de Martinville was forgotten because his device had no use, could not play back sound, he did nothing to improve it and he had little idea what to do with it.
> There is no evidence that shows Edison knew about Scott's breakthrough when he stumbled onto sound recording.
He did not "stumble" into it. Edison had a flash of inspiration and then designed a machine to implement it.
So it's like a seismograph for sound? Makes me wonder if there is a seismograph somewhere that can play back recordings :)
I seem to recall that when the early recording studios were opened, musicians were not interested. This because they considered themselves entertainers, not assembly line workers.
And frankly i find that the best musicians are those that focus on the stage first and foremost even today. Those that gets remembered most fondly are those that can get up on stage and actually adapt to and interact with the audience rather than just go through a routine and bow out.
Never mind that early on the equipment was sensitive and fiddly. The Edison design involved either paper or solid cylinders wrapped around a rotating shaft. And the output was a mechanically driven membrane attached to a bullhorn.
The vacuum tube, and thus the amplifier, didn't show up for another 30 years.
That's why what was later termed "thermionic emission":
...is also known as the "Edison Effect" (though the effect was discovered by others much earlier, and re-discovered over time - Edison being just one in the chain).
His whole purpose was in trying to find out why his light bulbs filaments broke and burned out, and why there was darkening near the positive terminal of the bulb.
I won't go further with this, but I do often wonder if Tesla, while he worked with Edison, had any contact with this part of Edison's operations? In everything I've read on both inventors, it would seem like the answer is "no"; Tesla started working for Edison in June of 1884, and Edison took out a patent on the effect in 1883, and exhibited it in 1884.
The timeline is close, but for some reason Tesla either didn't have contact with the device, or dismissed it - as far as I can tell, though, it was likely the former, because I've never read anything from him where he discussed it.
Which is a pity. Had they not had the "breakup" of the century (which resulted in an insane rivalry ala "War of the Currents") - I am certain that Tesla would have both seen and understood the usefulness of the work, and would have been able to scientifically describe its workings most likely. Electronic technology would have been advanced by almost 30 years or so (whether or not that would have been a good thing we cannot know).
Not sure of the specifics but by context I'm assuming that was the intent.
A random piano player didn't appear in a random bar, there were agents working things such that your 60th percentile musician tended to appear in the 60th percentile bar (or at least 60th percentile of PAYMENT regardless of bar quality LOL).
Everyone involved in the system was very interested in their relative position in the pecking order vs money greasing the wheels.
Proposing that you scrap that and play a recording is very strange. First of all it was a long time until a random bartender could operate the playback machine as a secondary task. So you need a musical specialist and its not immediately apparent that a record mechanic or record engineer is going to be cheaper than some random vocalist. Meanwhile you lost your spot in the pecking order and people who want to hear music while drinking and dancing are going to be confused. Instead of paying a small amount of untaxed undocumented revenue to the band your agent found, you now have to raise capital and you have to purchase and install hardware and you have to maintain it when it breaks and you have to operate it. Note the latter has a lot of both "you" doing labor and "you" financing whereas the old system your agent took care of making a guitar player show up with the guitar the player purchased and tuned and maintained. Its not that great of a deal for the venue owner.
As an analogy, locally there is a college marching band that is competitive with other marching bands and they put on quite a show. Technically I could replace their instruments with MIDI connected drum machines and they'd sound better. I could replace the whole marching band with a 90s audio CD boom box and a single veteran soldier who can march. In practice they see themselves as a competitive marching band team, not as a commodity source of drum music. The ideal commodity source of drum music is a CD boombox, but football games have marching bands perform which is a totally different situation.
I wonder if in the history of marching band competition anyone has ever entered a dude carrying a boombox playing the output of a computer MIDI interfaced drum machine. I think a good audio engineer could produce a recording that technically sounds superior to any human powered marching band, but it misses the point of the greater marketplace its a part of.
You could model it as the ancient guild system and there's already an entrenched guild operating very successfully in the space.
(edited to also add, at the time, there were mechanical sources of music and they were the absolute bottom of the pecking order, only a total dive bar would have an "organ grinder" or literally a jewelry music box, so here's a nicer mechanical source of music, but mechanical music is bottom tier, and here you are trying to get the nicest dive bar in town to make a massive capital and labor investment, not gonna happen... A good analogy today would be, um, inflatable women are not seen as a high status symbol, household good, but supposedly AI will make something like the cult classic "Cherry 2000" movie a reality for better or worse someday, although the guy selling "Cherry 3.11" or "Cherry 95" or "Cherry 98" is going to have a rough time selling until Cherry 2000 hits the market, and no I'm not making this up there really is a legit cult classic movie "Cherry 2000")
Half of Bach's manuscripts were lost. Writing was invented for tax purposes. Even natural selection sat on the genetic code for a billion years before branching out into multicellular life.
Other early mathematical/written work was for taxes and debt records, but also recording business transactions, adjudicating land boundary disputes, managing subcontracted work quotas, and so on. Then later of course we get written legal codes, astronomical records, religious texts, satirical stories complaining about scribes’ incompetent and hypocritical bosses, personal letters, ...
