The Phonograph and Its Future

Phonograph Exhibit at Westminster Public Library, Westminster, CO, September 2018


In April 1878 Edison wrote an article titled "The Phonograph and its Future" to identify "probabilities" for its future. Edison included the following among his list of what he called the more important probabilities:

Books recorded so that they may be heard instead of read

Educational - as an elocutionary teacher or as a primary teacher for children

Music - "As a musical teacher" or with a voice like Adelina Patti's singing in all its purity

Family Record - by preserving the voices of family the "phonograph will unquestionable outrank the photograph"

Speech and other Utterances "of our Washingtons, our Lincolns, our Gladstones, etc." and have them speak to us "in every town and hamlet in the country on our holidays"

Toys - A doll which may speak, sing, cry, or laugh, may be safely promised our children for the Chistmas holidays ensuring. Every species of animal or mechanical toy -- such as locomotives, etc. -- may be supplied with their natural and characteristic sounds.

In this exhibit some examples of these Edison probabilities that became realities are displayed: children's phonographs from the last 115 years; talking books and records with music; records for learning your ABC's; an Edison cylinder to learn German; talking dolls; and Voyager's Golden Record with its voices and music and sounds which is essentially a "message in a bottle" and Greetings from Earth preserving utterances and sounds from the families of Earth for all time in deep space.

Advertisements and pop culture characters are also displayed since they helped sell the phonograph and establish its place in the home.














The Voyager Golden Record and Cover


Almost one hundred years after Edison invented his Phonograph a Golden Record was included on the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts. These records are 12-inch gold-plated copper disks containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth - essentially a "message in a bottle" and Greetings from Earth.

Remarkably, these phonograph records could end up outliving humanity itself.


Across the Universe

In 1929 Edison spoke on the radio to the IEEE conference in San Francisco 3000 miles from where Edison sat. In rejoicing at the wonderful advances that had been made in the art of electrical communication Edison said the following:

"You and I are very widely separated physically by a great distance in miles, but time and space have been annihilated for us and our minds meet and speech is instantaneous."

On February 4, 2008, for the first time ever, NASA beamed a song directly into deep space using NASA's Deep Space Network.

Aimed at Polaris, the North Star, located 431 light years away from Earth, the transmission of The Beatles' Across the Universe commemorated the 40th anniversary of the day it was recorded and the 50th anniversary of NASA's founding.


Track 3 "Across the Universe"



Since this exhibit was in a library and since libraries for many years loaned records this cartoon seemed perfect.

(Courtesy of Charles Schulz)







All items in this exhibit are from the Phonographia Collection