Hear Alexander Graham’s Voice 128 Year Later: New Technology Makes Unplayable Playable

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An old supposedly unplayable wax recording from 1885 is now playable due to modern technology. The voice: telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell. And it was hiding in plain sight: at the Smithsonian Institution.

You might want call him “Count Alexander Graham Bell” since he first counts, then rattles off some dollars and sense and then mentions his name> Listen, as you go back 128 years:

CBS News explains:

Researchers have identified the voice of Alexander Graham Bell for the first time in some of the earliest audio recordings held at the Smithsonian Institution.

The National Museum of American History announced Wednesday that Bell’s voice was identified with help from technicians at the Library of Congress and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. The museum holds some of the earliest audio recordings ever made.

Researchers found a transcript of one recording signed by Bell. It was matched to a wax disc recording from April 15, 1885.

“Hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell,” the inventor said.

The experimental recording also includes a series of numbers. The transcript notes the record was made at Bell’s Volta Laboratory in Washington. Other recordings from the time include lines from Shakespeare.

In late 2011, scientists played back some of Bell’s earliest recordings for the first time with new technology that reads the sound digitally from tiny grooves in the wax disc using light and a 3D camera. The breakthrough offered a glimpse at the experiments with sound and recording at the dawn of the information age when inventors were scrambling to secure patents for the first telephones and phonographs.

The recordings were packed away for more than 100 years and were deemed obsolete until new technology allowed them to be replayed.

“Identifying the voice of Alexander Graham Bell, the man who brought us everyone else’s voice, is a major moment in the study of history,” said John Gray, director of the Smithsonian’s American history museum, in announcing the find. “It enriches what we know about the late 1800s — who spoke, what they said and how they said it.”

Fascinating stuff — putting a voice to the legend and genius.

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  • ArchiesBoy

    Fascinating stuff! I hope they’ll make other recordings available.