Version: Feb. 23, 2004


The iron whisper



In September and October, 1888, French telegraph engineer Mecadier assembled an electic pickup for tinfoil phonographs (Fig. 2 in the woodcut above). He left the phonograph's own iron membrane in place and put the electromagnets of a telephone earphone very close to that membrane. The recording could then be heard in another earphone connected to the pickup. This connection would not have included any electric power source, and so the sound must have been rather weak.

The inventor seems satisfied with the performance of his invention, and blames any deficiencies on the recording; in La Nature, April 1889, he writes:

"This reproduction, in spite of the intermediary transformations of energy and the losses that necessarily follow, is quite clear, at least as to the reproduction; for it naturally retains the defects inherent in the phonograph, namely: muffled articulation, the predominance of some vowels and a change of timbre in the form of an unpleasant nasality. However, due to the reduced intensity of these effects, this latter inconvenience is considerably diminished."

Christer Hamp, 2004

The image on this page is from Paul Charbon's book Le phonographe la Belle Epoque (1977)

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