April 8, 2002
11:30 AM   Subscribe

What's the oldest MP3 on the web? Not the first MP3 created by the Fraunhofer Institute, but the oldest recorded sound that's been turned into an MP3? Audio restorer Art Shifrin has a 1931 detective show; PBS offers some early recordings, including a 1919 track by Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band; but the reigning champeen seems to be Tinfoil.com, a website dedicated to early recordings, which features a largely unintelligible recording ripped from an 1878 "talking clock" recording.
posted by snarkout (15 comments total)
IF you're willing to accept technicalities, I'm sure there are MP3s out there of noise/background radioactivity from deep space, which by definition is billyuns and billyuns (® Sagan> of years old.
posted by aaron at 11:45 AM on April 8, 2002

Talking clock and other old sounds also mentioned back in this thread.
posted by gluechunk at 11:50 AM on April 8, 2002

I just found that thread, Gluechunk; my fault for not searching thoroughly enough. And here are are some space sounds for you, Aaron.
posted by snarkout at 11:51 AM on April 8, 2002

Thomas Edison can be heard reciting "Mary had a little lamb" (in WAV format) here. It's not clear whether this is the original first recording, however; the page notes that this was something that Edison "re-created and re-recorded on a number of occasions."
posted by pmurray63 at 11:55 AM on April 8, 2002

What about Victorian musical boxes?
posted by panopticon at 12:08 PM on April 8, 2002

Thanks for the great links. I am always amazed at the relatively high quality of these recordings. They must have seemed truly magical when they were created.

My wife and I got a demonstration of an original wax cylinder player at the Getty Center a few months ago. I was impressed with both the quality and the volume that could be achieved with these devices.

Edison has always intriqued me since I grew up in a town about 1/2 hour south of his birthplace in Milan, OH.
posted by dewelch at 12:08 PM on April 8, 2002

Yay, space sounds! Thanks snarkster.
posted by aaron at 12:10 PM on April 8, 2002

Not the first MP3 created by the Fraunhofer Institute

well then, so what was the first recorded sound to be converted into mp3 format? I'm interested.
posted by mkn at 1:43 PM on April 8, 2002

References I've seen peg the first MP3 as being Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner".
posted by snarkout at 1:58 PM on April 8, 2002

Yes, I've heard that also. The logic employed was that the human voice is difficult to record, so the a capella "Tom's Diner" was used while developing the format.
posted by pmurray63 at 2:19 PM on April 8, 2002

Yeah! Go Steve!
Those links have made my day.
posted by jokeefe at 4:09 PM on April 8, 2002

There is a recording made by Oscar Wilde (real audio), although it is most likely a hoax. Either way the recording must be is quite old. In a similar vein, a recording of Virginia Woolf's voice (wav) is available, as are excerpts from interviews with Evelyn Waugh. Neither are especially ancient, but are interesting all the same. I'd love to hear similar recordings.
posted by malpractice at 4:45 PM on April 8, 2002

Tinfoil.com kicks ass,snarkout. Thanks for the reminder, snarkout.
Many of these early recordings have been reissued on CD, and in turn have made it on to the file-sharing networks as .mp3's or .ogg's. The trick is to either use the year as a search term or pick a few artists from the Tinfoil roster and then browse the hard drive of any hits. Some of these have truckloads of great old stuff.
posted by jonmc at 8:19 PM on April 8, 2002

Uh this is obvious.

It'll be something like a Bach symphony or something, because all classical music is old, right? So, some Bach from the 1500s is probably the oldest sound in an MP3.
posted by wackybrit at 8:57 PM on April 8, 2002

Oh, I think there's something older than that. Whether there's an mp3 of it is another story.
posted by y2karl at 10:27 PM on April 8, 2002

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