Who Invented the Phonograph?

Charles Cros, a Frenchman, drew up a plan for a phonograph in 1877, but never built his mechanism. At the same time, Thomas Edison had been working on a phonograph of his own and later that same year, patented the first of his many versions.

When Edison had learned of Alexander Graham Bell’s new invention, the telephone, he had begun to play with its design; he wanted to make a sound machine capable of other tasks. Edison noticed that the vibrations of his voice moved a piece of iron in Bell’s ‘ telephone.

He replaced this iron piece with a steel needle and placed a strip of waxed paper under it. As he shouted, “Hallo! Hallo!” the needle made marks on the waxed paper. When the needle was later passed over the marks on the waxed paper, a crude, though audible, “Hallo!” could be heard.

Edison’s first phonograph was a small model which used as a record a metal cylinder covered with tin foil. The cylinder had an axle running through it so it could be turned. Next to the cylinder was a mouthpiece with a vibrating disc, or diaphragm.

A needle attached to this diaphragm touched the cylinder. As someone spoke or sang into the mouthpiece, he turned the cylinder. The sound waves of his voice caused the diaphragm and needle to vibrate against the foil, making dents in it.

Once this recording was made, a different needle was attached to the diaphragm and turned against the cylinder. The dents already in the cylinder made the needle and diaphragm vibrate, giving off a sound similar to the original.

A later version of Edison’s phonograph had a funnel-shaped earpiece attached to it to increase sound reproduction.

The first words Edison ever spoke into his first phonograph were “Mary had a little lamb “!