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GE's early 20th century pallophotophone recorder decoded, Thomas Edison speech uncovered

Laura June Dziuban
June 20, 2010
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In 1922, General Electric developed a machine for recording audio called the pallophotophone, which recorded sound on 35mm film. It is thought to be the world's first multitrack recording system (and it predated magnetic tape multitrack recording by about 20 years). The device never really made it to the big time, however, and until very recently, almost no one bothered to think about it anymore. Then Chris Hunter, curator of the Schenectady Museum in Schenectady, New York discovered 12 canisters of the film in his archives. Though none of GE's original pallophotophone machines seem to have survived, current GE engineer Russ DeMuth became involved in the project, and spent two years building a modern pallophotophone based on GE's original sketches, out of modern materials, dubbing the new one the Gizmotron. The modern device plays the original films just fine, and included in their canisters were a couple of real gems -- what's thought to be the earliest recording of the NBC chimes, and a speech given by Thomas Edison commemorating the 50th anniversary of the invention of the incandescent lightbulb. A photo of the modern Gizmotron and its inventors is below -- hit up the source for the full story and hear the Edison audio.



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