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Researchers Play Tune Recorded Before Edison 314

Posted by Zonk
from the now-that-is-an-oldie dept.
Tree131 writes "The New York Times is reporting that sound recordings pre-dating Edison's made by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a Parisian typesetter and tinkerer, were discovered by American audio historians at the French Academy of Sciences in Paris. The archives are on paper and were meant for recording but not playback. Researchers used a high quality scan of the recording and an electronic needle to play back the sounds recorded 150 years ago. 'For more than a century, since he captured the spoken words "Mary had a little lamb" on a sheet of tinfoil, Thomas Edison has been considered the father of recorded sound. But researchers say they have unearthed a recording of the human voice, made by a little-known Frenchman, that predates Edison's invention of the phonograph by nearly two decades.'"
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Researchers Play Tune Recorded Before Edison

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:28PM (#22883686)
    Edison sounds like a modern day Microsoft.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I guess Tesla/Westinghouse would be analogous to the Open source movement [wikipedia.org], then. Note that, in the end, AC prevailed. Go Tesla!
      • by dcsmith (137996) * on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:46PM (#22883968) Homepage
        Note that, in the end, AC prevailed.


        Blast it, don't encourage the Anonymous Cowards!

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          and this comes from someone who has DC in his initials.
    • by calebt3 (1098475) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:32PM (#22883762)
      Not really. Edison was able to play his recordings, which this Frenchman apparently wasn't able to do.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:36PM (#22883826)
        Leave it to the French to invent write only memory.
        • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:43PM (#22883918) Homepage Journal
          I thought that write-only memory was a Polish invention, like rasin juice and metal skateboard wheels.
          • by Ucklak (755284)
            Damn, when I was a kid, roller skates and skateboards were only metal.
            We also had strap on skate wheels that were also metal.
            • Yeah, but fire's been invented since.

              Kidding, I saw those strap on wheels as a kid. Never had one, tho. I couldn't, for the life of me, learn to skate.

              Damn whippersnappers, get off my lawn!
            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by multisync (218450)

              We also had strap on skate wheels that were also metal.


              I remember those, you wore them over your sneakers, and tightened the metal clamps around your feet with a key. The vibration of metal on pavement would cause numbing foot paralysis within minutes.

              And do you think it would ever occur to our parents to put a helmet or shin pads on us? Apparently we were expendable back then.

              Oh well, /OT Rant
              • by Ucklak (755284)
                Only helmets available back then were the heavy bowling ball type of motorcycle helmets.
      • by wattrlz (1162603) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:58PM (#22884130)
        It should also be noted that the intention of, "this Frenchman" was not to play back his recordings, but to develop an automatic method of transcribing speech. TFA states:

        In a self-published memoir in 1878, [Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville] railed against Edison for "appropriating" his methods and misconstruing the purpose of recording technology. The goal, Scott argued, was not sound reproduction, but "writing speech, which is what the word phonograph means."
        • by Fifth Earth (1172333) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @02:01PM (#22884860)
          On the other hand, he failed miserably at this goal, because nobody can read sound waves. He may have incidentally made the first steps towards sound recording, but frankly his personal invention was totally useless. It took 150 years of advancement to sneak in the back door and get anything useful at all out of his technology, and by that point massive advancements in sound recording, as well as speech-to-text technology that actually works, had both already been invented.

          It sounds a bit like Niecpe's first photograph, except even more so. Niecpe's method made a photograph in 1826, but the exposure time was 8 hours and it couldn't be reproduced (no negative). The difference is that in Niepce's case, at least he produced a recognizable image, wheras all Scott managed was some indecipherable (until seriously modern technology came along) squiggly lines on a piece of paper.
          • by 4D6963 (933028) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @06:23PM (#22887944)

            he failed miserably at this goal, because nobody can read sound waves.

