Re: distribution and persistence, ca. 1900

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From: Danny O'Brien (
Date: Tue Jun 06 2000 - 00:07:13 PDT

On Tue, Jun 06, 2000 at 02:47:19AM -0400, Eirikur Hallgrimsson wrote:
> One of my longest-standing questions about the history of technology
> is why sound-recording took as long as it did. After the escapement
> that allowed clock mechanisms to rotate at a precise speed, the
> phonograph was there for the taking, maybe even before that, in Roman
> times, with the speed control feedback (I don't know how it was
> accomplished) in water-powered mills.
> Basically this was technically low-hanging-fruit, but the wave theory
> of sound was needed.
> Sigh, I don't seem to be writing the alternative history novel about
> this, though.
> If you all haven't read "The Victorian Internet" yet (about the
> telegraph), you might reconsider.

Very good book (and nice author). Found this while searching on the
same topic:

        There is no reason why the phonograph could not have been invented earlier
        - much earlier - than it was.


        If one studies the frequency of phonograph-related patents during the
        Nineties, one can easily observe a wave of new ideas for coin-operated
        entertainment - they weren't called jukeboxes yet - although they could
        usually be found in saloons and ferry boats. Based on surviving arcade
        receipts, the average coin-slot phonograph of that time took in more cash
        in one year than the typical Patent Examiner was paid. The machines, with
        their incessant appetite for new titles, slowly began to challenge the
        sale of sheet music as a source of popular entertainment. Because each
        phonograph was also a recorder, a talented amateur could easily make
        records at home, and some of the first problems with censorship arose when
        enterprising showmen experimented with risque cylinders. The first advance
        labeling of records occurred when Columbia advertised a special group of
        records, entitled the Tough Series, but most companies settled for simple

(Adapted from "The Seventeen-Year Itch" - Delivered at the U.S. Patent Office
Bi-Centennial in Washington, D.C. on May 9, 1990). Copyright 1990 by Allen
Koenigsberg. All rights reserved.
> Eirikur

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