Earliest Known Sound Recording Discovered

By | March 29, 2008

phonautograph_0.pngThomas Edison has long been credited for the invention of sound recording, thanks to his phonograph. However, researchers have recently discovered a a 10-second recording that was created 17 years before the phonograph was invented. It is believed to be history’s earliest recording of sound.

Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville was a French typesetter who invented a device called a phonautograph in 1857. The phonautograph recorded sound by directing it through a large barrel, where the vibrations would cause a stylus to move, etching the sound onto paper blackened by smoke. It was through this invention that history’s first recordings of a human voice were made.

Scott’s invention had recorded sound a few times, but it was an April 9, 1860 recording that was the most clear. This recording was of a person singing a song called Au Clair de la Lune. The result – called a phonautogram – was merely a visual recording of sound. In fact, sound reproduction in any other format was still inconceivable at that point in history. It was only very recently that audio historians and sound engineers were able to translate the phonautogram into more than just an etching. Working with a high-resolution scan of the phonautogram, they used optical imaging along with a “virtual stylus” to turn the recording into something that could be played back. This is impressive, considering the inventor of history’s first sound recordings never intended for them to be heard. – inventorspot

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