            I think you're missing the point of his invention. Back in 1857, scientists had no other means to visualise sound waves. Therefore a tool that allows you to see sound waves can be of great use, and not only can you use it to better understand sounds but also to study it mathematically (because such an instrument allows you to quantify sounds acoustic phenomenons) and also do some practical things out of it, like for example timing with precision certain sounds (like an echo for example), or even estimating the frequency of certain sounds (you'll need such an instrument if you want to count how many times a second a fly beats its wings).

            So yes, it had little practical interest for the general public before playback was possible, just like radioactivity had little interest in the time of Pierre and Marie Curie. Such inventions often find a scientific use a long time before they become interesting to the general public.

    • by sm62704 (957197) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:40PM (#22883874) Journal
      He is no longer the father of sound recording, but his WAS the first to play sound back.

      The inventer of this device never indended it for playback. What good is a recording that can't be played back?

      I don't know of any useless thing Microsoft has picked up and made useful. I also don't see anywhere that it says Edison ever heard of this guy.

      Also, Edison was already not the father of modern sound recording. Modern sound recordings are digital.

      -mcgrew
      • IMO Edison can still be considered the father of sound recording. While he may not have been the first person to transcribe sound in another medium, he was indeed the first to discover a medium that would allow for easy playback - and reproduction as well. He also commercialized it, and the definition of "father" is making babies. :-P
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          IMO Edison can still be considered the father of sound recording

          While he may not have been the first person to transcribe sound in another medium...

          Okie doke.

          he was indeed the first to discover a medium that would allow for easy playback - and reproduction as well

          No, that was Emile Berliner, who created the first disc record. Edison's was cylindrical, which was difficult (and expensive) to produce and inconvenient to store. Although Edison did consider the disc shape, he did not pursue it and instead focused on the cylinder because he (correctly) felt it was technologically superior.

          Years later, after the disc proved to be the better in terms of reproduction costs and storage and all-around convenience, Edison reluctantly abandoned the cylinders in f

      • by afabbro (33948)
        The inventer of this device never indended it for playback. What good is a recording that can't be played back?

        I just recorded an entire immersive virtual world simulation of Ancient Rome on a single Cheerio and have it here at my desk. It's only intended for recording, though - you can't play it back.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:28PM (#22883688) Journal
    Well, time to add another to the list [slashdot.org].

    Remember, if you want to be a scientist, you just have to be smart. If you want to be a well-known-until-the-end-of-time scientist, you have to be smart and suffer from at least a little megalomania [wiktionary.org] (see the war of currents [wikipedia.org] or Einstein's failure to accept quantum theory [wikipedia.org]).

    I'm still shocked fewer people don't realize Leibniz beat Newton to Calculus [wikipedia.org]. Oh well, great disputes make for great reading.

    Oh well, one could spend countless hours recalling the great debates of science, it's a shame that some of them are about who's name goes in the history books. Strangely, ingenuity & legacy complexes seem to go hand in hand. I'm saddened to think that there may be others buried in history by ultra competitive researchers.
    • Edison was the man, because, unlike this inventor, his device allowed people to play back sounds. It wasn't even possible to play back the recording this other guy made until they could scan the paper and convert the signal to a waveform. As a side note, I'd have to ask: this is what passes for research these days? I'm unimpressed.

      Newton beat Leibniz to calculus. Really, the whole thing with Newton was that, he wrote the principia while trying to hide the calculus that he used to invent. It's pretty dif
      • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:53PM (#22884064) Journal

        As a side note, I'd have to ask: this is what passes for research these days? I'm unimpressed.
        Thank you, that's precisely the kind of suppressive rhetoric I was talking about, I couldn't have illustrated that better myself. It passed for research back then, not "these days" and whether or not someone could play it back or not still made it impressive. Curiosity in the weakest minds can lead to some of the greatest discoveries.

        What's wrong with saying "Scott devised a way to record but not play back while Edison devised both" in the history books?

