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Posts Tagged ‘Edison

“With recording, everything changed”*…

 

To the question “When were recordings invented?,” we might be tempted to answer “1877” — the year when Thomas A. Edison was first able to record and playback sound with a phonograph. But what if we think of recordings not as mere carriers of sound, but as commodities that can be bought and sold, as artifacts capable of capturing and embodying values and emotions; of defining a generation, a country or a social class? The story then becomes one that unfolds over three decades and is full of many layers and ramifications. Without Edison’s technological innovations, recordings would have certainly never existed — but hammering out the concept of recording were also a myriad of other inventors, musicians, producers and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Most of them were enthusiastic about being part of a global revolution, but they worked in close connection with their milieu too, shaping recording technologies and their uses to relate to the needs, dreams, and desires of the audiences they knew…

The full(er) story: “Inventing the Recording.”

* “With recording, everything changed. The prospect of music being detachable from time and place meant that one could start to think of music as a part of one’s furniture. It’s an idea that many composers have felt reluctant about because it seemed to them to diminish the importance of music.”  – Brian Eno

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As we drop the needle, we might recall that it was on this date in 1900 that “His Master’s Voice,” the logo of the Victor Talking Machine Company (later RCA Victor), was registered with the US Patent Office. The logo famously featured the dog “Nipper” looking into the horn of a gramophone.

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Written by LW

July 16, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The radio was shouting at you, pleading with you, and seducing you”*…

 

For your holiday listening pleasure, from Studio Puckey, live radio streams (and more) from around the world: radio.garden.

* David Byrne, How Music Works

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As we touch that dial, we might recall that it was on this date in 1880 that New York’s “Great White Way” was born when Charles F. Brush successfully demonstrated his arc lamps along Broadway– two years before Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street Station began lighting New York.

Brush’s New York central power plant dynamos, which powered arc lamps from December, 1880 along a 2 mile long circuit, including Broadway

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(Coincidentally, on this date 20 years later, Nature reported the invention, by William Du Bois Duddell, an English physicist, of the Musical Arcs– the first fully electric musical instrument.)

 

Written by LW

December 20, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Cats have been domesticating and harvesting humans for at least two millennia”*…

 

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This film, featuring two cats wearing boxing gloves and packing a punch, was filmed in Thomas Edison’s studio in 1894. The performance was part of Professor Henry Welton’s “cat circus,” which toured the United States both before and after appearing in Edison’s film. Performances included cats riding small bicycles and doing somersaults, with the boxing match being the highlight of the show. As for why the cats were filmed (apart from being an early example of people enjoying footage of cats), it might have possibly been a publicity stunt to advertise the show. It could also quite possibly be the first ever “cat video” (though, of course, before the days of video).

Via Public Domain Review and the Library of Congress.

* “Cats have been domesticating and harvesting humans for at least two millennia, albeit slowly, generation by generation. With the Internet, they are moving much faster, and in only two or three more generations, we will be completely incapable of sustaining a line of thought for more than half a second, and therefore effectively be zombies in the service of our feline masters who will use lame Photoshoppers to communicate with us”

–Matt Smith

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As we memorialize memes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 that Henry F. Phillips received several U.S. patents for the Phillips-head screw and screwdriver– a system in which a matching driver with a tapering tip conveniently self-centers in the screw head.  Phillips founded the Phillips Screw Company to license his patents, and persuaded the American Screw Company to manufacture the fasteners.  General Motors was convinced to use the screws on its 1937 Cadillac; by 1940, virtually every American automaker had switched to Phillips screws.

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Written by LW

July 7, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life”*…

 

From The Great Train Robbery, 1903

In 1888, Thomas Edison wrote that “I am experimenting upon an instrument which does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear, which is the recording and reproduction of things in motion.” The system was comprised of the Kinetograph, a motion picture camera, and a Kinetoscope, a motion picture viewer, and was mostly created by Edison’s assistant, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson. (The system was likely inspired by the zoopraxiscope created by photographer—and murderer!—Eadweard Muybridge to show off his motion photographs.) Early films from the Edison Manufacturing Co. showed off “actualities”: celebrities, news, disasters, and expositions. But later, the company switched to creating narrative films more in line with what we watch at the movies today…

These earliest films, often a minute or two in length,  could be purchased for $6.60 (about $169 in today’s currency).  But readers can see a selection of Edison’s early essays, streamed for free, at “10 Early Films Made by Edison’s Movie Company.”

* Federico Fellini

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As search for the concession stand, we might recall that it was on this date in 1732 that Louis Timothee (sometimes rendered “Lewis Timothy”) became the first salaried librarian in the American Colonies. A printer and protégé of Benjamin Franklin’s, Timothee served as the part-time librarian for the Library Company of Philadelphia, one of Franklin’s first philanthropic projects, from its founding on July 1, 1731.  As the project took hold, Timothee’s position was elevated to a full-time, paid position.

The Library Company of Phildelphia

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Written by LW

November 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

“New technology is common, new thinking is rare”*…

 

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If one peeks back to the earliest days of television, one discovers that much of the excitement over the nascent new medium was over its promise for education.  In fact, that enthusiasm was an echo; years earlier, Thomas Edison had harbored similar dreams for the new medium he helped create:  motion pictures…

They say they are spending a million dollars nowadays to make just one big picture. If I had been told in the days of our first movie studio that anybody would spend a million dollars to produce a single film, I don’t know whether I would have swallowed it or not. It would have been some effort.

