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 “!

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

2 thoughts on “Who Invented the Phonograph?”

  1. he invented it, in that he came up with the idea, but he didn’t build it himself, just like the lightbulb, he had over a dozen scientists working in his lab on the phonograph.

  2. Correction, Thomas Edison did not originally invented the phonograph, another one invented it before him. His name is Emile Berliner.

    Edison is known for his cunning ways, he is used to steal others work and make it his own so he got the credit. The same thing he did to the brilliant Nikola Tesla. He just can’t admit that Nikola Tesla is way ahead than him in terms of imagination, creativity and originality. What made Nikola Tesla capable of advanced inventions is that he is a mathematician while Edison is not. Even some inventions of Nikola Tesla to this date are still too advanced for our current technology that it is being suppressed.

    Even the light bulb is not an original idea of Edison, a lot of inventors has been working with it during his time, it’s just that Edison was quick enough to file a patent of it so he gets the credit. A later innovation of the light bulb was invented by Nikola Tesla which is far more superior than his. It consumes lesser electricity, brighter and had longer life.

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