Phonograph records had been derived from the cylinder phonograph developed by Thomas Edison. By 1948, most home phonograph records were made of Shellac, which was "Scratchy" due to its abrasive nature. They also played at 78 RPM (revolutions per minute). This meant that a 12 inch disc would have a maximum playable duration of roughly five minutes for each side.
The new format was made of relatively smooth vinyl, and had a "micro-groove" It was designed to play at the slower speed of 33 1/3 RPM. These developments allowed each side to play for a little over 20 minutes.
The micro-groove was the only real innovation, as vinyl and the 33 1/3 RPM had been used for specialized purposes previously.
On June 21, 1948, Columbia Records held a press conference at the Waldor-Astoria revealing their new consumer product.