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Researchers successfully restore 134 year-old audio recording

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Waveform by Michael Altemark (Flickr)
Waveform by Michael Altemark (Flickr)

Researchers at California's Berkeley Lab have restored one of the oldest known audio recordings, a 78 second tinfoil recording from 1878. It was one of the first recordings made on Thomas Edison's newly invented phonograph, which is composed of a cylinder covered in a small sheet of tinfoil that recorded sound on the foil's surface using a stylus. However, the stylus tears the tinfoil after just a few replays. To recreate the sound and preserve the artifact, researchers scanned it and created a 3D model, which was then used to replicate the original recording.

"In the history of recorded sound that's still playable, this is about as far back as we can go," said Museum of Innovation and Science trustee John Schneiter. The recording begins with an instrumental, then features a man — believed to be political writer Thomas Mason — reciting Mary Had a Little Lamb and Old Mother Hubbard. It will be played publicly, likely for the first time since it was created, on Thursday night at the Museum of Innovation and Science in New York.