Where It All Began?

If you read the New York Times story today about what researchers say is the earliest known audio recording, you probably went online to actually hear the 10-second clip. To our CD- and mp3-honed ears, it barely sounds like music. To be honest, it sounds more like muffled snoring layered over a static track.

Nevertheless, it's pretty remarkable.

To give Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville some credit, when he recorded the French folk song Au Claire de la Lune in 1860, "the idea of audio play-back had not been conceived," according to the Times. So de Martinville likely didn't have any idea how it sounded – or if his ditty would ever be heard. (Since I'm already geeking out here, I'll note that ditty derives from the French for "to speak.") This was all 17 years before Edison patented his phonograph.

Well, we've heard it now, thanks to scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. They meticulously converted lines on paper to sound.

Hear the 10-second recording.
These days, it's remarkably easy to convert anything we see to something infinitely re-viewable. Sometimes, it happens without us thinking about it – anytime we enter a bank or a government building, or even walk down certain city streets. Sometimes, we're in control, armed with a tape recorder, cell-phone camera or video camera. It's possible to make a 10-second clip of yourself singing Au Claire de la Lune and have it online for anyone to see in less than one minute. That took de Martinville 148 years.

I think I've found a new ringtone.
  • Christine Lagorio

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