Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 025

"The Phonograph Explained Just What Ailed a Big Pump in California,"
Scientific American
, Sept. 28, 1895, p. 197.

It appears that the Knowles Pump Works put up one of their large pumps for the Ricks Water Company at the Elk River pumping station in California.  The pump was in constant use for some years and the makers heard no complaint until a few weeks ago, when they received a novel communication from H. L. Ricks, the manager of the pumping station.

There was no doubt in the minds of those at the station who were best acquainted with the mechanism that something was wrong with the pump, but they were unable to fix the defect, and as the dismemberment of the pump would involve much loss of time, and as a visit by an expert from the East would mean a considerable expense, the phonograph was resorted to.  The manager spoke into the receiver, describing the symptoms of the ailing pump, and further to indicate the case, he placed the receiver so that the pulsations of the pump would be recorded on the roll.

Just as a physician listens to the action of the heart or lungs in the human body by means of a stethoscope, so the pump doctor listened by means of a phonograph to the throbs and pulsations of the pump thousands of miles away, and was enabled by that means to diagnose the disease.

The New York Tribune tells how a reporter listened to the strange communication at the New York office of the Knowles Company.  The voice of the Californian is heard first giving in a clear, precise, and distinct way the symptoms of the pump, and then he asks the listener to pay attention to the pump's action.  Then one hears the b-r-r-r-bang! b-r-r-r-bang! of the pump and an occasional wheezing sound which might be made by escaping steam.

The engineer to whom the phonograph was submitted said that the whole record was so perfect and the speaking so plain that he felt tempted sometimes to interrupt and ask additional questions.

The experiment proved absolutely successful, and by means of the roll the disease was diagnosed.  The proper remedy was suggested, and the pump is running once more "good as new."