Probably along the lines of "X owes me a beer!"
So? How does that make "past attitudes" any more "absurdly parochial" than ours, since the vast majority could care less for Bach and classical music today?
>Writing was invented for tax purposes.
Well, taxes were invented to help build cities and defend them, so there's that.
Personal computers and the internet both had really slow starts, for two really big examples.
I'm sure there are technologies sitting around right now with vast potential that our society doesn't value.
These days it seems to have turned into something akin to TV shop, with the addition of an interactive link on top of the video stream.
-Funny cat pics/videos, etc. eBaumsWorld etc
-YouTube (see above)
In my lifetime people went from a single family landline phone to every family member carrying an internet connected smartphone over just 20 years. There just wasn't that rapid pace of change in any time period before now.
Most of the time it follows some kind of S curve, and i dear say that the IC, and thus the computer, is hitting the flattening top of the S these days.
This seems like (from their point of view) the Blub paradox (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Graham_(computer_programm... ), and (from our point of view) something of its converse. From their point of view, they couldn't see the importance of sound recording because they didn't have any existing mechanisms to make use of it. From our point of view, we can't not see the importance of sound recording, because we have so many ways of making use of it.
(Kind of like how, once you know the effect being demonstrated in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo , you not only no longer experience it, but find it hard to believe that you ever did.)
> The notion of not knowing why recording sound could
> be useful to me is hard to grasp
Culture hasn't change as much as you seem to think in the past 150 years. Heck, some institutions, like the Catholic Church, have been trucking along since the Roman Era!
That isn't to say I disagree with you in general though. Given where and when I was born relative to the article's setting, it's a lot more understanding that my baseline would be faith in the long-term wisdom of scientific progress.
"The inventor is always cursed to invent something that is just as difficult to explain as it is to invent."
At the saturation limit of recorded sound, few care, and not to the degree it made it once a major and inescapable cultural force.
Of course back then for a short window (50s to 70s and up to mid-nineties or so) music was expensive to buy, limited collection (needed mail order for exotic tastes and of course you could hardly sample them), the top 40 songs were heard by everyone and anyone because cars just had radio (some novelties aside), and there were few tv channels, no video, surely no YouTube, no internet, no social media, no mobile phones, no mobile apps, no (or very limited and primitive) video games, no VR, no cat videos, no memes, no reality style celebrities (you could get some gossip, but not 24/7 gossip), no Twitter, and so on. Popular music stood out as a unique way to have fun, escape, bond, etc then.
Years ago I sent the first "3D fax" across the world. It felt remarkable, but it didnt pick up any attention.
For most commercial venues one already had resident musicians (keep in mind that as late as the 60s the Beatles worked as such in Germany before they hit it big). As the saying goes, don't shoot the pianist.
Just another example of how being first or early, even in groundbreaking things, means you will probably not find success.
>Just another example of how being first or early, even in groundbreaking things, means you will probably not find success.
Well no, in this case the inventor of sound recording just had an entirely different goal.
> Scott proved that vibrations are truly how sounds came to our ears. But Thompson says the scientific community had trouble accepting his breakthrough.
So maybe it's not too surprising.
The title of the article we're reading is literally "no one cared."
It's just that his purposes weren't commercial in nature, they were scientific.
It's a bit like saying a cat playing with the piece of paper is a bad writer because it doesn't have a publishing deal lined up.
It makes one wonder what currently isn't being invented simply because it doesn't fit into our conceptual framework. We have a somewhat more rich framework now than people did in the 19th century, of course, but the number of things we have to play with- computers, genomes, brain scans, rockets- has also gotten much larger and more complicated.
It's fun to think up thought exercises to try and help break out of our conceptual framework. On a smaller scale, an approach I've played around with is taking attributes of existing technologies that have certain things in common, then diagramming them in different ways and looking for holes.
As a concrete example, let's go back to 2005. You might reason that e-mails and blog posts are both kinds of written messages, however blogs have an open audience, while e-mails are sent to specific recipients, so a closed audience. Separately, you might compare e-mails to text messages, and realize that they are very similar, but one is long form while the other is short form. You can draw this as a table:
| short form | long form |
open | ??? | blogs |
closed | SMS texts | e-mail |
| Short-term discussion | Ongoing discussion |
Admins create subforums | Digg/Old Reddit | Forums |
Users create subforums | Reddit | ??? |
Wat? How the hell did bell makers think bells worked?
Just because we know the object vibrates when making sound doesn't mean we know that sound travels through the air as a bunch of vibrations. Or that are ear is picking up vibrations. Maybe they thought the vibrations were something like the heat given off from friction. Not necessarily the main thing, just a side effect.
For all we knew maybe it could be some sort of "sound light" or magnetism like thing. Someone had to prove that it was vibrations all the way from the start to the end.
A bell ringing will set up visible vibrations in a nearby cup of water.
Instrument makers shaped sound in air boxes in violins, and shaped it in horns. Sound has obvious propagation delays through air.
Maybe lay people had strange notions of sound, like flat earthers, but educated and observant people would know better. The evidence was all around, it did not need a lab experiment.