The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song "Au Clair de la Lune" was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians. It was made, the researchers say, on April 9, 1860, on a phonautograph, a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. But the phonautograph recording, or phonautogram, was made playable — converted from squiggles on paper to sound — by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California
Earlier recordings have been played back, but they are not of good enough quality to pass for an authentic sound recording. This makes one wonder what else new technology can interpret from the past. http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/27/arts/27soun.php -via J-Walk Blog
(image credit: Isabelle Trocheris)
there was a lot of wrangling going on at the time about whether or not the squiggles on phonographs were actually a written language (in germany, a court ruled that they indeed were, and so subject to similar copyright laws). it's nice that we can get sound out of these inscriptions (i wonder if anyone will try it with a manometric flame capsule photograph), but it still doesn't really detract from what edison did, or pre-date him in any practical sense.