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132 years of audio history

Some say Thomas Edison invented the first machine to record and play sound in 1877. Video Interchange collects a small but illuminating overview of the history of audio formats.

Before analog tape was invented, recorders like this used wire.
Video Interchange

Legend has it that on December 4, 1877, Thomas Edison was the first person to record and play back the human voice. Maybe not.

The Video Interchange site notes that "a possibility exists that Edison himself, in fact, might not have been the very first person to have recorded and played back the human voice. This was most likely made by his two key assistants: Charles Batchelor, his chief assistant, and John Kruesi, his head machinist."

You can see Edison's machine on the Video Interchange Web site. And while you're there, check out a few of the fascinating but obscure audio formats on display.

Video Interchange offers transfer services for a vast range of ancient and recent audio formats. For example, Video Interchange can transfer 78 rpm records to CD.

This dictation machine recorded to vinyl records. Video Interchange

A 1958 RCA cassette recorder. Video Interchange

Early recording technologies were all pure analog, with the signal inscribed to cylinders and discs, but in 1930, long before the invention of magnetic tape, there were "wire" recorders! Here's a cool shot of an early wire recorder.

Early dictation machines like the 1945 Soundscriber "cut" vinyl records with a stylus cutting head. Soundscriber was one of the first to use vinyl. Media came in two sizes: 15-minute, 6-inch discs, and 8-minute, 4-inch discs.

In the 1950s, reel-to-reel analog tape recorders were used at home and by studios. But most consumers balked at reel-to-reel tape-threading hassles, so tape cartridge formats were developed.

When RCA introduced its Sound Tape Cartridge player in 1958, it wasn't exactly compact. It measured 5 inches by 7 inches by a half inch. It was also monophonic, and by that time, stereo LPs were gaining in popularity. The "modern" Compact Cassette debuted in 1962.

The Elcaset was a lot bigger than a standard cassette. Video Interchange

But the Compact Cassette was very lo-fi, so in 1977, Sony introduced the technically superior Elcaset. No one cared, and Elcaset came and went in just a couple of years.

There's much more to see on the Video Interchange site, including great vintage video pictures.