World's Oldest Recording Goes Digital

The century-old soundbite was made on an early Edison prototype
By Liam Carnahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 25, 2012 10:47 AM CDT

(Newser) – It's not exactly a masterpiece, but a 78-second soundbite that's now been captured by computers (and YouTube) is perhaps the oldest known playable recording of a piece of music, and one of the first American voices to ever be replayed, dating all the way back to 1878, reports the AP. The short cornet solo and readings of two nursery rhymes—Old Mother Hubbard and Mary Had a Little Lamb—were originally recorded on a machine developed by Thomas Edison, which used a flimsy piece of tinfoil and a stylus to capture sounds.

Most of these types of recordings were too delicate to be restored, but researchers have found a way to transfer the sounds from one surviving piece of tinfoil onto a computer. Listen closely for the first known recorded blooper—the man reading the second rhyme messes up the words, and says, "Look at me; I don't know the song." (Read more Thomas Edison stories.)

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