Whenever technology makes a major leap ahead, there are some teething pains. We’d throw the (very large) computer out the window if we had to use dial up internet today, and the first iPhone probably falls into the ‘brick’ category now. The same thing is true of technology that we all take for granted today, like the ability to record. Last night I heard the first recording of a human voice, and boy howdy am I grateful for today’s recordings.
The recording is from April 1860, and it’s a 10 second clip of someone singing a French folk song called ‘Au Clair de la Lune’. Before we go any further, here it is:
Horrifying, right? But probably the most exciting thing that had ever happened to the guy who recorded it. He was a French guy named Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville, and he recorded the clip on to paper using a phonautograph – a very early invention that recorded sounds visually.
The bit of paper that this clip was recorded on was discovered by Parisian researchers in 2008. It looked like a bit of paper with squiggles in all honesty, but through the magic of modern technology, scientists managed to play it again.
Because people are amazing, some even managed to correct the audio a bit. Here’s what it sounds like with some sound restoration – by the end it actually just sounds like an old-timey song being sung, minus all the horror.
People are amazing, and Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville was well ahead of his time. But for reasons I can’t quite put a finger on, that original muffled audio for the first ever voice recording is going to be the soundtrack to all my nightmares for the rest of my life.
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