From the "simultaneously cool and creepy" file, sit back and listen to the oldest recorded voice known to man — a person singing a snippet of "Au Clair de la Lune" in April 1860. Freaky. The recording was the work of Frenchman Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville, who made it on an unlikely device called a phonautograph, which etched lines on lampblack-covered sheets of paper. Curiously, de Martinville meant to invent a visual medium, not an audio one — he wanted to make a visual representation of sound that could later be decoded by sight. You couldn't play it back with a needle now, but scientists figured out how to digitize the sheets of lampblacked paper and simulate playing them like a record. Listen to the result yourself — the singing, possibly by de Martinville's daughter, is damned eerie. I seem to recall that narrative convention requires us to hear unspeakable horrors triggering a SAN check under these circumstances. Anyway, this recording predates Edison's phonograph by 17 years and the previous oldest usable recording (made on a wax cylinder) by 28. Cool.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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