Sunday, March 30, 2008

Oldest Audio Recorded Played

Scientists have worked-out a way to play the earliest known recordings of the human voice.

A French inventor, Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville, recorded a woman singing Au Clair de la Lune, on April 9th, 1869, using a device called a phonautograph. A needle connected to a diaphragm which responded to noise etched lines across a piece of paper in soot from an oil lamp. By creating high-resolution images from the originals and using a "virtual stylus" to read them, the researchers were able to actually hear the recordings (if you are using Firefox, you need to download and install the Windows Media Player plugin directly from Microsoft - the window includes a link to the file, which you download to your computer; close the browser entirely and right-click on the file to Run as Administrator in Vista).

Because the recordings were created using a hand-cranked device, the pitch and speed varies throughout the recordings. For some reason, the article states the recordings were never meant to be played back... but, if that were the case, then why were they recorded in the first place? Perhaps the inventor simply didn't think that far in advance, but it seems unlikely.

Previous to the discovery of these prints, the earliest-known recording of the human voice was thought to be Thomas Edison's recording of Mary Had a Little Lamb. Edison created and recorded the song using his phonograph.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008

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