THIS is why records are called “wax”!
Hey, it’s Rich Dale, and this is pretty exciting. At least to me.
If you’ve ever been to the Museum of Science and Industry, you might have seen the earliest kind of record that Thomas Edison came up with — wax cylinders. In fact, the museum had a few of the commercially produced ones on display, like ones with a Columbia Records logo on the cylinder case. They would turn on something like a BBQ spit and a needle rested on them and cut, then later traced, the grooves.
Anyway, some of them are about to be heard for the first time in over 100 years!
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts has unearthed a batch of the wax cylinders. They’re pretty fragile though, so playing them the normal way might destroy them. But researchers have developed a machine that can read them digitally with a laser and needle.
Some of the cylinders include opera performances, field recordings, and even old birthday party greetings. The process of digitizing all of them will likely take years.
If we ever went back to those, it would still be better than 8-track tapes.