        Furthermore, many accounts I've read claim that Leibniz beat Newton to calculus. I wasn't there so I can't say but I still think his name should be mentioned more than it is. Especially since some accounts give Leibniz credit with both the first and second (hence the term Leibniz Integral Rule [wikipedia.org]) fundamental theories of calculus even if his logic to find them was flawed.

        The fact that you side step Einstein's efforts to overlook quantum theory by pointing out an amazing discovery by him is hilarious. Should I try to circumvent the calculus discussion by pointing out Leibniz's contributions to philosophy?

        Frankly, I am dumbfounded why it's difficult to list the multiple peoples it takes to make a brilliant discovery and even further dumbfounded when a man of science attempts to take credit for or repress someone's work.
        • What's wrong with saying "Scott devised a way to record but not play back while Edison devised both" in the history books?

          This morning my son (2) scribbled a drawing. "This is Salty" he said, his favorite train engine from Thomas the Tank Engine series. Now I kinda knew what it was because he picked the right colors, but in the end it was a bunch of scribbles on a page. A year from now we will have no clue what it is.

          My son devised a way to record his thoughts, but not play them back a year from now.
        • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @01:24PM (#22884416)

          What's wrong with saying "Scott devised a way to record but not play back while Edison devised both" in the history books?
          Because the history books would get too large if you included everybody? Julius Braunsdorf had invented an electric light long before Edison, but he is mostly forgotten, and people are taught that the electric light was thought impossible before Edison invented it.

          Seriously, history has it's fashions just like everything else humans do. It's been fashionable to tell schoolchildren that everyone thought that the earth was flat before Columbus, even though the size of the earth had been measured, and kings carried septer and orbs symbolizing their control of the earth.

          What can be done about it? Wikis can help, because the size doesn't matter. We can include everybody who had any role in an invention. Mostly we need to abolish the myth of the lone inventor creating new stuff without any help from the outside world.
          • by DRJlaw (946416) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @04:54PM (#22886994)
            Because the history books would get too large if you included everybody? Julius Braunsdorf had invented an electric light long before Edison, but he is mostly forgotten, and people are taught that the electric light was thought impossible before Edison invented it.

            No. History books tend to include enough information concerning major inventions to show that "invention" is an incremental process. People's oral summaries of the history books or history itself tends grossly oversimplify issues because, at a minimum, they have to match the level of detail to the level of interest in order to hold the listener(s).

            "When he announced that he intended to produce an electric light that would compete with gaslight, the stock prices of gaslight companies tumbled as their executives panicked. Many people, most notably Sir Joseph Swan, had tried to invent an electric light using an incandescent filament, or wire, enclosed in a glass bulb, but had not been able to create a filament that could withstand intense heat over long enough periods oftime to be practical. Even Edison had a tough time of it, going through a long, trial-and-error process in which he tested thousands of materials. Undaunted by failures, Edison finally found that a scorched cotton thread would work best. When heated in a vacuum, it produced a white glow without melting, evaporating, or breaking. Although Swan came up with a similar light bulb around the same time, Edison patented his idea more aggressively, promoted his product more effectively, and sketched out a practical system of power supply which could support its use on a large scale. On New Year's Eve of 1879, Edisongave a public demonstration of the new bulb, lighting up his laboratory anda half mile of streets in Menlo Park before of thousands of spectators. Edison had not only invented an economical light source, but developed an entire system for generating and distributing electricity from a central power station." "History book" [madehow.com]


            Humphry Davy [uh.edu] is cursing your name in the afterlife because you've fixated on this Braunsdorf character who merely improved upon pre-existing arc lights. There's another horde of people who likely long before that overloaded a wire, but didn't run off to tell the world how to make a short lived flash of light by screwing up in an impractical manner.

            Do you want to know what Thomas Edison invented? Read U.S. Patent No. 223,898. [google.com]. Most importantly, look at claim 1:

            1. An electric lamp for giving light by incandescence, consisting of a filiment of carbon of high resistance, made as described, and secured to metallic wires, as set forth.

