As I write this, I've got Kendrick Lamar slipping out of my speakers. I've got access to hundreds of thousands of songs, speeches, lectures, radio shows and podcasts at my fingertips. We've recently recorded the sounds of the Earth. Recording is ubiquitous: most of us have recorded a voice mail message.
Before all that, in 1878 St. Louis, a man recorded 78 seconds of music and his own voice. The recording, which is the oldest in human history (so far as we know), was recorded on a phonograph invented by Thomas Edison. Oh yeah, and it's on a piece of tinfoil.
At least, it was on a piece of tinfoil before the sounds were transferred to a computer.
The recording is pretty racy too: after about 23 seconds of a cornet solo, it includes a man reciting "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Old Mother Hubbard." Someone call Tipper Gore: we need a parental advisory sticker.
It's even got a blooper. The dude messes up the verse to Mother Hubbard. Amateur hour. Literally.
How it works: A five by 15 inch sheet of tinfoil placed in the phonograph. A hand crank turns a cylinder located under a stylus that moves vertically over the foil and record the sounds waves onto the foil. After a few playbacks, the stylus would tear the foil.
Researchers took the tinfoil and used optical scanning technology to recreate the stylus' movements, reading the grooves and creating a 3D image. Computers analyzed this and recovered the original sound. At the moment, it can be heard at the Museum of Innovation and Science in Schenectady, New York.
Via CBS News