from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. (noun) An instrument for registering the vibrations of a sounding body. That devised about 1858 by Léon Scott consists of a large barrel-shaped vessel made of plaster of Paris, into the open end of which the sound enters; the other end, somewhat contracted in shape, is closed by a membrane with a style attached on the outside, whose point rests against a horizontal cylinder covered with lampblacked paper. If the membrane is at rest the trace of the style is a straight line, but when the sound enters the membrane vibrates, and the writing-point registers these vibrations with great perfection.
I always discover something unusual or odd when browsing, like the fact that the acronym H.A.L, for the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, is made up of the letters that precede I.B.M. in the alphabet, and that a sound recording technology, the phonautograph, has been discovered that predates Edison's by two decades.
He had not been forgetful of 'Visible Speech' all this while, but had been making experiments with two remarkable machines -- the phonautograph and the manometric capsule, by means of which the vibrations of sound were made plainly visible.
In like manner, the simple phonautograph of Leon Scott, invented about 1858, records on a revolving cylinder of blackened paper the sound vibrations transmitted through a membrane to which a tiny stylus is attached; so that a human mouth uses a pen and inscribes its sign vocal.
Recordings have of course always been physical objects, ever since the first known recording device, a phonautograph, was created in France in the mid-1800s.
'Phonautograph' is made up of the Greek 'phone,' sound, voice, and 'autographos,' written with one's own hand.