            My public school taught that Edison invented the first practical incandecent bulb by trying several thousand types of materials, not that Edison invented the first electric light. I'm very willing to bet that yours taught something similar as well, but you've oversimplified the information, whether you ment to or not.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MrKevvy (85565)
      I am surprised that your list doesn't contain Edwin Howard Armstrong [wikipedia.org]. I suggest the book "Man of High Fidelity" if you can find it. Like Tesla, he was a brilliant electrical engineer, inventing many of the circuits essential to radio (and he invented FM) but others stole the credit and patents from him throughout his life, culminating in his suicide in 1954.
    • by netsavior (627338)

      Strangely, ingenuity & legacy complexes seem to go hand in hand. I'm saddened to think that there may be others buried in history by ultra competitive researchers.

      I think part of being a truely meaningful innovator in history is getting people to notice. Jim Bob may have cold fusion running in his basement but unless he tells people AND gets them to listen, it is merely one man who benefits and not the entire human race. People who seek credit and glory are the ones who do the hard work of bring sc

    • by WK2 (1072560)
      Apparently, it also helps to have an easy to pronounce name. Einstein/Edison/Newton vs Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville/Leibniz.

      Also, it isn't fair to Einstein to say he "failed" to accept quantum theory. He was one of the few to see it for what it was, and never tried to accept it.
  • Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by seanadams.com (463190) * on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:29PM (#22883698) Homepage
    I wonder how many hours Édouard-Léon pondered over this piece of paper, trying to devise some way to play it back. I think it's just spectacular that we are able to do so 150 years later.

    But give credit where it's due... Edison not only transferred sound to physical media - he played it back too.
    • by Ritchie70 (860516)
      If you read the article, he was interested in archiving of the sound for purposes of later analysis of the written result, not for playback. Given his apparent resentment of Edison, this may be a claim (in my opinion, not the article's) that didn't actually reflect reality.

      The similarity in means between Edison and Edouard-Leon is due to the technology of the time with respect to sound more than to a similar goal. In both, a coneis used to capture sound waves and translate them into physical movement of a s
      • They had photography, and all that entails. I'm sure that he could've created a crude mask and acid-etched the image onto a sturdier material. But it's certainly more convoluted than simply recording grooves directly in the first place.
    • Re:Awesome (Score:4, Informative)

      by Scrameustache (459504) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @01:00PM (#22884144) Homepage Journal

      I wonder how many hours Édouard-Léon pondered over this piece of paper, trying to devise some way to play it back. I think it's just spectacular that we are able to do so 150 years later.

      But give credit where it's due... Edison not only transferred sound to physical media - he played it back too.
      The earliest known invention of a phonographic recording device was the phonautograph, invented by Frenchman Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville and patented on March 25, 1857. It could transcribe sound to a visible medium, but had no means to play back the sound after it was recorded.

      It was a scientific device, meant to study sound waves.

      Edison modified it for playback, and made his fortune. [time passed] Then he electrocuted an elephant [wikipedia.org] to FUD alternating current technology.
      He was the Bill Gates of the 19th/20th century. Same morals, same amount of inventing.
    • He spent zero hours trying to devise how to play it back. Scott's purpose was not to record and play back sound, it was to record sound in visual form for some kind of subsequent analysis. It doesn't sound like he ever even conceived of playing it back.
  • by trolltalk.com (1108067) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:29PM (#22883722) Homepage Journal

    researchers say they have unearthed a recording of the human voice, made by a little-known Frenchman

    "I surrender!"

