Edison 'Fireside' phonograph, 1909.
3 4 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 26cm

Edison 'Fireside' phonograph, 1909.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


The world's first recording machine arose, like the telephone, from work on the telegraph. Developing a machine that recorded Morse code by indenting a paper strip, Thomas Edison (1847-1931) noticed that when running fast it produced distinctive noises. He adapted the idea to sound recording by wrapping tinfoil around a rotating drum and indenting it with a stylus which vibrated in sympathy with the sound. This first machine had a head for recording and a head for reproducing, and could play 2 and 4 minute records.

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