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1877 __ English Patent Office records. No. 2909 -- July 30th
Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)
Comment : John Krusei, the man who made the first phonograph, died in 1899, but his voice is still preserved among hundreds of other records in the store closets of the Orange laboratory. Edison has often affirmed that Krusei was the cleverest mechanic who ever worked for him, and it was in no small way due to him that the invention of the phonograph was brought to so speedy and successful an issue. He made a rough sketch of his model and handed it to one of his assistants, John Krusei, to construct. He was wonderfully quick at grasping the principles of any new discovery, and was an adept at making models which would perform all the duties expected of them. The story is that Krusei stuck to it for thirty hours on end and finished it. Then, standing in his laboratory, with his assistants round him, Edison slowly turned the handle and spoke into the receiver the first verse of "Mary had a little lamb." The cylinder was turned back to the starting point, and there came, like an echo, the words which Edison had first spoken. Next day the inventor took the model down to the office of the Scientific American, and it is on record that no invention.not even Bell’s first telephone.produced such a sensation as this first crude talking machine. The patent for the phonograph was applied for on Christmas Eve, 1877. (Compiled from various sources)07/17/1877 : Technical Notes and Drawings Telephone, by Charles Batchelor, James Adams, James and Thomas Alva Edison -- While working on the telephone, Edison thought about the need to record messages in order to automatically repeat them over long distances and also to provide a permanent record. Thus, in July 1877, he conducted his first experiment recording sound by putting a needle on a telephone diaphragm and using it to emboss waxed paper. Finding that the sound "vibrations are indented nicely," he concluded, "there’s no doubt that I shall be able to store up & reproduce automatically at any future time the human voice perfectly." Never lacking for confidence, six months later he successfully recorded "Mary had a Little Lamb" on his new cylinder phonograph. In January 1878, Edison was able to convince investors connected with the Bell Telephone Company to form the Edison Speaking Phonograph Company and invest $10,000 in research and development of the phonograph. Although he spent the first half of 1878 working to improve the tinfoil phonograph, it remained a novelty. Not until Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter developed wax recording at Bell's Volta laboratory in the 1880s did Edison again take up sound recording. By the end of the century, using the resources of his research laboratory, he successfully improved the technology of sound recording and turned it into a commercially viable industry. (Paul Israel, "Edison's Laboratory", In "History Now - American History Online", Quarterly Journal, Issue 10, December 2006)First U.S. Patent on the phonograph filed in the United States, December 24, 1877 granted February 19, 1878, No. 200,521.The first patent on the phonograph was filed in the United States, December 24, 1877, and was granted February 19, 1878, No. 200,521. Prior to this, however, in an application filed in Great Britain on July 30, 1877, No. 2909, Edison disclosed not only a cylinder phonograph, but also an apparatus embodying his original conception of an embossed strip. Under these circumstances, perhaps, it is not unreasonable that Great Britain should now possess Krusei's original model, though its loss is one which America will doubtless deplore in years to come. The phonograph has been described as the simplest machine ever invented there is absolutely no complicated mechanism of any kind in its make-up yet it is difficult to believe this when confronted by a description subsequently given in a court of law when "infringements" began to come in with that customary regularity attendant upon every new and successful invention. A document was filed describing the "talking machine" in a way which made the inventor smile. "The phonograph," it declared, "is a machine for recording and reproducing sound, and from a commercial standpoint consists of two articles, one of which is commonly known to the public as the 'phonograph' and the other as the 'record/ The 'phonograph,' as designated by the public aforesaid, consists practically of a lathe mechanism, having a revolving shaft to which is attached a tapering mandrel, connected by intermediate gearing, with which is a frame arrangement to move longitudinally with the shaft as the shaft revolves; in this frame may be placed either of two apparatuses which are called respectively a 'recorder' and a 'reproducer.' Each of these consists of a glass diaphragm to which by intermediate mechanism is attached either a cutting-point or a reproducing-point ; the mechanism having attached to it a cutting-point is called a 