It may seem curious, but the money end of the movies never hit me the hardest. The feature that did appeal to me about the whole thing was the educational possibilities I thought I could see. I had some glowing dreams about what the camera could be made to do and ought to do in teaching the world things it needed to know—teaching it in a more vivid, direct way.

I figured that after the novelty wore off, the camera would either be taken up by the big educators and pushed as a new agency in the schools—or that it would be developed mostly along straight amusement lines for entertainment and commercial purposes. I guess up to date the entertainment and commercial purposes have won.

A good many people seemed to wonder why I did so—maybe they still wonder. But the answer is simple enough. I was an inventor—an experimenter. I wasn’t a theatrical producer. And I had no ambitions to become one.

If, on the other hand, the educational uses of the camera had come more to the front, as I had hoped, and I had seen an opportunity to develop some new ideas along those lines, my story as a producer might have been very different. I should have been far more interested in going on.

Do you know that one of my first thoughts for the motion-picture camera was to combine it with the phonograph? In fact, that was what primarily interested me in motion pictures— the hope of developing something that would do for the eye what the phonograph did for the ear.

My plan was to synchronize the camera and the phonograph so as to record sounds when the pictures were made, and reproduce the two in harmony. As a matter of fact, we did a lot of work along this line, and my talking pictures were shown in many theaters in the United States and foreign countries. I even worked on the possibility of an entire performance of grand opera, for example, being given in this way.

Another thought I had was that such a dual arrangement might record both the lives and the voices of the great men and women of the world. Can you realize the tremendous impetus this would be to the study of history and economics?

They are producing pictures of this kind now, I understand, by photographing and reproducing the sound waves. We were working, of course, from an entirely different angle—but we had the first of the so-called talking pictures in our laboratory thirty years ago.

We might have developed them into a greater commercial circulation if we had kept on—but I was interested in the educational and not the entertainment field. When the educators failed to respond I lost interest. What I had in mind was a bit ahead of the times, maybe. The world wasn’t ready for the kind of education I had pictured.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I should say that in ten years textbooks as the principal medium of teaching will be as obsolete as the horse and carriage are now. I believe that in the next ten years visual education—the imparting of exact information through the motion-picture camera—will be a matter of course in all of our schools. The printed lesson will be largely supplemental—not paramount.

From The Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva Edison. Edited by Dagobert D. Runes. New York: Philosophical Library, 1948; via Lapham’s Quaterly.

Sir Peter Blake

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As we dim the lights, we might recall that it was on this date in 1897 that Edison received a U.S. patent (No.589,168) for his kinetoscope camera, a device for producing moving pictures.  In fact Edison had developed the camera and a viewer earlier, demonstrating “motion pictures” in 1893.  But his earlier attempts to patent the technology were successfully challenged; this was the version that prevailed. Uncharacteristically for Edison (who scored– and energetically protected– 1,093 patents in the U.S. and 2,332 globally), he did not pursue international protection on this invention, which surely hastened its development.

“Fred Ott’s Sneeze”- one of the earlier films shot with the Kinetoscope camera, and the first film to be granted a copyright

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Written by LW

August 31, 2014 at 1:01 am

“I didn’t have to work anymore in life when the rappers started sampling… I’m the most sampled artist in history”*…

A big part of making music is the discovery aspect, is the surprise aspect. That’s why I think I’ll always love sampling. Because it involves combining the music fandom: collecting, searching, discovering music history, and artifacts of recording that you may not have known existed and you just kind of unlock parts of your brain, you know?
Gotye

From Jonny Wilson– aka Eclectic Method

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* Rick James

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As we muse on mash-ups, we might recall that it was on this date in 1878 that the modern music business was effectively born: Thomas Edison was awarded U.S. Patent No. 200,521 for his invention, the phonograph.

Thomas Edison with his phonograph, photographed by Mathew Brady in Washington, April 1878

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Written by LW

February 19, 2014 at 1:01 am

All call…

 

From All Staff, All Day— a Tumblr devoted to “genuine emails that people feel the need to send to all staff at my company.”

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As we carefully avoid hitting “reply all,” we might send electrifying birthday greetings to Serbian-American electrical engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla; he was born on this date in 1856.  (Tesla’s birth certificate says “June 28″ in the Orthodox system– most scholars convert this to July 9; some, to July 10.)  Tesla is probably best remembered for his rivalry with Thomas Edison:  Tesla invented and patented the first AC motor and generator (c.f.: Niagara Falls); Edison promoted DC power… and went to great lengths to discredit Tesla and his approach.  In the end, of course, Tesla was right.

Tesla patented over 300 inventions worldwide, though he kept many of his creations out of the patent system to protect their confidentiality.  His work ranged widely, from technology critical to the development of radio to the first remote control.  At the turn of the century, Tesla designed and began planning a “worldwide wireless communications system” that was backed by J.P. Morgan…  until Morgan lost confidence and pulled out.  “Cyberspace,” as described by the likes of William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, is largely prefigured in Tesla’s plan.  On Tesla’s 75th birthday in 1931, Time put him on its cover, captioned “All the world’s his power house.”  He received congratulatory letters from Albert Einstein and more than 70 other pioneers in science and engineering.  But Tesla’s talent ran far, far ahead of his luck.  He died penniless in 1943.

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Written by LW

July 9, 2013 at 1:01 am

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