Unexpectedly Intriguing!
December 16, 2016

Everybody over the age of 40 knows how record players work, right? The kind based on the phonograph invented by Thomas Edison back in 1877? If not, or if you're under the age of 40 and have never encountered how people played music in the days before the digital era, here's a quick primer:

Now, let's turn that concept totally around. What if instead of spinning a record on a traditional player, you kept the record still and sent the player to travel along the tracks of the record itself?

Via Core77, that's the concept behind the RokBlok, a new music player currently being featured in a KickStarter campaign by a company called Pink Donut.

The Kickstarter campaign has been successfully funded, so this is something that's really going to exist, which you can have by pledging $69! (Bluetooth speakers not included....)

And since we're talking about spinning records, lets have a flashback to the most popular song ever recorded that mentions how records were spun in the old days....

Update 18 December 2016: One of our readers notes that the concept behind the RokBlok isn't a new one - it follows in the heels of the Tamco Soundwagon from 1970, which was modeled to resemble a VW bus:

The downside of the Soundwagon was that it was harsh on vinyl records.

In their refinement of the concept, the RokBlok's developers specifically addressed this shortcoming:

RokBlok has been engineered to prevent damage to your records when in us. We do this by carefully balancing and distributing the weight of the player (3.2 oz) across its scratch-proof rubber wheels and not the needle. This makes it so the needle does not take the brunt of the weight out on your record’s grooves.

Beyond that change, the real innovation in the RokBlok would appear to lie in its large improvement in sound quality compared to the Soundwagon, thanks to its incorporation of Bluetooth wireless speaker technology by its developer, Lucas Riley, who had begun developing the RokBlok without any knowledge of the Soundwagon's existence.

Riley despaired that his idea wasn't original, until he realized that the Soundwagon had a big design problem. When speakers spin, as they do in the Soundwagon, they create the doppler effect, best experienced in the caterwauling of an ambulance siren. But by using wireless to pipe the RokBlok's sound to a Bluetooth speaker, the RokBlok could bypass that particular issue.

Riley also encountered a problem in developing the RokBlok that turned out to have previously been solved by Tamco's engineers, which he directly incorporated into its design:

Not only that, but Riley realized that he could use the Soundwagon to backwards-engineer a solution to the RokBlok's slow-down problem. It turned out that Tamco's engineers had modified the gadget's resistor to essentially provide less electricity to the Soundwagon's wheels over time, allowing it to sync up to the speed of the record. He's now using basically the same solution.

On the whole, the story of the RokBlok is another great example of the things we marvel at today and how they came to be after being invented long ago and forgotten before being rediscovered and reinvented.


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