'recorder,' and the one having attached to it a reproducing-point is called the 'reproducer.' "The record referred to consists of a tubular tablet or record blank of metallic soap, cylindrical on its exterior, and having a tapering bore suitable to be placed in the tapering mandrel. When this tablet or blank is placed on the mandrel, and the recorder is put in operative relation with it, and sound-waves are directed against the diaphragm of the recorder, and the mandrel is revolving, the sound-waves are on the tablet in the shape of a helical groove with indentations and elevations in the bottom of the groove corresponding to the sound-waves. The tablet with this record of sound upon it becomes a record as the word is used by the public. When the sounds so recorded are to be reproduced the same operation is repeated, except that a reproducer is substituted for a recorder." On reading this lucid and interesting description, Edison said it made his head swim, and that he never before realized what a wonderful and remarkable invention the phonograph really was. The document deserved to be placed in the archives of phonographic curiosities. On the model of the first phonograph about fifty other machines were built, but these were almost all destroyed in subsequent experiments. Early in his work of perfecting his invention Edison discovered that tinfoil was practically worthless as a recorder it did not retain the impression accurately, and after being used once or twice was useless. So he turned his attention to discovering a new and better composition on which to record sound-waves. Wax immediately suggested itself, but after experimenting with many kinds he was convinced that a pure product was not what he was looking for. He studied works on the subject of animal and vegetable oils, and obtained samples of almost every known fat in the Old and New Worlds. Then he set half-a-dozen men to work melting, blending, and mixing a hundred different varieties, and finally obtained a combination of waxes which seemed to answer his purpose. But the stuff was costly, and in order to economize it he made the cylinders of paper and covered them with the wax to a depth of about an eighth of an inch. The result was good records, but the cylinders were very fragile, and considerable care had to be taken in handling them. Edison was not satisfied. He saw with the eye of a practical man that the phonograph to be popular must be furnished with records capable of withstanding a certain amount of free usage, and this convinced him that a composition cylinder was the thing he wanted, so he discarded wax and tried stearate of soda. The result was all that he had looked for, and the Edison record as we know it to-day is made of a combination of ingredients which much resembles soap. Stearin, it may be mentioned, is, according to Webster, "one of the proximate principles of animal fat, as lard, tallow, and the like. The various kinds of animal fat commonly consist of two substances, principally stearin and elain, of which the former is solid and the latter liquid. In particular instances several other different and distinct proximate principles are found in animal fats." Readers may be glad to remember this when next listening to an Edison record !. (Francis Arthur Jones)In this specification, among other things, it was proposed to obtain a record of vocal and other sounds by causing the movements of a diaphragm to be registered on chemically prepared paper or soft metal, and to use this paper or metal, to reproduce the sounds by acting on a diaphragm. (The claims relating to this part of the invention were abandoned by a disclaimer, filed Aug. 17,1882.) 4847. Dec. 20th, 1877. Me. Evoy. This specification relates to the construction of telephones. and refers to a diagram showing the telephone combined with phonograph, but gives no particulars as to the construction of the latter. (Patent void.) 4934. Dec. 29th, 1877.C. W. Harrison. This invention relates to electric telephones, and the inventor states that a record of the sounds may be obtained by taking the current through the coils of an electro magnet carrying a point on its armature to indent a movable surface. (Patent void.) 1664 April 24th, 1878, T. A. Edison. (Patent void.) Here Mr. Edison proposes a backing of wax, or yielding material, instead of a grooved surface, in order to support the metal foil which received the indentation. The term indenting, as used by Mr. Edison throughout his patent specifications, clearly means the action of embossing the material without the removal of any part of it, as in forming a record in tinfoil by pressing upon it with a style. But that be did not believe in the practicability of his Phonograph is shown by the fact that this patent was allowed to lapse in April 24, 1885, in consequence of non-payment of 100 pound fee, just at the period of the completion of the experiments of the Volta Laboratory Association.Ten years after inventing the phonograph Edison wrote an article on the subject for the pages of the North American Review.
