The 45 RPM Adapter

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The object presented is a 45 RPM adapter. Sometimes referred to as a 45 record insert, or 7 inch adapter, the object is a small insert that is placed in the middle of a 45 RPM record in order for it to be played on the more common 78 RPM sized spindle of a record player. I have chosen this object because I work at a radio station, and we have a pretty big vinyl collection. I remember being puzzled the first time I found a 45 adapter laying around, I had no idea what it was. With it’s unique design, I thought it would make for an interesting description.

The shape of the object presented is generally circular in nature, but consists of three identical pronged points that round outward from the converging points of a central shape.  This central shape is compound and consists of both an equilateral triangular shape with concave sides, and a circle. The negative space plays a critical role in defining the shape of the object. There is a hole cut from the center, about 1/5 the diameter of the overall circular shape of the object. There are also three equivalent curved lines that cut inward, and wrap around the central circle from any given angle, but never touch one another.

The shadows that are visible in the negative space make it clear that the object has depth, but the size of the object is impossible to determine from the attached image. There is also raised, sans serif text that wraps around the center, in between the central cut circle and the three curved lines. In terms of color, the object is very clearly blue, with only slight variations in value caused by the way the object has been lit.

The first 45 rpm inserts were invented by the Webster-Chicago Corporation. They were made of solid zinc, very difficult to insert into a record, and nearly impossible to remove without breaking the record. Eventually, a number of differently shaped adapters were invented, and the plastic “Spider” design you see here became the most widely used, and recognizable. While not as widely recognizable today, especially to younger generations, the design can still be seen on t-shirts, posters and the like. My boss even got a tattoo of one a few weeks ago. This brings up the symbolic nature of the 45 RPM adapter. With advancements in technology and the dominance of digital streaming, they are no longer widely used today for their technical purpose. However, the image of the 45 adapter has come to represent something beyond its function; nostalgia for a music scene past. Symbolic of a transient product that is very hard to come by today, the 45 adapter represents, especially to members of older generations, a time when music was pure, artists played all of their own instruments, and recording and producing a record was a process that took time and careful attention to detail.

Time does not stop, technology will keep advancing, and for the music industry, this is no exception. And who knows, maybe in 40-50 years Spotify’s logo will come to represent the nostalgia for the music scene past that the 45 adapter represents today.

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