130 Year Old Recordings By Alexander Graham Bell Restored
December 27, 2011

130 Year Old Recordings By Alexander Graham Bell Restored

Scientists, journalists and curators have all had to opportunity to listen to audio-recordings made by Alexander Graham Bell 130 years ago.

A man's voice in the recording can be heard reading "to be or not to be“¦" from William Shakespeare's Hamlet on a green wax disc.

The early audio recordings had been packed away and considered obsolete at the Smithsonian Institution for over a century.  However, new technology has allowed the recordings to be recovered so they could be heard.

A second recording was heard from a copper negative disc, revealing someone reading out numbers in chronological order, starting from one.

A third recording catches a technical glitch Bell faced from the recording device.  A voice read: "Mary had a little lamb and its fleece was white as snow. Everywhere that Mary went - Oh no!"

The recordings, along with about 200 other experimental records, date back to the 1880s.  He, along with other inventors during the time, left objects and documentation with the Smithsonian to help prove their innovations were first.

Bell is most known as the man who invented the telephone, but he also sent the first wireless telephone message on a beam of light from the roof of a downtown Washington building.

Scientists used high-resolution scans through IRENE/3D, a sound recovery process, in order to hear the 130-year-old recordings.

The process creates a high-resolution digital map of the disc or cylinder.  The map is then processed to remove evidence of wear or damage, such as scratches and skips.

Finally, software calculates the motion of stylus moving through the disc or cylinder's grooves, reproducing the audio content and producing a standard digital sound file.

The process was developed by Berkeley Lab in 2003 to 2004 and was installed the Library of Congress in 2006 and in 2008.


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