Thursday, March 27, 2008

11 Seconds in 225 square inches

I'm a little cursed. So, I'm reading this New York Times article about the discovery and playback of Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville's phonautograms, which he made up to 17 years before Thomas Alva Edison recorded "Mary had a little lamb." And, what pops into my mind is this image...
(Scott triumphantly emerges from the curtain of his sound recording booth at a Parisian nightclub)
Scott: I have done it! I have successfully recorded the human voice! These 11 seconds of “Au Clair de la Lune” will be available to the posterity of France forever!
Mssr. Jeroblume: Most excellent, sir! When can we listen to it?
Scott: What do you mean?
Update:I should clarify a few things. One is that Mssr. Jeroblume is a made-up character. Two is that I don't know what a Mssr. is, but I'm pretty sure it's a French honorific. Three is that the reason this is funny is that Scott's recordings couldn't be played back -- they were visual representations of sound. The article is about somebody putting a lot of work into making one playable, and Scott resented Edison for making the intuitive leap that users might want to get that data back out of their archive.

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