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1877 __ Paléophone — « Procédé d'enregistrement et de reproduction des phénomènes perçus par l'ouïe »
Charles Cros (1842-1888)
Comment : Charles Cros writes a paper for the Académie des Sciences in Paris (deposited there on 30 April but not opened until 5 December) about his idea for a PROCESS OF RECORDING AND OF REPRODUCING AUDIBLE PHENOMENA which 'consists in obtaining traces of the movements to-and-fro of a vibrating membrane and in using this tracing to reproduce the same vibrations, with their intrinsic relations of duration and intensity, either by means of the same membrane or some other one equally adapted to produce the sounds which result from this series of movements', using a disc as the recording medium. Cros could not secure funds to make and patent the idea.“Nature first gave man the reproduction of his own voice in the echo, and we can imagine his surprise and bewilderment at hearing his words repeated, perchance several times, for who among us has not experienced similar surprises though in this matter-of-fact scientific age, when everything is analyzed and explained, much of the charm of mystery is lost. Although echo showed the simplest reproduction of sound, without the aid of vocal organs, or still more complex mechanical devices, such as the puzzled brain of man has devised from time to time, yet it has taken all these years of patient plodding, occasionally assisted by some brilliant accident, to evolve the ultimate but simple device which should repeat these echoes indefinitely, thus surpassing nature in giving back. whenever called upon, the words uttered, storing the same in that fragile but ancient storehouse, where bees have ever placed their honeyed sweets-in simple wax. [...] One of the Chinese legation in Washington, on seeing the Graphophone, said they bad a legend in China about some fair woman, whose voice was so beautiful, that her children wished to preserve it for future generations to hear; they persuaded her to speak into a bamboo cane, carefully sealing the same. The cane was safely kept for several generations, and then opened at the proper end, when each word came out in order with all the original sweetness, but, unfortunately, could never be repeated. [...] Up to this point the apparatus as described would represent a modified Scott phonautograph in which the cylinder is replaced by a flat disc. M. Cros then continues: "By means of the photographic process which, in fact, is well known, this traced, transparent, undulatory spiral is converted into a line of similar dimensions, in intaglio or in relief, in resisting material like tempered steel, for instance, "This done, this resisting surface is, by means of a motor apparatus, made to turn and to progress rectilinearly with a velocity like that which was used in the registration. "If the reproduced tracing is in intaglio, a metallic point (and if it is in relief, a notched finger), held by a spring, bears upon the tracing at one end, and is connected at the other end with the centre of the membrane adapted for sound reproduction. Under these conditions, this membrane is not any more acted upon by the vibrating air, but by the tracing, controlling the pointed stylus by pulsations exactly like those to which the membrane was subjected in recording, both as to duration and intensity." This paper was only read in open session at the Academy on December 3, 1877, nevertheless to Charles Cros belongs the honor of having first suggested the idea of, and feasible plan for, mechanically reproducing speech once uttered. But meanwhile Mr. T. A. Edison appeared with the Phonograph. [...] The Graphophone [...] is propelled mechanically. The whole has been designed to attain the best results with the fewest parts, in absence of skilled attention. There is no electricity. An ordinary treadle like a sewing machine rotates a speed governor. This leather belt communicates a constant speed to the rotating wax cylinder. A diaphragm of mica carrying a steel graver, called the recorder, is mounted in a metal holder, which by means of a revolving screw traverses the wax cylinder, cutting a fine thread 160 to the inch, a mouth-piece attached to a flexible tube carries the sound vibrations to the diaphragm which causes the graver or style to cut into the wax a series of depressions more or less frequent, and varying in depth according to the sounds producing the vibrations. These undulations, while so slight as to be scarcely perceptible, can, nevertheless, produce in the diaphragm of the reproducer similar vibrations to the original sounds and give back, not once, but indefinitely, the words or sounds which were first recorded. The instrument can be instantly stopped or started at any time, whether recording or reproducing, by simply pressing the button with the finger. No adjustments are required by the user, the recorder and reproducer being mounted flexibly and so adapting themselves to any eccentricities of the wax cylinder. This is especially useful in the reproduction of damaged cylinders. I had an instance recently where one came to me through the post having, been opened and crushed. Nevertheless the delicate reproducer, with its flexible mountings was able to follow the original record, and reproduce every word distinctly. Great economy has been found in the use of a cardboard cylinder coated with wax instead of solid wax cylinders. They are more easily handled, less liable to fracture, and much better for postage, besides being cheaper than note paper, when the saving of time in writing is considered.”