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What, not "premier post" ?
  • Flight? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:30PM (#22883726) Homepage
    Wasn't there also a Frenchman whose flight predated the Wright Brothers? I seem to remember that the key difference was the Wright Brothers got the whole process to work.
    • IOW, the French guy "crashed his plane."
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I don't know about "before" the Wright Brothers, but there is the well known case of Santos' Dumont flight in Paris. The key difference to the Wright Flyer was the take-off process. His plane (the 14 Bis) had an engine, or in other words, was self-powered and could sustain flight. That's why many people (outside the US of course =P) consider Santos Dumont's invention the "first real airplane".
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by superdave80 (1226592)
        "The key difference to the Wright Flyer was the take-off process. His plane (the 14 Bis) had an engine"

        Um, so what are the propellers in this picture attached to? http://www.old-picture.com/wright-brothers/pictures/Wright-Brothers-Airplane-001.jpg [old-picture.com]

        And his flight was three years after the Wright Brothers. (1903 vs. 1906) Dumont supporters cling to the fact that the Wright Brothers had a headwind at takeoff to justify their claim that he, and not the Wright Brothers, was the first to fly a real airplane.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by camperdave (969942)
      The Montgolfier Brothers [wikipedia.org] took to the air almost a full century before the Wright brothers were even born. Mind you, that was in a hot air balloon.
    • by JoeD (12073)
      That would be Alberto Santos-Dumont.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Santos-Dumont [wikipedia.org]

      His plane: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/14-bis [wikipedia.org]

      Be sure to read the comparing the 14-bis to the Wright flyer. If you tack on enough qualifiers, you can make anything be the "first", but as the article mentions, the Wrights had a plane that flew for 20 miles a full year before the 14-bis made its first hop.
  • Here we go again (Score:3, Interesting)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:30PM (#22883736)
    Yet another round of the "Who invented it first" pissing contest. An American claims to invent something and 10 Europeans jump up to say "No, Sir Dunston Whogivesashit from MY country actually invented it first!", followed by a black nationalist who announces that it was actually a black man who invented it first, a Hispanic who proclaims that a Guatemalan invented it first, etc.
    • by sm62704 (957197) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:44PM (#22883944) Journal
      followed by a black nationalist who announces that it was actually a black man who invented it first, a Hispanic who proclaims that a Guatemalan invented it first

      That would be George Washington Carver Rodrigues LaFitte, the black Hispanic Frenchman who invented a method of storing binary data ao a peanut?
      • by AJWM (19027)
        That would be George Washington Carver Rodrigues LaFitte, the black Hispanic Frenchman who invented a method of storing binary data ao a peanut?

        "While he was living in St. Petersberg, so it was clearly a Russian inwention."
  • Well? (Score:5, Funny)

    by NotInfinitumLabs (1150639) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:30PM (#22883740)
    Where's the fucking sound clip?
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:30PM (#22883746)
    Since de Martinville's "recording" was never even intended for playback, much less successfully played back at the time, I'd say that Edison retains the title.
    • by bogjobber (880402) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:50PM (#22884026)
      Why is it not the same? It *was* intended for playback, but he realized that technology was far beyond him. As it says in TFA, he was simply hoping to put down a recording that someone would later be able to decipher, which is exactly what happened. Thomas Edison definitely still deserves credit for his invention, but this is pretty remarkable nonetheless.
      • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @01:02PM (#22884168)
        Why is it not the same? It *was* intended for playback, but he realized that technology was far beyond him.

        Um, no, it wasn't. He never intended to play back the recording.

        As it says in TFA, he was simply hoping to put down a recording that someone would later be able to decipher, which is exactly what happened.

        TFA says nothing of the sort. In fact, TFA makes it clear that Scott considered Edison's work a bastardization of his own.