French comment : Le français Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville avait déjà enregistré des sons sur papier en 1859 inventant ainsi la phonoautographie mais c'est en 1877 qu'Edison achève la construction du premier véritable phonographe capable d'enregistrer et de réécouter la voix humaine et du son, qu'il perfectionne avec le temps (Cylindre phonographique d'acier couvert d'une feuille en étain et d'une aiguille qui grave puis lit 2 minutes de sons recueillis ou diffusés par un cornet acoustique). Les versions suivantes de cet appareil sont à la base de la colossale industrie de la musique enregistrée. En 1878 lors d'une partie de pêche au « lac Battle » de la Sierra Madre dans le Wyoming, il observe à quel point les fibres d'un morceau de bambou (de sa canne à pêche) jeté au feu brillaient sans se désintégrer. Cette observation lui inspira l'idée d'un filament brillant à l'intérieur d'une ampoule incandescente. (Compiled from various sources)En travaillant sur le téléphone et le télégraphe, Edison a touché involontairement un nouveau filon : l'enregistrement sonore. Ironiquement, celui qui s'intéresse à cette invention souffre de surdité partielle précoce. Voici comment le principe de l'enregistrement sonore lui est venu : « Je chantais dans le récepteur d'un téléphone lorsque les vibrations de ma voix firent bouger la fine pointe de métal qui vint me piquer le doigt. Je me suis dit : si je pouvais graver le mouvement de cette pointe sur une surface et ensuite faire repasser la pointe sur cette surface, je suis convaincu que cette chose parlerait ! » Edison reprend le principe de Scott de Martinville, mais recouvre le cylindre d'une mince feuille d'étain sur laquelle il est possible d'enregistrer la voix humaine et de la reproduire au moyen du même appareil. Construit selon ses spécifications par John Kruesi (1843-1899), son chef machiniste, le premier modèle de "phonograph" sort le 6 décembre 1877 des ateliers de Menlo Park. Le terme "phonograph" était déjà utilisé depuis des années pour désigner un système de sténographie inventé par Isaac Pittman. Après l'obtention d'un brevet américain (no. 200.521) le 19 février 1878, deux représentants d'Edison, messieurs Beet et Puskas, soumettent l'invention, le 11 mars suivant, à l'Académie des sciences de Paris. Bien qu'intéressants et prometteurs, les résultats ne sont pas probants. Le son est sourd et l'appareil se révèle incapable de reproduire certaines syllables (surtout les "s"). Non seulement la feuille d'étain se détériore après deux ou trois lectures, mais on ne peut la retirer sans l'endommager irrémédiablement. D'ailleurs, lorsque Charles Cros prend connaissance des caractéristiques de l'appareil d'Edison, il le félicite pour son prototype mais lui recommande d'utiliser un autre matériau que l'étain et lui conseille de s'orienter vers la gravure "transversale" (latérale), qui lui semble plus prometteuse. L'inventeur fit sa première démonstration publique à New York devant F.C. Beach, l'éditeur de la revue "Scientific American". Lorsque ce dernier tourna la manivelle du cylindre, il entendit "Good morning ! What do you think of the Phonograph ?" (Bonjour ! Que pensez-vous du phonographe ?). L'appareil fut présenté Sénat américain et le président Hayes fit faire une démonstration en pleine nuit pour ses invités. Les journaux du lendemain titraient : "La plus grande invention de notre temps : une machine qui parle !". Cette nouvelle invention apparut à plusieurs comme une vaste fumisterie. On soupçonnait Edison d'être ventriloque ! Mais le phonographe de 1878 est d'abord et avant tout un exploit technique et est incapable de réaliser les applications que son créateur imagine déjà : le dictaphone, le livre parlant, l'aide pédagogique, la conservations des souvenirs d'êtres chers ou de personnages importants, la mémoire des civilisations autochtones et l'enregistrement des grans airs de l'époque. (Robert Thérien, "L"histoire de l'enregistrement sonore au Québec et dans le monde 1878-1950, Chap. 1, "Les Machines Parlantes", Québec : Les Presses de l'Université Laval, 2003, pp. 6-7)17 juillet 1877 : Conception d'un enregistreur téléphonique -- La même année que Charles Cros, le 17 juillet 1877, Thomas A Edison décrit un appareil qui enregistre un message télégraphique sur du papier qui ensuite pouvait être envoyé de nouveau par télégraphie. Il en conclut qu'un message téléphonique peut être enregistré de la même manière. On a là l' exemple d' une fécondation croisée de deux techniques, celle du télégraphe et du téléphone. Le matin suivant, il se rend compte qu'il n'enregistre pas seulement un message mais un son.18.