Scientists Digitally Restore 1878 St. Louis Edison Tinfoil Recording

Posted on October 25, 2012

Thomas Edison Tinfoil Recording

Researchers at California's Berkeley Lab have digitally restored a Thomas Edison tinfoil recording from 1878. The project is a collaboration between Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Library of Congress. The researchers explain Edison's tinfoil recording and how it was restored. It also includes this quote by Edison about how everyone was astonished - including himself - when he first played back recorded voice:
"...I designed a little machine using a cylinder provided with grooves around the surface. Over this was to be placed tinfoil, which easily received and recorded the movements of the diaphragm...Kruesi (the machinist), when he had nearly finished it, asked what it was for. I told him I was going to record talking, and then have the machine talk back. He thought it absurd. However, it was finished, the foil was put on; I then shouted 'Mary had a little lamb', etc. I adjusted the reproducer, and the machine reproduced it perfectly. I was never so taken aback in my life. Everybody was astonished. I was always afraid of things that worked the first time..."
The audio was embossed on the sheet of tinfoil (pictured above). It can be heard in the Telegraph video below. The Telegraph says it is the "oldest recording of a playable American voice and the first ever recorded musical performance." Take a look:

Photo: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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