        From TFA:

        The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song "Au Clair de la Lune" was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians. It was made, the researchers say, on April 9, 1860, on a phonautograph, a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. ...
        Scott's device had a barrel-shaped horn attached to a stylus, which etched sound waves onto sheets of paper blackened by smoke from an oil lamp. The recordings were not intended for listening; the idea of audio playback had not been conceived. Rather, Scott sought to create a paper record of human speech that could later be deciphered. ...
        Scott is in many ways an unlikely hero of recorded sound. Born in Paris in 1817, he was a man of letters, not a scientist, who worked in the printing trade and as a librarian. He published a book on the history of shorthand, and evidently viewed sound recording as an extension of stenography. In a self-published memoir in 1878, he railed against Edison for "appropriating" his methods and misconstruing the purpose of recording technology. The goal, Scott argued, was not sound reproduction, but "writing speech, which is what the word phonograph means."
  • So Edison is no longer the father of recorded sound, but still the father of playback, right?
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:32PM (#22883760)
    Likely contents:
    • "American scum like you cannot have a table at our fine restaurant."
    • "Regardez! The recording industry strike begins at dawn!"
  • Sometimes so-called "revisionist history" is history that has been revised for a good reason. Columbus did not discover America, and didn't even discover it for Europeans [wikipedia.org]. And Edison not only didn't invent sound recording, he didn't invent the light bulb [wikipedia.org] either (which isn't to say he wasn't extraordinarily influential in both industries).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Oligonicella (659917)
      You're being pedantic. Even your own link says his had "an effective incandescent material, a higher vacuum than others were able to achieve and a high resistance lamp that made power distribution from a centralized source economically viable." In shorter terms, it worked in a utilitarian way. He may not be the inventor of the incandescent apparatus, but he's the inventor of the light bulb.
    • Well, it's certainly true that Columbus didn't discover the Americas (it seems that all sorts of people from ancient Asiatics through more recent Siberians through Polynesians, Irish monks and Vikings were there first). The key thing, at least from Eurocentric and world history point of view, is that it was Columbus's "rediscovery" (so to speak) which lead in very short order to the colonization of the Americas by various European powers. It wasn't really the beginning of European colonization, however, a
  • by pwnies (1034518) * <j@jjcm.org> on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:35PM (#22883814) Homepage Journal
    That this seems to be the case with may of Edison's "inventions". Many of them were either invented by one of his subordinates and simply registered under his own name in the patent process, or were taken altogether from another scientist and claimed directly as his own. Take a look at Nikola Tesla's history and you'll see what I mean.
  • been done before (Score:5, Interesting)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:42PM (#22883908)
    I'd of thought it would of said "testing, testing, testing.."

    Hell, he could of recorded anything he wanted as long as there was no method of playing it back.

    It reminds me of that clever SW speech recognition that decoded audio from the Berghof films of Hitler and Eva Braun - I bet they did not realise that technology would one say be able to decode their speech, HAL would of loved it. Alternatively there were some very clever approaches to scanning vinyl recordings and cleaning up the signal digitally before recontructing the audio without hisses and scratches. This is not new, but its certainly clever.

    The Hitler tapes are darn right creepy, I saw a great documentary on it, in fact you can watch the whole thing here:-
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2763127556620650689&q=hitler+speaks+duration%3Along&total=36&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0 [google.com]

    On the historical front, it once again proves that in the world of science many people generally work on the same this simultaneously and behind every great man there are many almost great men who got there at the same time or earlier. Of course, everybody knows that Newton got there first...
  • So what (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sckeener (137243) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:49PM (#22884000)
    Columbus didn't discover America, but he made the most impact on it.

    So what if Edison didn't make the first recording. He is the guy that ran with the ball and scored the touchdown.

    Give props where they are due. Have this, 2 decade earlier guy, be a footnote.
    • Columbus didn't discover America, but he made the most impact on it.

      Really? So all those people who were living here at the time didn't have any impact?

      And what about the vikings from 10 centuries ago who explored Newfoundland [wikipedia.org]? We probably have them to thank for the Newfoundland dog.

      • Well, even if you just consider the diseases ushered in after Columbus' wake, I'd say he had a huge impact.

