“Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” — Thomas Edison, Inventor of the Phonograph, Motion Picture Camera and Electric Light Bulb —
American inventor and businessman Thomas Edison made history’s first sound recording on this day in 1877, reciting the famous nursery rhyme “Mary Had A Little Lamb”. Edison was testing his phonograph, an instrument that used tinfoil-coated cylinders to transmit audio — a makeshift machine that seems downright prehistoric in the era of iPods and digital music. While his invention wasn’t a commercial hit with the public, the phonograph was the predecessor to the gramophone and record player, its remarkable success earning Edison the nickname “The Wizard of Menlo Park”. At the Golden Jubilee of the Phonograph ceremony in 1927, Edison commented on his astonishing achievement: “I adjusted the reproducer, and the machine reproduced it perfectly. I was never so taken aback in my life. Everybody was astonished. I was always afraid of things that worked the first time.” For decades, the original sound recording was thought to be unplayable and thus lost to history — but in 2012, scientists at the the University of California Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in collaboration with the Library of Congress recreated the original phonograph using “optical imaging”.