A machine that used cylinders to record and reproduce sound.

Inventing the Phonograph

In 1876 and 1877, Thomas Edison experimented with many ways to record and replay messages, like being able to play back telegraph messages. He had experimented with it for a few years, and in December 1877, Edison had a machinist build the phonograph. When it was done, he recorded the nursery rhyme Mary Had A Little Lamb. When it played back on the machine, Edison later said," I was never so taken aback in my life." Days later, Thomas Edison walked into the office of the Scientific American. He put down a small simple machine and didn't say anything. All he did was turn the crank and then the machine said "Good morning. How do you do? How do you like the Phonograph?"

The First Phonograph

To record messages, Edison attached a needle to a diaphragm, which is a metal disk that responds to sound waves by vibrating. The needle rested against a rotating cylinder that was wrapped with tinfoil. When the disk vibrated, the needle made many impressions in the tinfoil. Another needle was attached to a diaphragm and a funnel-like horn to reproduce the sound. This needle went into the same impressions or grooves in the foil. It vibrated the diaphragm and then the air in the horn, which reproduced the original sound waves.

Pictures of the Phonograph


"How Record Players Work - HowStuffWorks." HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.

Pohlmann, Ken C. "Phonograph." World Book Student. World Book, 2015. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.

Wikipedia contributors. "Phonograph." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 Jan. 2015. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.