- Juillet 1877 : Esquisse d'un "appareil parlant" -- Une fois esquissé, il fera réalisé le prototype par son assistant John Kruesi du 4 au 6 décembre 1877 [Edison fait en novembre 1877 un croquis sur la base duquel un de ses ouvriers aurait fabriqué un premier appareil : la phrase-test est le début d’une comptine enfantine américaine, « Mary had a little lamb ». Les premiers brevets datent de décembre 1877 et les premières applications de janvier 1878; la première démonstration publique a lieu le 17 janvier 1878. (BNF, 2009)]. Thomas A Edison teste alors la nouvelle machine en chantant "Mary had a little lamb." A sa grande surprise, la " machine parlante " répèta la chanson. Il en fit ensuite la démonstration dans les bureaux du Scientific American à New York City qui relate l'évènement dans son édition du 22 décembre 1877. Auparavent, Thomas A Edison avait déposé sa demande de brevet le 19 décembre pour son "phonographe". Le brevet fut accepté le 17 fèvrier 1878 et décrivait un appareil très simple. Les ondes acoustiques faisaient vibrer la membrane et l'aiguille traçait sur la surface d'un cylindre rotatif de 4 pouces de diamètre revêtu d'une feuille d'étain, un sillon de profondeur inégale. La vitesse de rotation était d'environ 60 tours par minute. Lorsqu'on faisait tourner le cylindre avec l'enregistrement, l'aiguille se déplaçait dans le sillon en suivant ce qui était gravé ; elle faisait ainsi vibrer la membrane, dont les vibrations étaient ensuite transmises à l'air. Ce premier modèle présentait cependant trois désavantages importants : 1) Le son enregistré sur le cylindre ne pouvait être reproduit convenablement qu'une seule fois, car la reproduction le détériorait. Thomas A Edison, remplace alors en 1888, la feuille d'étain trop fragile par une couche de cire et plus tard de gomme laque. On pouvait ainsi entendre plusieurs fois le même enregistrement. 2) Il fallait tourner régulièrement la manivelle pendant toute la reproduction pour assurer la rotation continue du cylindre, ce qui représentait une tâche fatigante. Dès 1888, Thomas A Edison, complète le phonographe d' un système d' horlogerie. Une vitesse de 90 tours/minute était réservée à la voix et de 120 t/mn ou de 160t/mn à la musique. Le diamètre des rouleaux passa de 4 pouces à 2 pouces et leur longueur se fixa à 4 pouces. Il y avait 100 sillons par pouces et la durée d’audition avoisinait les deux minutes. 3) Enfin le son enregistré sur le cylindre était un original qui ne pouvait pas être recopié. En 1888, Edison élimine les deux premiers inconvénients, il remplace la feuille d'étain qui recouvrait le cylindre par une couche plus résistante de cire, et plus tard de gomme-laque, de sorte que le son enregistré sur le cylindre pouvait être reproduit plusieurs fois. Deuxièmement, il complète le phonographe d'un mouvement d'horlogerie, de sorte qu'il suffisait de tendre son ressort au moyen d'une manivelle, pour que l'appareil enclenché fonctionne automatiquement. La vitesse de rotation variait de 90 tours/minutes pour la voix à 120 ou 160 tours/minute pour la musique. Malheureusement, les phonogrammes ainsi produits ne pouvaient pas être reproduits de telles sorte qu' une batterie de phonographes devait être utilisée lors des enregistrements. (J.F. Doucet)Gr. VI - Cl. 65 -- Phonographe.Le 31 juillet 1877, M. Edison faisait breveter un appareil destiné à enregistrer les signaux Morse pour pouvoir les transmettre ensuite automatiquemen plusieurs fois de suite. Sur un cylindre métallique, animé d'un mouvement de rotation continu, est gravée une rainure en spirale ; au-dessus de la rainure un styler gaufre une feuille de papier. Pour transmettre une dépêche composée de cette façon, il suffit d'engager dans la rainure l'extrémité d'un levier commutateur, pouvant mettre, lorsqu'il oscillera et à chacune de ses oscillations, la ligne en communication avec une pile ; il faut ensuite faire tourner le cylindre, préalablement ramené à son point de départ, la feuille de papier étant placée de manière à gouverner par son gaufrage les oscillations du levier commutateur. Pour enregistrer les paroles au lieu de signaux Morse, M. Edison a fixé le styler à un diaphragme analogue à celui du téléphone, et il a remplacé la feuille de papier par une feuille d'étain. Si maintenant on ramène le cylindre à son point de départ et qu'on le fasse tourner avec la même vitesse, la pointe du styler repasse sur toutes les traces de la voix, le daiphrageme subit à nouveau toutes les vibrations enregistrées dans leur ordre et avec leurs intensités, et il répète les sons articulés, tels qu'il les avait d'abord recueillis. On assurait que M. Edison était parvenu à enregistrer avec le phonographe les dépêches téléphoniques et à les réexpédier de même que les signaux Morse. Le phonographe, qui n'a aujourd'hui rien de télégraphique, deviendrai alors un véritable instrument de transmission. M. Edison n'a pas encore fait connaître les procédés qui l'auraient conduit à ce résultat. (In "Rapport sur le Matériel et les Procédés de la Télégraphie", Exposition Universelle de 1878 à Paris, Groupe VI - Classe 65, par M. Bergon, Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1881, p. 8)
