On this day in 1877, Thomas Edison patented the phonograph. Phonographs were among the first devices to both record and play audio recordings. Phonographs record audio using needles, which use sound waves to create etches into a foil-covered cylinder. As the cylinder rotates, a second needle runs along these etches and plays the recorded audio.
Edison intended the invention to be used in business settings, but over time, the devices became much more popular as entertainment devices. Audio technology has transformed from the time Edison pioneered the phonograph in 1877 to today. You can look no further than your favorite Discovery Education videos to see that most of today’s audio has gone digital!
For more about the invention of the phonograph, check out The Invention of the Phonograph [02:20]. To learn more about the life and inventions of Thomas Edison, take a look at Edison and the Age of Electricity [06:51].