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Ghostly Voices From The Past..

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In 1890 when sound recording was in its infancy, the days of wax cylinders, Thomas Edison produced a very short lived range of dolls containing hand-cranked mechanisms. Each had a recording of a child reciting a nursery rhyme.

Edison Talking Dolls from 1890

Wax is a fragile substance and its only recently that a way has been found to get the audio recordings safely off the cylinders without damaging them, reports The New York Times.

Three recordings are up online in the article, and I can see why the dolls weren’t popular, they look really creepy and the voices aren’t exactly the most comforting either, which has a lot to do with the limits of the recording process. Still, its fascinating to see attempts for “interactive” dolls that far back – I think I still prefer the kind that just allow your imagination to run wild, and hopefully don’t cause nightmares!

Read the full article at the link: Ghostly Voices From Thomas Edison’s Dolls Can Now Be Heard

Image ©Collection of Robin and Joan Rolfs

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3 responses »

  1. Fascinating… though I think I’m with you on the “nightmares” front. 😉

    Reply
    • Mind, some of the nightmare quality probably comes from the recording process requiring quite high signal levels, so the person doing the recording had to speak very loudly. Combine that and a lack of fidelity in the recording with quite high surface noise, and the result does sound strange.

      Reply
      • I’ve heard other early recordings that aren’t so unnerving, tho given even modern tech can strip out the low notes its maybe because the children’s voices were high pitched and more of a challenge to the recording..

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