. (Henry Edmunds)Having limited funds, in April 1877 Cros put his ideas (for a paléophone) in writing, and deposited papers before Edison filed preliminary patents with the British government, and eight months before Edison's filings with the United States Patent Office. The only significant recognition Cros received that year was on October 10, 1877, when an article was published about Cros' findings in the magazine "La Semaine du Clergé" (published 1872-1881). By the time Cros demanded that the Academie open the sealed packet of papers and review his documents, a review which took place on December 3, 1877. Edison's advantage was secure. Thomas Edison's ideas and designs were being publicized, and within days his patents would be recognized as well. While the Cros design differed significantly from Edison's, he was working toward a similar concept. Much like Elisha Gray's telephone.Gray lost out in the patent race with Alexander Graham Bell by a few hours.Cros' ideas were lost in the success of Edison. Whether the Academie forgot to open Cros' envelope or Cros neglected to leave specific instructions is, pardon the expression, academic. In the century-old debate of who gets the credit for the phonograph, "let it be resolved by giving each his due : Charles Cros for being the first to conceive the phonograph, Thomas Edison for being the first to achieve it". (David Steffen)It was December 6, 1877. Eight months earlier, Charles Cros, a Parisian writer, bohemian, inventor, and absinthe drinker had deposited a sealed envelope with the Academy of Sciences. It contained an essay on the "Procedure for the recording and reproduction of phenomena of acoustic perception" ("Procédé d'enregistrement et de reproduction des phénomènes perçus par l'ouïe"). With great technological elegance this text formulated all the principles of the phonograph, but due to a lack of funds Cros had not yet been able to bring about its "practical realisation." "To reproduce" the traces of "the sounds and noises", which the "to and fro" of an acoustically "vibrating diaphragm" is leaving on a rotating disk -- that was also the program of Charles Cros. But once he had been preceded by Edison, who was aware of rumours of the invention, things sounded differently. "Inscription" is the title of the poem with which Cros erected a belated monument to honor his inventions, which included an automatic telephone, color photography and, above all, the phonograph: « Comme les traits dans les camées / J'ai voulu que les voix aimées / Soient un bien qu'on garde à jamais, / Et puissent répeter le rêve / Musical de l'heure trop brève; / Le temps veut fuir, je le soumets. » (Like the faces in cameos / I wanted beloved voices / To be a fortune which one keeps forever, / And which can repeat the musical / Dream of the too short hour; / Time would flee, I subdue it). The program of the poet Cros, in his capacity as inventor of the phonograph, was to store beloved voices and all-too brief musical reveries. The wondrously resistant power of writing: it ensures that the poem has no words for the truth about competing technologies. Certainly, phonographs can store articulate voices and musical intervals, but they are capable of more and different things. Cros, the poet, forgets the noises mentioned in his precise prose text. An invention which subverts both literature and music (because it reproduces the unimaginable real they are both based on), must have struck even its inventor as something unheard of. Hence, it was not coincidental that Edison, not Cros, actually built the phonograph. His "Hullo!" was no beloved voice and Mary Had a Little Lamb no musical revery. And he did not only scream into the bell-mouth because phonographs have no amplifiers, but also because Edison (following an youthful adventure involving some conductor's fists) was half deaf. A physical impairment was at the beginning of mechanical sound recording--just as the first typewriters had been made by the blind for the blind and Charles Cros had taught at a school for the deaf and mute. [...] The poet Charles Cros may have immortalized the invention of his phonograph, precisely because he was never able to build it, in lyrical rhymes under the proud title Inscription-- [...] (Friedrich Kittler)
French comment : En avril 1877 surtout, il formulait le principe d'un appareil de reproduction des sons qu'il nomma paléophone. Son document, présenté à l'Académie des sciences, suggérait que les vibrations sonores pouvaient êtres gravées dans du métal à l'aide d'un crayon rattaché à une membrane vibrante, et que, par la suite, en faisant glisser un stylet rattaché à une membrane sur cette gravure on parviendrait à reproduire le son initial. Avant que Charles Cros n'eût la possibilité de suivre son idée voire de construire un prototype, Thomas Edison, aux États-Unis, mettait au point le premier phonographe. Les deux hommes ne connaissaient pas leurs travaux respectifs. (Compiled from various sources)Enregistrer les sons puis les reproduire au moyen d'un appareil est une quête fort ancienne. Alors qu'il séjourne à Sablé au début de 1877, Charles Cros rédige une courte note, « Procédé d'enregistrement et de reproduction des phénomènes perçus par l'ouïe », dans laquelle il expose le principe de ce qu'il nomme « Paléophone » (« voix du passé ») : « Un index léger est solidaire du centre de figure d'une membrane vibrante ; il se termine par une pointe [...] qui repose sur une surface noircie à la flamme. Cette surface fait corps avec un disque animé d'un double mouvement de rotation et de progression rectiligne. » Le système est réversible : lorsqu'on fait repasser la pointe dans le sillon, la membrane restitue le signal acoustique original. Il envoie cette note sous pli cacheté à l'Académie des sciences, qui l'enregistre le 30 avril. Le 10 octobre, un certain Leblanc (en fait l'abbé Lenoir) publie dans La Semaine du Clergé une chronique consacrée à l'invention de Charles Cros : il explique le fonctionnement et l'utilité de cet appareil « que nous appellerions, si nous étions appelé à en être le parrain, le phonographe ». Le mot est lancé. (Encyclopedia Universalis)
Source : Edmunds, Henry (1888), “The Graphophone", paper read 7 September, 1888, at Section G of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Bath Meeting, copy in the Tainter Papers, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington, D. C..
Source : Steffen, David J. (2005), "From Edison to Marconi: the first thirty years of recorded music", McFarland, pp. 21-23.
Source : Kittler, Friedrich A. (1986), “Grammophon Film Typewriter”, Berlin: Brinkmann & Bose; and also, “Gramophone, Film, Typewriter”, translated by Geoff Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.
Urls : http://history.sandiego.edu/GEN/recording/cros.html (last visited ) http://history.sandiego.edu/GEN/recording/ar312.html (last visited ) http://www.phonozoic.net/n0135.htm (last visited ) http://www.stanford.edu/class/history34q/readings/Kittler/GramFilmTypwriter/Kittler_Gramophone.html (last visited )

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