Alexander Graham Bell is best known for the invention of the telephone. However, the brilliant scientist also did a number of other things including, experiment with recording devices to capture sound.
His quest began in 1881 when he teamed up with instrument-maker Charles Sumner Tainter and chemist Chichnester A. Bell to form a company called Volt Laboratory Associates, whose sole purpose was to create sound recordings that could be replayed. It is believed that the trio made about 200 experimental 'soundtracks' using a variety of methods and materials that ranged from glass to tin foil and even beeswax, as they tried to figure out what would hold sound the best. As for the recordings? They went all the way from the word 'barometer' recorded over and over on a glass disc, to recitations of lines from Shakespearean plays
During the same time, Thomas Edison, the inventor of the phonograph, the motion picture camera and of course the light bulb, was also trying to capture sounds. The competition between the two was so fierce that to prove that they were the first ones to succeed, both inventors left documentation and their recordings with the Smithsonian for safekeeping - Where they have lain for the last century, obsolete and unplayable, until now.
Thanks to a partnership between The Library of Congress and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California, some of these early recordings can now be re-played for us all to appreciate and also, realize how far we have come.
Using a mapping technology that took $1 million USD and ten years to develop, the researchers were able to recreate high-resolution digital scans of about six of the sound discs, which were released to the general public by the Smithsonian, in late December 2011.
The scientists are hoping to continue with the rest if they are able to secure additional funding - But, even if they do not transfer all the discs, the recovery of these demonstrates the remarkable vision and talent of these remarkable inventors and reinforces their standing as the true pioneers of information technology.
Resources: smithsonianscience.org, gizmag.com