A message from 1878.

Last week a message was received from 1878… It is the oldest playable American recording. Perhaps back then the people in the message didn’t know that their voices would be heard 134 years later. In fact, back in 1878 Thomas Edison, who created the recording, hadn’t even built a device to play it back!

The audio, of someone playing the cornet and reciting great poetry such as ‘Old Mother Hubbard’ and ‘Mary had a little lamb’ was recorded on a piece of tinfoil, which had become so fragile over the years that it was impossible to actually read it physically with a needle. So scientists at Berkeley created a 3-D picture of the foil, which was then translated into sound using mathematical analysis and modeling to calculate how a needle would actually have played the sound.  That is just so cool… they were able to play back the recording without even touching the foil!

The recording was made on tinfoil

The recording was made on tinfoil

When I listen to the recording, it’s almost spooky. To think that someone’s voice was captured all that time ago, but never heard again until now… Like a paleontologist unearthing a brand new treasure, the wonders of modern science allow us to rediscover untold stories, to reach into our past and bring incredible events out of obscurity, into the light.

What bygone invention would you like to see ‘rediscovered’?

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