March 27, 2008

The First Phonograph

Hackers have an extremely old joke about “write-only memory” — just like read-only memory, but the other way around.

It turns out that the first phonograph — a number of years before Edison’s well-known invention — was just such a system.  It could record sounds onto a piece of paper, but they couldn’t be played back.

Right around 1.5 centuries later, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville’s April 9, 1860 autophonogram of a woman singing “Au Claire de Lune” has finally been rediscovered and played back with the help of some serious image-processing work by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Note that this sound recording is, believe it or not, still subject to state-law copyright protection in the United States until February 15, 2067.  17 U.S.C. 301(c).

Disclaimer Haiku:
West wind seems to say,
"This is not legal advice;
I'm not your lawyer."

(And if you're a client with whom I have a preexisting attorney-client relationship, this still isn't legal advice.)

In case you're wondering, this blog is also not intended as advertising, as a representation of anything but my personal opinion, or as an offer of representation.

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