Feeds

Early Bell recordings live again (kind of)

Optical scan mimics stylus on 125-year-old wax disks

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories says it has reconstructed sounds recorded in Alexander Graham Bell’s laboratory in the late 19th century.

Rather than trying to construct a machine to play the recordings, stored at the Smithsonian Institute, the researchers have recovered what has to be described as muddy and difficult-to-understand audio using a 3D optical scanning technique.

According to Physorg.com, the LBNL scientists worked with digital capture specialists and museum curators to capture the samples using a system called IRENE/3D. This takes high-resolution images of the disks, which are then processed to minimize the noise caused by damage and deterioration in the century and a quarter since the recordings were made.

The IRENE/3D system then mimics a stylus moving across the disk to play back the recorded voices – without actually touching the disks.

The recordings had never been played, due to Bell’s paranoia. While working to improve the sound quality of Edison’s phonograph, he made the recordings and sent copies to the Smithsonian for storage – but since Bell didn’t want to risk his competitors having access to his work, he didn’t give the Smithsonian a device to play the recordings.

While it’s not known whether any of the recovered voices are those of Bell himself, the researchers say only three people worked in Bell’s Volta laboratory when the disks were made: Bell, his cousin Chichester Bell, and Charles Sumner Tainter.

The LBNL work is posted here, along with samples of the recovered recordings. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.