The World's Oldest Recordings To Be Brought Back to Life


| LAST UPDATE 01/16/2023

By Amie Alfaro
Telephone Alexander Graham Bell
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The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has announced a new endeavor they are embarking on for all to listen – literally. They will restore hundreds of the world’s first sound recordings. Here's a closer look.

Alexander Graham Bell was most famous for inventing the telephone. However, he had come up with many other inventions, including the graphophone and the metal detector. Bell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1847. His destiny to invent the telephone seemed to be written for him. His mother had been nearly deaf, and his father was a professor of speech elocution for the deaf at the University of Edinburgh. Upon moving to Boston, Massachusetts, Bell began teaching deaf students and eventually fell in love with one of his students, Mabel Hubbard. The Smithsonian’s latest project will offer an exclusive look into Alexander Graham Bell’s inventions and voice for the first time since his passing in 1922. The project started from a breakthrough made by Smithsonian researchers back in 2013. They managed to recover what was considered an unplayable recording of Alexander Graham Bell.

Alexander Graham Bell Invention
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Now the museum has announced that they will be restoring hundreds of recordings made by Bell and his researchers between 1881 and 1892 at the Volta Laboratory in Washington, D.C., as well as recordings made at Bell’s residence in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. The project is called “Hearing History: Recovering Sound from Alexander Graham Bell’s Experimental Records.” The project will begin in the Fall. The team of researchers working on this fascinating initiative will be utilizing a new technique they developed to hear the recordings. They use computers to create a digital scan of the cardboard-and-wax discs that Bell and his colleagues used to record themselves. After scanning, the software uses a virtual stylus to move over the grooves and reproduces the recordings as a digital audio file. More than a century after Bell made the first phone call to his laboratory assistant, saying, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you,” the world will finally be able to hear his voice.

Bell revolutionized how we communicate, and now this initiative will help further our understanding of the great inventor. Read the full statement release about the project from the Smithsonian for more information.

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