Ask a Bigger Question. Edison Did.

The inventor of the phonograph was Thomas Edison? Not by twenty years.

The proof is solid. The song “Au Clair de la Lune”, recorded in 1860, is still here today. Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a Frenchman, typesetter, and tinkerer, is the man who captured those sounds for posterity.

Where did de Martinville go wrong?

Literally, phono-graph means ‘sound | something written’. And that’s what de Martinville set out to do. He succeeded brilliantly. Yet we don’t know him.

Edison asked a different, further, question. He asked , ‘how might people hear the sounds that have been written?’

Today we have iPods, DVD’s, and feature films in Dolby 5.1 surround sound; and every fifth grader knows Edison, not de Martinville, as the father of recorded words and music.

de Martinville never even thought about playing the sounds back. It simply wasn’t his aim. Why?

He lived and worked in a time when self government and parliamentary bodies and scientific investigations were exploding. Thinking men were searching for faster ways to record proceedings and events of all kind–on paper. Even Brigham Young, early leader of the Mormon church and Utah, pushed a unique Mormon alphabet that would be more phonetically accurate and easier to use than our Latin letters.

de Martiniville’s error was a critical one many would-be inventors make. He asked the wrong, too limited, question. De Martinville asked how to make a tool that made an existing process better. Edison asked, ‘what new process do people really want?’

BadgeOhio|BadgeHS asks you to work with us on a whole new process. To ask one question beyond what most in education are asking.


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