        He hyped Western trans-atlantic exploration like nobody before him. The book he wrote describing what he had discovered influenced the explorers who followed in his wake looking for riches, and more importantly their wealthy financiers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by boojum.cat (150829)

      Columbus didn't discover America


      Nonsense. Columbus did discover America. He just wasn't the first one to discover it. He didn't know it was there before he found it, so he discovered it. If you find your wife in bed with another man, would you say you didn't discover her infidelity just because she knew about it first?

        -- Steve
  • by khendron (225184) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:49PM (#22884006) Homepage
    So some scientists managed to decipher and playback a recording of some singing that was encoded 150 years ago. That sounds like a violation of the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions! They'll be getting a letter from the RIAA soon.
  • he really didn't invent much. what he did was market, mass produce and popularize a lot early electrical inventions. and made a lot of money too. claiming that he was the man who invented all of this stuff is just part of the marketing campaign. rather than an anonymous guy in his lab, or some other guy whom he ripped off, or some other guy who discovered something as a curiousity, but never followed up, and was forgotten, or alexander graham bell, or nikolai tesla

    and i'm not really denigrating edison. i am in fact saying that the cult of whomever invents something is overhyped. a lot of what is important in this world is producing the thing, popularizing it, putting it in the hands of consumers, not just dreaming the damn thing up. that's actually pretty easy. the light bulb was invented individually by half a dozen different guys in the 19th century. but the lion's share of the credit goes to edison. why? because he actually followed up and put the dang thing in the hand's of consumers. and that matters. some may think it is unfair, but who said life was fair? go study the farnsworth and rca and the invention of the television if you want a lesson on invetion and fairness and reality

    i had a 32M rio pmp300 MP3 player in 1998, many years before an iPod was a twinkle in steve job's eye. but the mass of western industrial consumers didn't take portable mp3 players that seriously until steve jobs gave them something gleaming and sexy. such is the way of the world

    there is more to progress than just invention. there is also streamlining for mass production, financing, distributing, marketing, etc. and those jobs (no pun intended) are not as sexy, but they oftentimes decide the tempo of progress more than some lonely guy tinkering somewhere. and, perhaps even more importantly, they decide immortality: whose name gets stuck in the history books next to an invention. and they also decide who gets the billions in riches from that invention too

    believe me, in 2108, when someone wikiyahoogoogle's "mp3 player" on their visor computer, they won't see a rio pmp300. they will see steve job's cryogenically frozen head with a perfect gleaming iPodWhite(tm) smile
    • More Gates than Jobs, considering the anti-competitive behavior he engaged in.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mc900ftjesus (671151)
        Did you type this on a Mac clone or a Mac? Oh wait, Apple has a hardware monopoly. I'll just go load some DRM songs onto my iPod with iTunes I bought from the iTMS, or maybe watch some movies I bought on iTMS on my AppleTV. Or load some programs with iTunes on my iPhone that are Apple Approved(TM).

        Man, it's a good thing Jobs encourages nice, open competition with hard ware and software.....

        Vendor lock-in is vendor lock-in, DRM is DRM, no matter how transparent.
  • RIAA (Score:3, Funny)

    by dcsmith (137996) * on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:52PM (#22884056) Homepage
    I'd say that since the New York Times has 'made available for download' a copy of the recording, we should be hearing from the RIAA any minute now.
  • He screwed-over Tesla. So why not some French guy?
  • edison was one of the biggest phonies, invention and reputation snatchers in the history, as we know from many recent scandalous discoveries about what he did.
  • by herks (1144039) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:58PM (#22884128)
    (Homer realizes that Thomas Edison has already invented safety legs for the back of a chair.) Homer: (Shouting) Aww, damn it! (Bart comes running down the basement stairs.) Bart: Hey Dad, heard you swearin'. Mind if I join in? Crap, boobs, crap! Homer: I thought I had a great idea, I must have seen it on this poster. (Bart studies Homer's Thomas Edison invention chart.) Bart: If Edison thought of that chair, how come it's not on this chart? Homer: It's not? Maybe he never told anyone about it. (Points at Edison poster.) That chair might be the only one he made. Bart: So? Homer: So, we've got to go to the Edison Museum and smash it! Then I'll be an inventor! Bart: But I thought you loved Edison. Homer: Aw, to hell with him. Bart: Yeah! Hell, damn, fart!
  • Or Mythbusters? I think with a little more effort and some archeological good fortune, the Lazurus Bowl will prove to pre-date this bit of Frenchiness.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @01:03PM (#22884184) Homepage Journal
    The French were right up there at the forefront of progress and innovation for centuries. They practically defined the Enlightenment. Their democratic revolution followed the US lead, and even went so far as to execute their tyrant, not just kick him out. Their mathematicians and writers were among the very best, helping invent science and modern scholarship. Their engineering produced the Eiffel Tower. They gave us Jules Verne, imagining a future as fiercely as no one else except perhaps HG Wells.

