Phonograph Record Technologies from their invention to the death of 78-rpm records

Before the Phonograph

There was sound recording before the phonograph, but not sound reproduction. In 1856 or '57, years before the invention of the phonograph, French inventor Leon Scot demonstrated the Phonoautograph system for recording sounds. It used a diaphragm sensitive enough to respond to strong sound waves, attached to a fine stylus, which pressed against a moving glass cylinder (later flat glass plates would be used by others) The glass cylinder was coated with black carbon (smoke) and rotated, recorded sound as a wavering line.

Facsimile of a Phonoautograph tracing

Facsimile of an early Phonautograph tracing.

Scott's Phonautograph

Leon Scot's Phonoautograph

In April of 1877, a few months before Edison's invention, Frenchman Charles Cros wrote a description of a machine that he said record and reproduce sounds. Although he failed to patent or demonstrate the device, he deserves credit for the insight that the phonautograph's recording process could be modified to play back sounds.



Charles Cros

Charles Cros, 1879