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ARSCLIST  April 2010

ARSCLIST April 2010

Subject:

Re: Celebrating a Sesquicentennial

From:

Michael Biel <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sat, 10 Apr 2010 02:11:37 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (67 lines)

Steven C. Barr wrote:
>
> Note that Scott's "phonautographs" were NOT "sound recordings" in the
> modern sense of that term! 

I disagree.  Sound recording and the reproduction of the recording still 
are -- and have always been -- two separate and distinct things.  When 
disc masters are made they cannot be played without processing.  There 
are Edison disc wax masters in storage that have never been processed.  
They are sound recordings now, and will be playable when the Edison Site 
eventually decides to try to get funding for processing.  But they are 
still recordings even now, and the Scott phonautograms were sound 
recordings even when not playable. 

> They DID establish important (and not then
> known) facts about how sound was transmitted; however, it took a large
> number of years before they could successfully be reproduced (which
> was NOT the original intent in any case!)!
>

It WAS known how sound was transmitted,  They were trying to establish 
how intelligibility might be discerned in the waveform visually.


> They established that the sounds we humans hear are simply variations
> of air pressure; 

That WAS already known.

> it would be over a decade later that Edison would
> successfully record sound so that it could be reproduced. Note that
> Edison (AFAIK?) was NOT trying to extend Scott's discoveries...?!
>
> Steven C. Barr
>

This is where Patrick Feaster and I disagree.  He sees no link, but 
despite what Edison said (which I think is a fib for patent protection) 
I think it is obvious that Edison knew something about the Phonautograph 
because there is no other explanation why Edison switched from the disc 
and tape experimental forms to a cylinder.  Scott used a cylinder to 
have parallel tracks for visual observation which a spiral or tape would 
not allow, but Edison could have done what he intended -- if ALL he 
intended was reproduction -- with any of the three forms.  Patrick 
brings up a theory (if I interpret Patrick's article correct;y) that 
Edison thought intelligibility was a function of frequency, so his 
cylinder phonograph might have been usable to examine that (if they 
didn't get sidetracked because the damn thing worked so well!!!)   It 
could be that Edison did use the cylinder form to discover that 
intelligibility remained when a recording was reproduced slower than 
recorded, faster than recorded, and the same speed as recorded.  So this 
would disprove a theory linking intelligibility with frequency, but now 
he also had a machine that reproduced sound fairly well.  Scott's 
machine showed waveform visually so much better than Edison's tinfoil, 
but needed one other step to prove intelligibility theory.  Edison 
realized that visually examining the tinfoil wasn't necessary. 

I wasn't at the original unveiling in Palo Alto, and Patrick and I were 
both too busy last year, but maybe we could discuss it this year in 
N.O.  I gotta read his article again.  Edison PRIDED himself on reading 
up on everything in the field before he worked on an invention.  That is 
why he had such a huge library.  I am sure he knew about Scott, and I 
suspect he knew about Cros.  The evidence might still be in his library, 
not in his lab notes.  (I've been saying this for forty years.)

Mike Biel  [log in to unmask] 

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