1806 English physician and naturalist Thomas Young , records vibrations of a tuning fork on a rotating drum covered with wax. There was no way at the time to play this recording back.

1857 The phonoautograph is developed by French Researcher Leon Scott de Martinville . The device translates air pressure fluctuations caused by sound into a wavy line on a sooty surface by means of a large horn, a diaphragm and a pig's hair. This transcript, recorded on a rotating cylinder, is, however, unable to replay sound.

1877 Another Frenchman, Charles Cros , draws up plans for a machine that not only has the ability to record sound but also to reproduce it. Cros, an artist and a poet could not be taken seriously enough by financiers and struggled to gain the capital to turn his ideas into reality. The plans were left on the shelf.

1877 Self taught success story Thomas Edison is experimenting with a new telegraph devise when he accidentally runs indented tin foil under a stylus. The resulting speech like noise encourages him to develop an instrument that can both record and reproduce sound. By the end of the year Edison has produced the first working phonograph able to 'store' and playback sound.

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1850-1879 Vibrations to Phonographs

In this digital, multimedia age it's easy to forget that just over 100 years ago we lived in a world where 'media' consisted entirely of ink marks on paper. The reproduction of sound and vision was in its infancy and so, in the words of our elders and betters, you had to make your own entertainment. Yet, the mid-nineteenth century was a period of feverish invention, as previous discoveries in the fields of physics and chemistry were combined by latter-day alchemists such as Thomas Edison into practical applications for modern living.

The field of visual reproduction was well underway by the 1850s with the invention of the photogravure and, subsequently, photography, but the place of recorded music in the home had yet to be addressed. It was still nights gathered around the family piano! Ironically the solution came, not as a way to create a means of mass home entertainment, but as a by-product of the burgeoning telecommunications market.

A lot of the groundwork had already been done in the development of recorded sound. But Thomas Edison was the first to grasp and exploit the commercial potential. He was looking for a way to build on the work of commercial inventors such as Elisha Grey and Alexander Graham Bell. His concept was, in fact, an early answerphone to help businessmen record and play back telephone messages and dictation. In 1877 he devised and patented a simple machine that could record and replay the human voice, if somewhat crudely. The first recording was made with an indented stylus attached to a diaphragm which, in turn, was hooked up to a telephone speaker. A strip of paraffin coated paper was run underneath the stylus while Edison shouted into the speaker, leaving an indentation in the paper. As the paper was pulled back under the stylus the faint sound of his voice could be heard.

Later that year the prototype was developed into the phonograph, a cylinder covered with tin foil rotated by means of a hand turned screw. Edison's initial plans consisted of three formats to store and record sound; the tape, the cylinder and the disc. If his own choice had become the dominant format this history would be short indeed - he chose the cylinder. Luckily other names were about to enter the arena and Edison's attention was now directed towards another minor technological development: the light bulb.

Courtesy of BBC website

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