily removed and reused, yet be strong enough to play the record without wobble, and help to separate records when they were stacked so the drop function of the phonograph would operate correctly. Eventually, three major styles with a different number of prongs surfaced as viable in the marketplace, including the spiral Hutchinson model many people identify with the boomer era. It was named after New Jersey inventor Tom Hutchinson, a technician at the Walco Corporation, a company that manufactured cartridges, phonograph needles and phonograph cleaning accessories.

By the 1980s, first cassette tapes and then CDs put an end to vinyl 45 rpm record sales, and with it, the need for multiple adapters in every household. Many boomers had dozens of the plastic inserts permanently placed into their favorite 45s, so they could drop them on the record player at any time.

Mister Boomer’s family received their first record player as a hand-me-down from a cousin when she bought a newer model. It was the portable box variety that looked like a small suitcase when closed. Once opened, the center spindle was ready to receive a stack of 45s, as long as you had the 45 adapters in place. Fortunately, those were inexpensive and readily available. The family needed to go buy some records, so they went to the five and dime and bought a package of a dozen records and adapters. That first package that Mister Boomer’s family bought had a 45 rpm by the Beatles in it. Therefore, She’s a Woman was one of the first 45 rpms that Brother Boomer slipped an adapter in and played in the Mister B household.

How about you, boomers? What do you recall about 45 rpm adapters?

Boomers Entered the “Violence in Entertainment” Debate

The holiday season is upon us once again, as thoughts turn to what gifts to get grandchildren, nieces and nephews. These days, those reflections are bound to include video games. After a recent conversation with a co-worker, Mister Boomer realized what a dilemma this is producing for many boomers, especially when it comes to the level of violent content in these games.

In our boomer youth, parents did not have to worry about violence in our games. Most of our games were either sports-related or board games. Possibly as violent as they got was, Operation, or maybe Clue (the butler in the pantry with the candlestick). Today, there is realistic violence portrayed in gaming that encompasses shoot-em-ups of people and aliens, bloody dispatch and dismemberment with assorted weaponry, and flesh-eating zombies who in turn get sliced and diced to the Netherworld. It’s a far cry from our day … or is it?

The truth of the matter is, the debate about exposing children to scenes of violence — how much and when, especially — has been a hot topic since the dawn of entertainment. Before World War II, movies were filled with violence (and, horror of horrors, sex!). Historians point to the Roaring 20s as a time of a sense of unbridled freedom for individuals, which was echoed in their entertainment. More than a few eyebrows were raised at what was thought to be the abandonment of morals, and talk of government intervention was already being debated.

After the War, the Boomer Generation produced more children than the country had seen in decades. The perfect storm of more children and the popularization of television were bound to throw a few logs on the debate fire. While proponents of the First Amendment argued the rights of TV writers and producers were unlimited by law, others wondered aloud whether it was time to take a look at those laws.

In 1952, the National Association of Broadcasters adopted a code of ethics as a way of self-regulating, to avoid further involvement of legislators looking to protect children from the evils of the world on this new medium with a proposed Advisory Board. Though there were no clear-cut paths to enforcement or punishment, the code was far-reaching. Included were:
• prohibition of profanity
• prohibition of nudity
• no portrayal of irreverence toward God and religion
• no portrayal of drunkenness and addiction
• no portrayals of cruelty or crime details

.. and perhaps more controversial:
• no negative portrayal of family life (i.e., “family values”)
• no negative portrayal of law enforcement
• “decency” guidelines that stated how performers were to dress

Is it any wonder, then, that boomers watched shows like Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver? The TV westerns of the 1950s showed a great deal of violence, but it was sanitized for viewers. When the bad guy was shot, he’d inevitably grab his chest and fall over, whether that was off his horse, off a roof or balcony, or merely to the ground. Turning his head and closing his eyes were the indication for boomers that this character had met his Creator. There were no wounds present, and boomers never saw a drop of blood. That was the case, whether the show was about westerns, the War or cops and robbers.

In 1976, the broadcaster code was ruled to violate the First Amendment by a Los Angeles federal court. Nonetheless, some semblance of the code remains today.

The path that movies took was similar, but also different. The studios adopted their own set of standards as well, but abandoned it by the middle of the boomer years. Some say French Cinéma Vérité in the 1960s influenced American moviemakers to want to portray more realism in telling their story. Others point to the Vietnam War as influence — called the first televised war because violent scenes of action and trauma and a nightly death toll were displayed on our TVs. Others still look at the the Boomer Generation itself, and a decade of civil unrest and protest, as a contributor to a backlash against regulation of violent content. Compare the war violence of a movie like The Guns of Navarone (1961) to that of The Deer Hunter (1978) and the difference between the ’60s and ’70s is apparent. Despite the added arguments against these depictions, movies of the 1970s are now looked at as a new Golden Age of American Film, exactly for their raw portrayal of life.

As boomers aged, video games appeared and were popularized. The first to appear were video versions of two-player games like Tic-Tac-Toe and Table Tennis; that evolved into Pong around 1972, the one that most boomers will recall as their first serious foray into the genre. There wasn’t much room for violence when the monotone screen had nothing more than dots and lines on it.

The questions surrounding the depiction of violence are still debated. The question of whether the viewing of such violence has an effect on the child viewer, and if so, to what degree, is still unanswered. However, many point to the sophistication of today’s youth in understanding that what they are watching is not real. Something that comes to mind for Mister Boomer is remembering how comic books were thought of in the same way for our generation. Not only that, but rock ‘n roll was going to be a big disruptor of the American way of life.

Meanwhile the holiday gift list awaits. Naturally, the parents have to be consulted in any decision, but maybe this is the year to reintroduce the children to Monopoly and Uno?

What hard decisions have you had to make, boomers, regarding the violent content of video games for your children and grandchildren?