Wednesday 5 June 2013

Phone pioneer speaks for first time in 128 years

Phone pioneer speaks for first time in 128 years

It is a source of constant amazement to me how technological advancements at the turn of the last century have allowed sounds and images that would previously have been lost or unseen to be recorded and documented for future generations - us - to uncover and experience.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in this recent story from the Smithsonian Institute (via the B.B.C.), featuring the inventor of one piece of modern electrical equipment being recorded for posterity by another piece of modern electrical equipment(!).

We Had No Idea What Alexander Graham Bell Sounded Like. Until Now.

In this 1885 recording we can [just about] hear the voice of Alexander Graham Bell, de facto inventor of the telephone, as picked up on a wax cylinder made at his Washington laboratory.  Only now able to be played back using incredible, modern computerised techniques (I find the incongruity of a late 19th/early 20th century turntable mounted on a high-tech 21st century computer system most amusing) this short excerpt of speech is the first time Bell's voice has been heard and identified.  One can just imagine it uttering the immortal words “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you” and it is, as the accompanying article states, a landmark discovery in the history of not only Bell but of the era too.

The Smithsonian is without doubt one of the foremost museums in the world and this story is a remarkable testament to their collections, their preservation & restoration abilities and their obvious love and enthusiasm for all aspects of history.  Thanks to them (and also researchers at the US Library of Congress and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) this fantastic recording can be heard for the first time in nearly 130 years and, more importantly, saved for future generations to appreciate.


  1. Catching up with your blog for the first time in a long while. Always so thrilled with the things you have unearthed!


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