Original excerpt : « In the phonograph, we find an illustration of the truth that human speech is governed by the laws of number, harmony, and rhythm. And by these laws we are now able to register all sorts of sounds and all articulating utterances even to the lightest shades and variations of the voice in lines or dots which are an absolute equivalent for the emission of sound by the lips ; so that, through this contrivance, we can cause these lines and dots to give forth again the sound of the voice, of music, and all other sounds recorded by them, whether audible or inaudible. For it is a very extraordinary fact that, while the deepest tone that our ears are capable of recognizing is one containing sixteen vibrations a second, the phonograph will record ten or less, and can then raise the pitch until we hear a reproduction of them. Similarly, vibrations above the highest rate audible to the ear can be recorded by the phonograph and then reproduced by lowering the pitch until we actually hear the record of these inaudible pulsations. To make the idea of the recording of sound more clear, let me remark one or two points. We have all been struck by the precision with which even the faintest sea-waves impress upon the surface of a beach the fine, sinuous line which is formed by the rippling edge of their advance. Almost as familiar is the fact that grains of sand sprinkled on a smooth surface of glass or wood on or near a piano sift themselves into various lines and curves according to the vibrations of the melody played on the piano keys. These things indicate how easily the particles of solid matter may receive an imparted motion, or take an impression, from delicate liquid waves, air-waves, or waves of sound. Yet, well known though these phenomena were, they apparently never suggested until within a few years that the sound-waves set going by a human voice might be so directed as to trace an impression upon some solid substance with a nicety equal to that of the tide recording its flow upon a sand beach. My own discovery that this could be done came to me almost accidentally while I was busy with experiments having a different object in view. I was engaged upon a machine intended to repeat Morse characters which were recorded on paper by indentations that transferred their message to another circuit automatically when passed under a tracing-point connected with a circuit-closing apparatus. In manipulating this machine I found that when the cylinder carrying the indented paper was turned with great swiftness, it gave off a humming noise from the indentations a musical, rhythmic sound resembling that of human talk heard indistinctly. This led me to try fitting a diaphragm to the machine, which would receive the vibrations or sound-waves made by my voice when I talked to it, and register these vibrations upon an impressible material placed on the cylinder. The material selected for immediate use was paraffined paper, and the results obtained were excellent. The indentations on the cylinder, when rapidly revolved, caused a repetition of the original vibrations to reach the ear through a recorder, just as if the machine itself were speaking. I saw at once that the problem of registering human speech so that it could be repeated by mechanical means as often as might be desired was solved. » (Thomas A. Edison)
Source : Jones, Francis Arthur (1907), “Thomas Alva Edison, Sixty years of an inventor’s life”, New York : Thomas Y. Cromwell & Co publishers, pp. 135-141.
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..
Urls : http://history.sandiego.edu/GEN/recording/ar312.html (last visited ) http://www.archive.org/stream/thomasalvaedison00jonerich/thomasalvaedison00jonerich_djvu.txt (last visited ) http://edison.rutgers.edu/NamesSearch/SingleDoc.php3?DocId=NV12016 (last visited ) http://www.jf-doucet.com/approche/Personnes/Inventeurs/INVENTEURSGALERIE/PAGES/Edison.htm (last visited ) http://blog.bnf.fr/voix/index.php/2009/05/05/les-inventeurs-thomas-alva-edison/%20/l%20more-211 (last visited ) http://www.gilderlehrman.org/historynow/12_2006/historian5.php (last visited ) http://cnum.cnam.fr/CGI/gpage.cgi?p1=8&p3=8XAE277-11.2%2F100%2F74%2F0%2F0 (last visited )

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