March 12, 2012


Listen to the First Recorded Sound... EVER!

General Photographic Agency/Getty Images
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

As hard as it is to believe, there was a time, not that long ago, when sound was never recorded. A strange concept for 2012, but in 1857, it was a revolutionary idea. Boing Boing points us to Éduoard-Léon Scott de Martinville, who invented a machine called a phonautograph that "etched sound waves to paper." The recordings were never meant to be heard, as Martinville was able to record the sounds but had no way to actually, you know, play them.

As Boing Boing pointed out last December, "It was meant to be a lab instrument, to help study acoustics, not a method of recording and playing back sound. Apparently, several decades passed before anybody even realized the sounds could, theoretically, be played back."

But now, the recordings have hit the Internet and the first sound is... 

A tuning fork and Martinville singing "Au Clair de la Lune."

I'm still trying to dig up the 1857 equivalent of Brooklyn Vegan (Thou Breuckelen Herbivore?), in which an angry commenter, fresh off hating the newest Dickens novel, writes, "God, this sounds exactly like..." before unsuccessfully searching for an analogy and hopping on one of those old-timey bikes with a giant front wheel to pedal away angrily.