Engineer Remasters Thomas Edison’s Musical Recordings

Marc Hildebrant finds the missing notes in mechanically recorded performances

3 min read
sketch of early sound recording with pianist
Hit it, Maestro: Early sound recording relied on the direct mechanical force of acoustic vibrations to etch patterns in cylinders and discs.
Photo: AP Photo

One of the best parts of working for IEEE Spectrum is the opportunity to discover intriguing tech projects that are pure labors of love, whether it’s building a 16-bit CPU out of discrete transistors or keeping a collection of vintage personal computers alive. So when I heard about Marc Hildebrant’s work on using digital techniques to restore mechanically recorded music to its full glory, I had to know more.

The earliest sound-recording and playback technology was pioneered by Thomas Edison in 1877. The system was purely mechanical: To record a performance, musicians arranged themselves around a recording horn, at the other end of which a diaphragm vibrated in accordance with the incoming sounds. A needle attached to the diaphragm etched a track in the recording medium—first cylinders, and later discs. Playback was simply a reversal of this process, with a needle vibrating a diaphragm at the base of a horn. In the 1920s, the recording switched to an electrical system using microphones. By the 1930s, electrical playback was also available.

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Tony Fadell: The Nest Thermostat Disrupted My Life

The Nest founder tells of years in pursuit of a thermostat he actually likes

7 min read
A man holds a circular device in front of a blue wall that says nest on it.

Tony Fadell shows off the Nest thermostat in 2012.

Karsten Lemm/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

The thermostat chased me for 10 years.

That is pretty extreme, by the way. If you’ve got an idea for a business or a new product, you usually don’t have to wait a decade to make sure it’s worth doing.

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