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The Roadmap to Saving the Sounds of America, Though the Road is Bumpy

The National Recording Preservation Board was mandated by the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, but it didn't have a preservation plan in place to address saving everything from the oldest tin foil recordings (prev) to recent "born digital" creations. That changed with the National Recording Preservation Plan (full 89 page PDF). Except, "the recording preservation provisions under current law are so restrictive you literally can't make — legally — a digital copy of an older analog recording without permissions which are very hard to get" (NPR). [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Feb 15, 2013 - 8 comments

Listening to the past, recorded on tin foil and glass, for the first time in over a century

Towards the end of the 1800s, there were three primary American groups competing to invent technology to record and play back audio. Alexander Graham Bell worked with with Charles Sumner Tainter and Chichester Bell in at their Volta Laboratory in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., while Thomas A. Edison worked from his Menlo Park facilities, and Emile Berliner worked in his independent laboratory in his home. To secure the rights to their inventions, the three groups sent samples of their work to the Smithsonian. These recordings became part of the permanent collections, now consisting of 400 of the earliest audio recordings ever made. But knowledge of their contents was limited to old, short descriptions, as the rubber, beeswax, glass, tin foil and brass recording media are fragile, and playback devices might damage the recordings, if such working devices are even available. That is, until a collaborative project with the Library of Congress and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory came together to make 2D and 3D optical scanners, capable of visually recording the patterns marked on discs and cylinders, respectively. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Feb 10, 2012 - 21 comments

123-year-old recording of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, recited it with feeling and expression

The Phonograph Doll was the first attempt at making a talking doll, invented by Thomas Edison. The doll utilized a miniature phonograph to talk, and was possibly the first audio recordings for commercial purposes. An example of the (now 123 year-old) talking doll was found in 1967 in Edison's New Jersey workshop, which is now a National Historic Park and museum. Recently, the warped metal cylinder was optically scanned and re-created, providing a 12-second clip of the oldest known recording of a woman's voice. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Jul 8, 2011 - 22 comments

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