Thanks to the marvels of modern science, you can now hear one of the oldest known American recordings of a woman’s voice that time had forgotten.
The historic recording is of the first stanza of popular nursery rhyme “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, and it’s thought to have been made for a talking doll sold by Thomas Edison.
The recording was rediscovered back in 1967 but time had taken its toll, as the ring-shaped cylinder phonograph record, made in 1888, was bent to the point where it no longer worked with a conventional stylus.
Here’s where modern science steps in.
A team of scientists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have used a new imaging technique to play the 12-second audio clip without even needing to touch the actual record itself.
After creating a digital model of the surface of the record using a three-dimensional optical scanning device, the scientists saved the audio as a modern .WAV file.
Presto, the recording lives again.
The recording was originally found in the desk of Edison’s secretary, William H. Meadowcroft, at the Edison Laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey.
Edison came up with the idea of a talking doll in 1890, and since there was no modern sound duplicating software available, he simply hired women to make many, many different recordings for use inside each doll.
The dolls never caught on, though, but the recordings are now reminders of an era that once was.
You can listen to a few of the first recordings known to man below.
The first is that most famous recording of Thomas Edison reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. While this is often referred to as the first known recording ever, that’s not entirely accurate.
The second clip below comes courtesy of a A Frenchman named Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville.
He invented a device called the phonautograph, and, on April 9, 1860, recorded someone singing the words, “Au clair de la lune, Pierrot repondit.” But he never had any intention of playing it back. He just wanted to study the pattern the sound waves made on a sheet of paper blackened by the smoke of an oil lamp.
A group of researchers found some of his old phonautograph papers and used a computer program to play the recording.
You can listen to both clips below.