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by Alex Cosper

The art of DJ-mixing has climbed to the top of the mythical pyramid in certain scenes. For many people, it's a subliminal art that carries a message of nonstop dancing. Different sources credit different DJs as leaders in the field. The story of how DJs started mixing records for clubs is actually not so much about which DJ deserves the most credit, but about the development of new technology and how it played into the evolution of electronic dance music.

Prior to the introduction of compact discs in the early eighties (circa 1982), everybody listened to music on turntables and cassette decks. By 1977 the cassette had become half as popular as vinyl. By the end of the eighties the cassette had surpassed CDs and vinyl in sales, although CDs would take the lead in the early nineties.

The main drawback about cassettes was hiss and stretched tape, but many consumers still saw the cassette as better than vinyl because the stylus that played the record, was also wearing out the record every time it got played. That's because the weight of the tone-arm was so heavy on most turntables. Records easily got scratched as dust added to pops and skips while trying to enjoy the record. Besides, a cassette could fit a lot more playing time or "extended play."

The cassette revolution had been brewing since the early sixties but really took off in the seventies when consumers became more aware of sound quality. FM radio began to overtake AM radio because of better fidelity. The record industry moved away from mono recordings and concentrated on cleaner production of multi-track stereo recordings. What caused a small culture of club DJs to hang on to the turntable and vinyl records was a company called Technics. While the consumer turntable manufacturers were giving up on making the vinyl record experience as enjoyable as possible, Technics catered to the professional user. In 1972 the Technics SL-1200 turntable became the model turntable for the DJ world of radio stations and mobile DJs.

Technics had introduced the first direct drive turntable, the SP-10, in 1969. This was important because turntable motors were otherwise driven by a belt, which after time became worn out, causing records to turn in warped rotation, adding to the machine noise working against the music. The SL-1200 was an improvement on the SP-10. Between 1972 and 1984 Technics began to add features suited for the needs of DJs to the SL-1200, which inevitably evolved into the SL-1200 MK2, the all-time definitive DJ turntable, in which a pair was widely referred to as "Technics 1200s."

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