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. Side view.