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America’s Library:

Thomas Edison and the First Phonograph
August 12, 1877
The next time you listen to a favorite album, you can thank Thomas Edison for discovering the secret to recording sound. Before there were CD players and tape decks, there was the phonograph. August 12, 1877 is the date popularly given for Thomas Edison’s completion of the model for the first phonograph.

Edison was trying to improve the telegraph transmitter when he noticed that the movement of the paper tape through the machine produced a noise resembling spoken words when played at a high speed. Experimenting with a stylus (hard-pointed instrument like a large needle) on a tinfoil cylinder, Edison spoke into the machine. Do you know the first words ever recorded?

To Edison’s surprise, the cylinder recorded his message, “Mary had a little lamb.” People had a hard time believing his discovery at first, but soon doubt turned into awe as Edison became known as “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” after the name of the city in New Jersey where he did his work. Sound recording was rapidly becoming an American industry.


Arcade Fire’s Vinyl Success
—Lost in the media hoopla over Arcade Fire’s success with “The Suburbs” is the incredible success of the vinyl format. First week sales of the vinyl LP totaled 6,100, according to Nielsen SoundScan, or 4% of sales. Vinyl sales alone would have put “The Suburbs” at #67 on the Billboard album chart. In comparison, Vampire Weekend’s “Contra” did a “mere” 3,300 units of vinyl LP in its first week of release – 2.7% of its 124,000 first-week sales.