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Recovering 131-Year-Old Recordings using Digital Surface Scanning

Pretty amazing to hear Alexander Graham Bell in these restored recordings, via Element14:

Carl Haber and Earl Cornell, the restoration specialist, used a hardware/software system called IRENE/3D to captures sound direct from any disc in any condition. What IRENE/3D does is take high resolution images of the broken disc while spinning and  removes the errors of the damaged disc or cylinders. They then mimic the stylus as it moved over to the media, on a computer, reproducing the originally recorded voices.

At Berkeley National Laboratory, the software was used to scan a 125 year old recordings from Alexander Graham Bell, (cousin) Chichester Bell, and Charles Sumner Tainter. The disc, along with 200 others, were sent to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. However, a way to play them did not accompany the recordings. Over time the glass and wax recording began to crack and crumble. (So much for safekeeping).

Haber and Cornell used IRENE/3D to create a high-res image of one broken disc’s surface.

More about the IRENE project here, and from the Smithsonian project page.

Also, you have to love the way the “tone” in the third video sounds like they’re just using a pigeon as a primitive function generator. Must be some kind of special “carrier” pigeon.


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1 Comment

  1. You’d think, after all that effort, they’d take a few minutes more to do some noise reduction and to even out the speedup/down!

    (P.S. It is impossible to solve the captcha on this page using Chrome, because you can’t “let go” of the sliders – they continue to follow the mouse when you release the button)

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