The first truly reliable way to share sound recordings was on a fragile disc of shellac that spun at 78rpm on a record player. You could put around three minutes of sound on each side of the disc, which became known as the "78".
It was the start of the record industry, and it's how our grandparents got their music. Between the 1890s and the 1950s, about three million pieces of music were released on 78. The most commercially viable stuff has been harvested and re-released many times over, in all the newer formats.
But what about all those private collections, the tens of thousands of 78s gathering dust in sheds and garages all over the world? The Great 78 Project has begun collecting and preserving the records, and any surviving information about them. You can donate your 78s collection for preservation, and you can listen online to those already preserved.
Listen to my ABC Radio piece about the Great 78 Project
Richard is a writer, podcaster, radio and TV broadcaster, an editor, and a lover of music. He tells the stories of how great songs are made, and of the people who make them.