There is a really interesting article in the Arts section of this morning's (Thursday, March 27) New York Times about newly uncovered research that challenges the belief that Thomas Edison was the father of recorded sound. This new research claims that even before Edison had recorded his first sounds a French man named Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville recorded a ten second sound bite of a female vocalist singing a French folk song (Au Clair de la Lune) back in 1860. However, it was not recorded onto a record but rather on a "phonautograph" or "phonautogram" (as seen in photo left) which was in turn recently made playable - by converting the written images on the paper into sound - by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Library. If you click on the NYTimes story, not only can you read about this amazing discovery in detail, but they also have an MP3 sound file of this historic 10-second 1860 recording.
When you stop and think about it, it is truly amazing how far we have come in the advancement of music recording and playback in the short time span (relatively in the history of mankind) since Thomas Edison (pictured right) first invented the phonograph in 1877 and unveiled it a year later to an amazed public.
And even then, it would still be many decades before buying music records (just singles on wax) would become a regular practice. In such a relatively short time in our recent history we have gone from old cylinder record players-- that you had to really work to hear a record on, as you had to manually wind it up to hear each new wax record spin-- all the way up to the present (2008) where a hand held digital device can not only hold thousands of songs but also video and other data.
And at this amazing rate, who knows what stage of digital and technological development we will have reached in another ten or twenty years? I think it is a trip if you look at some old 1960's movies or TV shows that feature in them those enormous big ole (usually IBM made like the one pictured left from 1961) computers of that era that filled an entire large office space. And you realize that a basic compact iBook these days can store something like a hundred times more data on them than those old room-size computers from just a few decades ago. Phenomenal!
But as time and technology zips forward our longing for and fascination with the past only increases. That's why they invented eBay. So that we can go back and purchase items from our past - long out of production and circulation - for a price. It is also why many music fanatics today are dismissing digital recordings and devices and going back to the old school, so to speak, to buy records and tapes. One of the best uses of older (considered defunct) technology that I recently came across was from Arizona DJ Ramsey who brought new life to a pair of old cassette boom-boxes as you can see/hear from the video clip below - taken a few months ago - of him wrecking it on the ones and twos as if it were turntables/Serato - only it's a pair of old analog cassette players.