You are here

One Small Step For Tinfoil…But A Whole Giant Adventure For A South African Audio-Visual Archvist: A 23 Year Odyssey

Title (author1): 
First names (author1): 
Surname (author 1): 
Department of Arts and Culture - National Film, Video and Sound Archives
Presentation type: 
spoken paper
8 October Wednesday
Start time: 
CFB Auditorium

In December 1877, Thomas Alva Edison nicknamed the “Wizard of Menlo Park” invented the world’s first machine to record and playback sound and christened it the tinfoil phonograph and astounded the whole world with his "talking machine". This presentation will trace my 23 year struggle to build a working tinfoil phonograph from my first attempt at age 11 in 1989 to build a model to show my fellow classmates, to the war I declared on my 2nd but non-functional model through to my successful final version built in April 2012. For the period of more or less an entire year (February 2011 to April 2012) I participated in a self-imposed “online training” / correspondence with Connecticut-born Mr Charles Smith from the United States of America who had successfully made 6 working models of the tinfoil phonograph. He sent me a supplement to a magazine published by Scientific American on July 20th 1878 which included information and diagrams on how to build a relatively inexpensive “Do it Yourself” tinfoil phonograph in a time where the whole world was phonograph mad and everyone wanted to own one. This paper will also include a PowerPoint presentation on various experiments I made from 1989 to April 2012, sound clips of my first sound recordings and finally a live demonstration of the Scientific American tinfoil phonograph.