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Fun Facts about Audio

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By Katy Sommerfeld

Can you imagine a time before recorded sound? It’s difficult to picture, isn’t it? Today, audio is central to our lives. We all love to listen to music on our phones and in our cars. Podcasts are a huge source of entertainment and education. Movies would be nothing without sound today.

However, these capabilities were once nonexistent. So how did we get to where we are today?
Take a look at some of these historical audio facts to find out!

 

The first recorded sound.

Using his invention called the phonautograph, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville became the first person to ever record sound in the late 1850s. His phonautograph recorded sound graphically. A cone would take in the sound, and then the vibrations would be traced automatically onto paper. While this invention did not playback any sounds, it was the first in history to record sound vibrations. 


It is not certain which of Scott’s recordings counts as the first recorded sound because his earliest recordings are mostly unintelligible. The recording that is traditionally considered the first recognizable recorded sound was a snippet of a French folk song titled “Au Clair de la Lune.”


The first played back sound wouldn’t happen until 1877 with Thomas Edison’s “talking machine.” The phonograph, as it came to be known, was the first machine ever to be able to take in audio information and play it back audibly. The first words Edison ever spoke into his phonograph machine were “Mary had a little lamb.” Kind of sweet, right?

 

Bing Crosby, one of America’s favorite crooners, helped fund the invention of commercial reel-to-reel audio tape recorders.

After a meeting at MGM studios with engineer Jack Mullin, Bing Crosby invested $50,000 in the electronics company Ampex to support Mullin’s creation of a commercial model of the reel-to-reel tape recorder. With Mullin as his chief engineer, Crosby became the first American musician to master commercial recordings on tape. He also pre-recorded his radio programs using Mullin’s invention. The “White Christmas” singer sure was smart to invest in this technology!

 

Tape players were added to cars in the 1960s.

In 1965, Ford and Motorola joined forces to create an in-car 8-track player. This tape player model was an optional addition to 1966 Ford models. Before the 1960s, radio was the only audio entertainment available in cars. The first car radio was introduced in 1924 in Australia. For 40 years, people had to listen to the radio and couldn’t choose which artist to play while driving. Suddenly with the invention of an in-car tape player, that changed. We’re sure that lots of teens in the ‘60s and early ‘70s loved pushing a Beatles tape into their car tape players and jamming out with their friends. 

 

The Sony Walkman was invented out of the co-founder’s desire to listen to opera while on airplanes. 

After he had retired, Masaru Ibuka, co-founder of Sony, made a personal request to some of his contacts at the company. He wanted to enjoy the simple pleasure of being able to listen to opera music while in flight on an airplane. The request was easily fulfilled and the Walkman turned out to be a revolutionary product for Sony. Suddenly, people across the globe could listen to any type of music they wanted on airplanes, on buses, while working out, or just chilling at home. The Walkman was the first portable music player on the market. 



We all love music, podcasts, and the like, but we forget that once upon a time these things were not as accessible as they are now! If you wanted to hear music, you either had to pick up an instrument or go to the symphony. If you wanted to hear a lecture, you couldn’t just scroll through your podcast feed, you had to go to a college to hear someone talk in person. The invention of audio recording and playback was an amazing, world-changing invention. We have never been the same since Thomas Edison’s talking machine. Now, we have audio entertainment at our fingertips. Thanks, Edison, for your revolutionary invention!

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