The Phonograph Lives!

Memories of the Phonograph


The Phonograph Lives! - Voyager 1 and Voyager 2

The revolution that began with the Phonograph is a continuum.

We still have record players and descendent technologies that record and reproduce sound waves.

And most remarkably, launched one hundred years after the invention of the phonograph, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are travelling in interstellar space each carrying a phonograph record that is Earth's "message in the bottle" and "greetings from Earth" (3).


Voyager 1 launched on September 5, 1977 (100 years after the invention of the Phonograph) - NASA/JPL (4)



Mounting the Golden Record NASA/JPL (5)



The "Golden Record" attached to the side of Voyager 1 (5)




The audio of the Voyager's Golden Record is designed to be played at 16-2/3 revolutions per minute.



The following was provided by NASA/JPL on their Voyager web page regarding the record cover's instructions for extraterrestrial operation of the 'phonograph'.

The information in the upper right-hand portion of the cover is designed to show how pictures are to be constructed from the recorded signals. The top drawing shows the typical signal that occurs at the start of a picture. The picture is made from this signal, which traces the picture as a series of vertical lines, similar to ordinary television (in which the picture is a series of horizontal lines). Picture lines 1, 2 and 3 are noted in binary numbers, and the duration of one of the "picture lines," about 8 milliseconds, is noted. The drawing immediately below shows how these lines are to be drawn vertically, with staggered "interlace" to give the correct picture rendition. Immediately below this is a drawing of an entire picture raster, showing that there are 512 vertical lines in a complete picture. Immediately below this is a replica of the first picture on the record to permit the recipients to verify that they are decoding the signals correctly. A circle was used in this picture to ensure that the recipients use the correct ratio of horizontal to vertical height in picture reconstruction.



Images, sounds and music on the Voyager's "Golden Record" are intended to represent life on planet Earth. However, as Carl Sagan noted, the record will only be played "if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space") (6).

Perhaps the "Golden Record" will never be played. But there is still the mind-bending possibility that the Voyager record will exist longer than humans on Earth.

Visit the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) website, read more about the "Golden Record" and see real-time numbers of how far these golden records have travelled.







The Phonograph Lives! - The Icarus and Third Man Records - July 2, 2016

The record has been set by the Icarus Craft (balloon) for the furthest from Earth that a record has ever been spun.

Jack White's Third Man Records played a record high in Earth's atmosphere on July 2, 2016, using a ballloon and a "spaceproof" turntable. The goal of the mission was to send a vinyl record up as high as possible and document it being played there.

During its ascent of one hour and twenty minutes, "the Icarus turntable played Carl Sagan's "A Glorious Dawn" (from “Cosmos” by Symphony of Science composer John Boswell) on repeat, using an impressively sturdy phono cartridge and stylus as well as an onboard flight computer programmed with a few different actions to keep the record playing while it was safe to do so."

Voyager 1 and 2 have obviously gone billions of miles further than the Icarus. But the Voyagers have yet to play its record while in space.

For now, the Icarus Craft launched by Third Man Records has the record for distance in space that a record has been played.


Courtesy Third Man Records, 2019


Here is a link to the Third Man Records website describing the historic record playing event including a video that captures the launch in its entirety and a shorter recap video.


Courtesy Third Man Records, 2016







For additional information about the Phonograph Revolution in the 21st Century visit

Recorded Sound - A Changing Revolution