Edison's Early Phonograph Recording Discovered

Washington, Jul 18 (IANS): Scientists have recovered an audio recording, made by inventor Thomas Edison, from an artifact that historians believe is the earliest surviving talking toy doll record.

The artifact is a ring-shaped cylinder phonograph record made of solid metal, preserved by the National Park Service at Thomas Edison National Historical Park.

Phonograph inventor Thomas Edison made the record during late 1888 in West Orange, New Jersey. On the recording, an unidentified woman recites one verse of the nursery rhyme "Twinkle, twinkle, little star".

The voice captured on the 123-year-old record had been unheard since Edison's lifetime. The recording represents a significant milestone in the early history of recorded sound technology.

The metal record is significantly bent out of its original round, cylindrical shape. For this reason, curators at Thomas Edison National Historical Park were unable to play the recording using conventional methods.

At the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, senior scientist Carl Haber and computer systems engineer Earl Cornell used a 3D optical scanning technology, with the Library of Congress, to create a digital model of the surface of the record, according to a Berkeley statement.

With this digital model, they used modern image analysis methods to reproduce the audio stored on the record.

Once the recording could be heard, historian Patrick Feaster of Indiana University played a key role in identifying and dating the recording by finding relevant references among archival documents.

In November 1888, the New York Evening Sun announced that Edison's talking dolls had just been "perfected," and that "nothing remains but to manufacture them in large quantities".

No commercially viable method of duplicating sound recordings had yet been developed, so Edison hired women to make as many records as he thought would be needed once his talking dolls were put on the market.

Feaster said these women were arguably the world's first professional recording artistes.


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