We mid-century adults, though we bridge that time from early recording and distribution of sound and sight to digital ubiquity, can't really imagine the change from this represents. To only hear music when you could attend a show or play it yourself, to seldom hear a great speaker in his own voice, it's mind-boggling to imagine. We get peeved when the clip we want isn't easily accessible. Never mind having to rely on recollections of others as to what was said or heard.
I've had the chance to listen to old 78 RPM records, and the experience is really magic. The sound quality in most of those is surprisingly good, in spite of the years; and there are several videos on Youtube showing how you could play McGyver and build a phonograph out of thin air with a paperclip, some ribbons, and a paper cone. I'd like to see someone figuring out how to play an MP3 file 60 years from now. Assuming those files hadn't been lost by then due to the degradation of the magnetic or solid-state memory devices where they were stored. Shows you that newer isn't always better.
I don't know all that much about vinyl technology, but it's my understanding that, unlike the digital format, records contain a physical analog of whatever sounds were recorded onto them. No multi-tracks, just a picture of sound. Kinda primal, once you think about it.
From wax cylinders, to carbon disks (78's made for the Victrola) to 78's made for phonographs, to 45's (single and multi-cut) to 33 1/3 LP. From mono to stereo. From tapes to surround sound to MP3. Audio recording and reproduction is still fascinating and of the early works it must have been extremely fascinating to hear a recording, especially ones own voice from a school made phonograph.With all the digital advances we often forget about the old methods, some of which still sound better than digital audio.Anyone remember the old Webber wire recorders?
Interesting. It might have been an eerie feeling to hear a phonograph for the first time. Speaking of, I want one!
This is really making me want to check out Kittler--hope I can get a copy before spring break.
There is a book by Greg Milner, Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music, that is very, very good on this. Talks about the Edison tests and the whole authentic/essential argument that culminates in HiFi and associated nerdery. When Edison's ears started failing, he'd hunker down and literally bite on the wood of the record player and have the sounds transferred through his teeth & jaw. I think it's sad, because those 78s are the sounds of dead people, in a way that's more eerie than listening to plain vinyl or cd of since-deceased artists.