    But then it all hit the wall, apparently sometime in the late 1800s. Was it the Franco-Prussian War? Did they just get distracted by art and fashion long enough to get their derriere's torched in WWI? Did some magic spirit choke on a fin-de-siecle?

    What happened?
    • went so far as to execute their tyrant, not just kick him out.
      Well, he was right there, while the king of England never even set foot in America. It would have been a lot of trouble to get him to come be executed.
    • it just so happened around the time you imagine the french hit a wall, another light brightened up across the atlantic. so its not a case of their light going out so much as it is a case of their light being outshone. the usa gobbled up the lions share of the glory in the 20th century

      but i think you are right that much of french, and european, glory was cut off at the knees by the wars there starting with the crimean war up through world war ii, with the last one being certainly among the worst human decency devouring spectacles the planet has ever put on. and now it's the usa's turn to get mired in war after war, while the glory of china and india grows to take the spotlight and outshine the usa

  • by justfred (63412) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @01:07PM (#22884224) Homepage
    ...that a crazy Brazilian invented the airplane, before the Wright Brothers.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Santos-Dumont [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.amazon.com/Wings-Madness-Alberto-Santos-Dumont-Invention/dp/B000FVHJ94 [amazon.com]
  • In the beginning of the air they first learned how to write the audio and only later how to read it, but now we first got CD players on the market, and only later - CD recorders. I know it's market thing, but I'd rather put a metaphysical twist to it:

    Many years ago people used to produce, create stuff themselves rather than consume what others have created for them. Writing was more important. Nowadays it's vice versa.
  • Transcript (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dancindan84 (1056246) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @01:48PM (#22884688)
    The transcript of his speech writing is said to be:

    Dear Aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all
    Historians are still trying to determine the meaning, if any.
  • Beat out again at the hose.

    For more info on the phonautogragh see http:http://www.talkingmachine.org/phonautograph.html [http]

    OK, sure the guy "recorded" sound, he apparently was very upset that Edison beat him to the patent office and generally received all the glory. Somehow though, I think recording 10 seconds on 2 sheets of paper would make an LP sized recording equivalent to an encyclopedia and thus slightly impractical.
    http://mrcopilot.blogspot.com/2008/03/ancient-audio-and-phonautograph.html [blogspot.com]

  • by Cervantes (612861) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @05:06PM (#22887120) Journal
    http://graphics8.nytimes.com/audiosrc/arts/1860v2.mp3 [nytimes.com]

    Seriously, think about it. This recording was made before computers, planes, cars, conquering the west and subduing the native hordes, NATO, the UN, electricity, The Church of FSM (blessed be his noodly appendage), and just about everything we take for granted today. Someone long forgotten spent a few seconds singing into a weird contraption, and went on to be completely forgotten by history. And now, so very, very long after the fact, we get to hear those few words singing to us across time.

    Really, ignore the debate over Edison, the scratchiness, the French jokes, and everything else, and just realize how very haunting it is to hear this forgotten person, on this forgotten recording, from so very, very long ago.

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

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