Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville invented the original method of phonographic recording in 1860, almost a full two decades before Edision had his patent established for the Phonograph. The machine was dubbed the phonautograph and could record sounds but was not intended to play them back. Scott was more interested in creating archive of the visual representation of songs and human speech. After Edison patented the Phonograph, Scott protested the credit and patent given to him and stated ” What are the rights of the discoverer versus the improver?” Scott also felt that Edison had been appropriating or, in less kind words, stealing his methods. The ultimate goal of phonographic technology should be “writing speech,” not reproducing sounds according to Scott.
While Scott may have intended this as a non playable visual archive, some researchers working out of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California have developed a method of playback for these phonautographic records. Check out the first recorded song below, coming in almost three decades prior to the 1888 recording of Handel‘s choir at The Crystal Palace.