1888 Edison recording may be 1st talking doll try

Jul 14, 2011 By JOSH LEDERMAN , Associated Press

(AP) -- Scientists using advanced imaging technology have recovered a 123-year-old recording made by Thomas Edison that is believed to be the world's first attempt at a talking doll and may mark the dawn of the American recording industry.

In the sound recording, a woman can be heard reciting a verse of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." Historians believe Edison hired the woman to make the recording less than two years before he unsuccessfully put the first talking doll on the market.

"Based on the date of fall 1888, it is the oldest American-made recording of a woman's voice that we can listen to today," said Patrick Feaster, a historian at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Feaster pored over historical documents and 19th-century newspaper reports to piece together the story behind the recording. Edison hoped to mass-produce the toys, but the era's rudimentary technology meant that to make 100 dolls, Edison would have to get artists to recite the lullaby 100 times.

"They must have been hired and paid to do this," Feaster said. "These were presumably the first professional recording artists."

The small piece of ring-shaped tin bearing the woman's voice never made it into a doll because wax records replaced metal ones by 1890, when Edison started selling his first talking dolls. Those fragile and easily broken toys were a market flop.

Yet almost 80 years after the mystery woman lent her voice to Edison, the recording showed up in 1967 in the archives of the National Historical Park in West Orange, having been recovered from a secretary's desk drawer in Edison's laboratory.

"It was clear from looking under the microscope that it had a sound recording on it. Phonograph grooves have a familiar shape," said Jerry Fabris, a museum curator with the National Park Service.

But the metal ring - about 2.5 inches around and half an inch wide - was so bent and damaged that scientists couldn't play it.

More than four decades later, scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., used image analysis in May to create a digital model of the record's surface. That model was then used to reproduce the recording as a digital file, not unlike the modern technology behind the voice that emerges from today's talking dolls.

Explore further: Study reveals mature motorists worse at texting and driving

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Send chills up your microphone with an Icicle

Apr 09, 2009

One of the really great computer applications is the ability to record audio and save it to a digital file. One of the more interesting recording applications these days are podcasts. Making a podcast is fairly straightforward. ...

Patient interest in video recording of colonoscopy

Feb 04, 2010

Colonoscopy is operator-dependent and substantial numbers of pre-cancerous polyps are missed during colonoscopy. Colonoscopies are often poorly documented, with only a few still photographs taken of anatomic landmarks and ...

Video recording spy glasses coming to a face near you

Jun 09, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- ZionEyez, a Seattle-based startup, has created a pair of spy glasses that have the capability of recording and sharing HD video discreetly. The product in question, which has been named the ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals mature motorists worse at texting and driving

16 hours ago

A Wayne State University interdisciplinary research team in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has made a surprising discovery: older, more mature motorists—who typically are better drivers in ...

Napster co-founder to invest in allergy research

Dec 17, 2014

(AP)—Napster co-founder Sean Parker missed most of his final year in high school and has ended up in the emergency room countless times because of his deadly allergy to nuts, shellfish and other foods.

LA mayor plans 7,000 police body cameras in 2015

Dec 16, 2014

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a plan Tuesday to equip 7,000 Los Angeles police officers with on-body cameras by next summer, making LA's police department the nation's largest law enforcement agency to move ...

Merriam-Webster names 'culture' word of the year

Dec 15, 2014

A nation, a workplace, an ethnicity, a passion, an outsized personality. The people who comprise these things, who fawn or rail against them, are behind Merriam-Webster's 2014 word of the year: culture.

In Curiosity Hacked, children learn to make, not buy

Dec 14, 2014

With her right hand, my 8-year-old daughter, Kalian, presses the red-hot soldering iron against the circuit board. With her left hand, she guides a thin, tin wire until it's pressing against both the circuit board and the ...

User comments : 8

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2 / 5 (4) Jul 14, 2011
The more I read about Edison, the more it becomes evident that the man was largely an incompetent fool.
5 / 5 (1) Jul 15, 2011
A fool? Because he made things that were a flop? He didn't give up. That's what makes him successful. He changed this world in more ways than any one else in history. The first to record an playback sound and record motion on film. These create the entertainment industry. Edison Effect bulb - first patent in electronics. etc.
1 / 5 (3) Jul 15, 2011
Edison in did very little in fact. He employed a team of underpaid researchers to do the work. His job was primarily marketing.

And while the electric light bulb was a revolution for it's time, few things have proven to be so wasteful.

As to a talking doll, the technology of the era did not permit anything robust enough, and no means of mass production of the recording rings was possible at the time. Hence the obvious failure.

not rated yet Jul 15, 2011
Seriously, no audio link? Wow.
not rated yet Jul 15, 2011
Here you go: http://cnettv.cne...993.html Pretty shitty quality.
1 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2011
Sounds like some woman yelling something into the wide end of a cone and vibrating a pin that is scratching a groove into a piece of wax.

Genius - Not.
not rated yet Jul 16, 2011
its true,edison was more of egoistic and the best example was the war of currents between him and tesla!!
Tesla(who was then wrking under edision) was promised a hefty amount,if he found a way to minimize the loss in transmission lines.Tesla gave a solution,ie AC transmission instead of DC!!
But,edison never accepted it nor gave tesla the reward he deserved!!
but never mind,both are genius is their own ways!!:)
not rated yet Jul 16, 2011
Here you go: http://cnettv.cne...993.html Pretty shitty quality.

Here's a recording that even predates Edison's recording.It was recorded circa 1860,using a method that didn't allow it to be played until it was digitally scanned at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in California:
Again,the acoustic quality is terrible,but it is still amazing to think this was recorded 151 years ago.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.