The phonautograph was essentially a mechanical audio oscillograph. It graphed the sound waves on paper by conducting the acoustic vibrations to a stiff bristle up against lamp-black blackened paper wrapped around a slowly moving hand-cranked drum. The white traces left behind allowed properties such as frequency and amplitude to be estimated.
I wonder if its inventor, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, ever contemplated the problem of reproducing the graphed sound.
For all of history, people lived, loved, and died. Aside from perhaps a few of them writing their thoughts down, they totally disappeared.
With the invention of still photography, and much more audio and moving-picture recording technology, suddenly you could see and hear people who were long gone.
These folks are not just dead. Their kids are dead, their grandkids are dead, their great-grandkids are probably also gone. Yet we are able to hear them play music, tell stories, and laugh. They might even tell a joke and we can laugh along with it.
It's as if mankind suddenly came out of a very dark tunnel. We are finally able to really coalesce into a multi-generational conversation about what our humanity means. (A little too poetic. Apologies. I just find it amazing)
The average consumer was astounded by low quality mp3 audio over a record, cassette tape or later on compact disc. Sort of like fast food, convenience over quality.
It's also the same for photography I remember the first digital cameras and they had horrible resolution and colour depth but it was amazing to have a film-less camera. Video being a close cousin to pictures got worse in quality too but more affordable and convenient no more giant saddle bag and shoulder-crushing camera.
Looking back years from now family pictures and audio will be great up to roughly the mid 1990s then from then on until the early 2000s the bottom fell out.
PS: Not to mention people tend to compress history as it get's older, out side of historians who can really separate the 1180's from the 1190's in Ireland?
I take a lot of pictures now on my phone. I took very few pictures before one year ago (when I got my first camera phone).
Wealthy patrician Romans used to keep busts of their ancestors in a hallway in the entrance to their home to keep them (and their guests) reminded about whence they came. We might be able to do something similar for our ancestors, except with "living" imagery and audio. Imagine being able to watch a clip of your great-great-great grandfather and hearing him speak! That's what future generations have to look forward to.
Well, my grandma was born in 1919. Close enough?
Does anyone know if the noise in the recording is because the foil is so old and that's the best they can recover, or if that's how it was played back originally?
At the same time, much of the 'magic' feeling I used to get has turned in to 'eh', just because it's such an ingrained part of life now. I remember my grandfather telling a story of taking a polaroid photo of ... his parents? (or in-laws, I can't remember), then taking the photo to the other room to let it dry/develop for the 2 mins or so it took, then taking it back to show them, and seeing how amazed they looked at it. IIRC I think that was the 60s when that happened. But my memory of the story is now hazy, and I think his was a bit when he told me it to me :)
I think many people without much insight into electronics or computers would consider smartphones quite magical already.
That would be amazing to discover an accidental recording from 1000 years ago that can be recovered using laser scanning to decode.
edit: fixed an autocorrect typo
> For years the audio was trapped on the piece of foil you see above. There was no device that could play it and even if there had been, doing so would have likely ruined it. This summer, at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, physicist Carl Haber and his team were able to create a 3D picture of the foil whose topography could then be translated into sound using techniques of mathematical analysis and physical modeling to calculate how a needle would have played the recording. They were able to do so "without physically having to touch them," he explained to me. "And that's kind of the key issue, because these things are so old and fragile and torn-up, broken, and delicate that in many cases it just would not be possible to play them back in any of the more standard ways."
All I could think was "it's like audio cryonics!"