Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 029

"The Talking Phonograph on Exhibition," Scientific American, February 9, 1878, p. 86.

Mr. Thomas A. Edison recently exhibited his talking phonograph before the Polytechnic Association of the American Institute, in this city.  This was the first public showing of the instrument, and although much yet remains to be done to make it fulfill the design of its inventor, its capabilities have already been considerably advanced beyond those which it possessed when displayed to us in this office shortly after its origination.  The mechanical construction, that is, the rotating sliding cylinder, the vibratory membrane and the tin foil strip which receives the indentation and in turn transmits the pulsations to the receiving diaphragm, have not been materially modified, but by the use of reflectors Mr. Edison has succeeded in magnifying the sound so as to render the same quite audible throughout a large apartment.  The scientists who gathered to hear the phonograph manifested genuine astonishment, and the instrument itself, apparently on its good behavior, did its best to strengthen the impression.   It proved its capacity as a linguist by repeating sentences spoken to it in English, Dutch, German, French, Spanish, and the Hebrew.  It imitated with marvelous fidelity the barking of dogs, crowing of cocks, etc., and then taking a severe cold, coughed and sneezed and wheezed, until the physicians in the audience instinctively began to write prescriptions.  After the inventor had exhibited its reproduction of his remarks, his auditors wanted the machine to imitate theirs also, and for a long time the apparatus was made the recipient probably of all the different sounds that the human voice could produce or scientific ingenuity devise.  It withstood the test triumphantly, and remained in modest silence while praises were lavished upon it and suggestions innumerable made as to its future uses.  Another proposal was to reproduce figures of popular speakers in life size--electrotype Mr. Beecher, for instance--reproduce his speech in tin foil, put a phonograph, run by clockwork, inside of him--the statue, not the man--and stand him on a platform to repeat the new lecture on the "Wastes and Burdens of Society."  Another suggestion was that public speakers might repeat their speeches to the phonograph, and then twenty-four hours later have the phonograph repeat the words to them.  They could thus prevent themselves from making rash or overheated or silly remarks.  An irreverent individual "didn't see but that now, with the talking phonograph and singing telephone, clergymen and choirs were out of date.  The phonograph could repeat service every Sunday and run off old sermons with wonderful accuracy; while, by having enough telephones, one choir would supply music to all the churches in the city."  An amendment to this was the suggestion to use only the phonograph, because it could sing as well as speak, and thus it might do the duty of both preacher and choir.  An indolent listener to the foregoing wanted to know if a phonograph could not be combined with a clock so as at the proper times to remark, "7 o'clock, time to get up;" "12 o'clock, go to dinner," and so on.  The audience, some of the members of which were at first rather doubtful as to the foundation for all we had said regarding Mr. Edison's invention, left well convinced as to its wonderful capabilities.  Meanwhile the inventor is relaxing no efforts to improve it, and we shall be much mistaken if before many months he does not astonish us with a machine able to do much greater things than those already accomplished.