Earliest known sound recording predates Edison

27sound_650.jpgA hitherto unknown French inventor, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, went to his grave believing that Thomas Edison had been unfairly credited with inventing mechanical sound recording. Now researchers in Paris have unearthed one of Martinville’s phonautogram plates, designed to capture the image of a sound wave, made 17 years previous to the famous ‘Mary had a little lamb’ recording by Edison.

Read the full New York Times story

Of course, it’s not the first or last time that an invention associated with someone who didn’t actually invent it has robbed relative unknowns, not just of their rightful glory, but the kudos and fame which they deserve. As recently as 1980, Digital Research Inc. founder, Gary Kildall, with his operating system CP/M, missed a meeting with IBM the day they called, looking to get into the home computer business. Bill Gates, however, was available and eventually sold them MS DOS, a command line operating system which almost exactly mimicked CP/M.

The fact that MS DOS didn’t exist before Gates struck the IBM deal, has prompted many in the business to speculate that Gates simply retro-engineered CP/M, changing little except the copyright notice in it’s source code. MS DOS went on to become Microsoft Windows, the most widely adopted software for personal computers in the world.

12 comments on “Earliest known sound recording predates Edison

  1. Wow, this is some serious news for the recording world not to mention the world. I’m amazed that this record was sitting in an archive. This kind of thing makes me wonder about all the other pieces of evidence and whatnot that’s stored but not cataloged or not full recognized in some archive. Great article!

  2. I’m glad you guys think this is important. I saw this on the Times this morning very early and quite groggy and I was jumping up and down with glee. It’s thrilling to the point of scary to know that sound tech was born so much earlier than we thought.

  3. My dad was just telling me about a usually very serious, very professional female newsreader on BBC Radio 4 breaking into a fit of giggles hearing the squeaky little high pitched singing voice singing “Au Clair de la Lune”.

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