Alexander Graham Bell's voice captured from old recordings

After 128 years, new technology brings the great inventor's voice back to life.

Alexander Graham Bell makes the first call between New York and Chicago in 1892. AT&T

Alexander Graham Bell is known for inventing the telephone; but for someone so associated with sound, it's curious that no one living has actually ever heard the tenor of his voice.

However, as of Wednesday, anyone can hear what he sounded like. New technology has brought a 128-year-old recording made by Bell back to life, according to Smithsonian magazine.

The artifact, a wax and cardboard disc, has most likely been unplayable for at least a century. According to Smithsonian, Bell worked on several different ways to record sound, including using foil, wax, glass, paper, plaster, metal, and cardboard. Not much is known about how the inventor and his associates actually played their recordings.

The National Museum of American History has some of the earliest sound recordings in the world and has been working to unleash the words spoken on these disks for years. When it realized it had the Bell recording within its collection, the museum enlisted a group of scientists to extract the sound.

Using new 3D imaging technology to scan the disc and then transfer the information to a computer, the scientists were finally able to capture Bell's voice.

While the sound is muddled, full of static, and a bit hard to decipher, it's still astounding to hear Bell speaking more than a century ago. With six succinct words, he declares, "Hear my voice -- Alexander Graham Bell."

The recording is heard in this video:

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About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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