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Particle Physics Resurrects Alexander Graham Bell’s Voice

It takes some doing to extract sound from an 1885 wax disc

5 min read
Photo of a wax disc recording from 1885.
Photo: Division of Work & Industry/National Museum of American History/Smithsonian Institution

imgHear My Voice: This 1885 disc contains the only known recording of Alexander Graham Bell’s voice.Photo: Division of Work & Industry/National Museum of American History/Smithsonian Institution

In 1880, Alexander Graham Bell decided to go head-to-head with Thomas Edison. His goal: improving—and commercializing—the phonograph. Bell established the Volta Laboratory in Washington, D.C., using prize money he’d received from the French government for his invention of the telephone. He hired his cousin, chemist Chichester Bell, and instrument maker Charles Sumner Tainter. Collectively known as the Volta Laboratory Associates, the three men spent the next five years researching the transmission and recording of sound.

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How the Graphical User Interface Was Invented

Three decades of UI research came together in the mice, windows, and icons used today

18 min read
Stylized drawing of a desktop computer with mouse and keyboard, on the screen are windows, Icons, and menus
Getty Images/IEEE Spectrum

Mice, windows, icons, and menus: these are the ingredients of computer interfaces designed to be easy to grasp, simplicity itself to use, and straightforward to describe. The mouse is a pointer. Windows divide up the screen. Icons symbolize application programs and data. Menus list choices of action.

But the development of today’s graphical user interface was anything but simple. It took some 30 years of effort by engineers and computer scientists in universities, government laboratories, and corporate research groups, piggybacking on each other’s work, trying new ideas, repeating each other’s mistakes.

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