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ARSCLIST  June 2009

ARSCLIST June 2009

Subject:

Re: Earliest recorded sound update on NPR

From:

Michael Biel <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 4 Jun 2009 11:18:03 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (108 lines)

The original uncoated aluminum discs of the WJZ broadcast are at the
Antique Wireless Assoc.  Although I think they have some of Apgar's
equipment, the cylinders themselves seem to have disappeared after the
1934 broadcast.  They had originally been sent to the Secret Service in
Washington, but in 1924 the former director mentions that he had the
cylinders and some had deteriorated.  This is mentioned in the best
relatively recent accounting of the details on the web is an excellent
paper one of Apgar's decendents wrote for a college class about the time
I was myself handing in my Ph.D. dissertation which discusses this
situation.  http://apgar.net/eric/cea_info.html  As you can see from the
footnotes and bibliography of Apgar's paper, there was a lot of press
coverage, but the best summary was in the two Wireless Age articles in
Aug and Sept 1915.  Bob Angus' article in the 70s seemed to think that
Apgar's discovery of the speeded-up telegraph messages was accidental
when his phonograph motor spring ran down, but it seems that Apger had
made his cylinder recordings knowing that this is what was being done. 
That it was being done by a magnetic wire recorder was the unknown until
the station was raided.  But the wire recorder and the speeding up
andslowing down of the messages is not mentioned at all in Lee Apgar's
paper.   I love the statement made by the manager of the German station:
"that Mr. Apgar can record messages sent out by wireless on a phonograph
cylinder is hardly worth discussing, that is physically impossible. I
have never heard of it being done."

I am also interested in the discussion of Patrick Feaster's article on
the background of Edison's invention of the phonograph.  I got ill
shortly after it was published so I was not able to discuss it with
Patrick at Palo Alto last year, and I did not have time to bone up on it
for this year, so I did not bring it up when I saw Patrick last week. 
My main disagreement is on whether or not Edison knew about the
Phonoautograph before seeing it in 1878 during the trip to Washington. 
I think his famous quoted comments are open and blatant disinformation
to purposefully mislead people then AND now into believing that he had
not known about the Phonoautograph because the similarities were
OBVIOUS, and would possibly reduce his chances of getting a patent.  His
trip to the Smithsonian might have designed to show him discovering this
machine WITH WITNESSES PRESENT to record his astonishment.  Whether or
not Edison mentions it, I cannot conceive of him not having come across
information about it in 1877.  Several times in his life, Edison
discussed that part of the initial stage of his invention process was to
examine the literature already done on the subject.  He had a livelong
history of using libraries.  That is why he had his huge library.  When
I have asked in the past, I've been told that there was not an inventory
available of the contents of the Edison Site library.  While obviously
it is much larger in its final form than it had been in 1877 in the
smaller confines of Menlo Park, but especially if the library is marked
with acquisition dates, I think it might be provable that he could have
known about the Phonoautograph, if for no other reason than the cylinder
shape.  It makes no sense for the experiments to have started out in
disc form, proceeded to tape, and then suddenly at the end go to a
cylinder.  It makes perfect sense for Scott to have used a cylinder
wrapped in paper for the purpose of visually "reading" the waveforms. 
Having parallel straight lines that would hopefully be of equal time
segments is THE perfect form.  That was unnecessary for audio playback
on the tinfoil machine.  The disc and tape forms make much more sense
for that purpose.  If Edison had thought of using the phonograph to
visually read the message in the sound waves, Morse had used printed
tape for that purpose on his original telegraph.  Remember, Morse had
not intended the message to be read aurally from the clicks, he had
devised a printer which printed out the dots and dashes on paper tape to
be read visually.  The operators unconsciously learned to read the code
by ear.  Edison could have thought to make a tape system to allow
operators to read the words in the vibrations of the telephone if that
has been his purpose.  

Now, as to the keyboard articulator, hadn't that already been invented? 
I seem to recall an invention that manipulated a mechanical tongue and
lips to form sounds that might have been in use in the 1850s.  I seem to
recall that one of Patrick's findings was that Edison misunderstood
frequency to be the function of articulating sounds rather than
determining pitch.  But the relationship of frequency to pitch was
common knowledge.  Counting vibrations of tuning forks was old hat.  

Maybe there can be comments on this, but I'll go back to Patrick's
article to delve more deeply.   


Mike Biel  [log in to unmask]


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Earliest recorded sound update on NPR
From: Matthew Barton <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Thu, June 04, 2009 11:53 am
To: [log in to unmask]

The NBC broadcast that Steve describes was made on December 27, 1934.
Our copy was apparently transcribed from a pair of aluminum discs not in
our collection. Here's the description from the Library of Congress'
online catalog (full record at
http://lcweb5.loc.gov/cgi-bin/starfinder/688188/sonic.txt ):

"Interview with Charles E. Apgar who for fourteen nights around June 18,
1915 recorded messages broadcast by a German owned and operated radio
station in Sayville, Long Island. The U.S. government asked Apgar to do
this because the station was broadcasting encoded information to Germany
about American shipping for German submarines off-shore. Based on
Apgar's recordings, the government seized the station on July 8, 1915.
Apgar used his homemade radio receiver and an Edison cylinder phonograph
to record the messages. During the interview he plays two of the
original cylinders. "

The interviewer was George Hicks, best remembered for his shipboard
D-Day broadcast.

Matthew Barton
Library of Congress

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