Feeds

Early Bell recordings live again (kind of)

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

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.