Reading wax cylinders with lasers

From 1902 to 1905, Polish anthropologist [Bronislow Pilsudski] did a series of recordings in Hokkaido japan on wax cylinders. Researchers at the university of Hokkaido have been working on ways to read the cylinders without causing any further damage to the grooves. Their preferred method has been to use reflected laser light. They have a very short writeup on their configuration, but it should be enough to get the idea.

Another project they’ve taken on is reading the original molds as well. They had to completely reconfigure their device to be able to be inserted into the cylinder. The quality they get from those is far superior though.

 

Modern recordings on wax cylinder

If you thought you’d never have a chance to release your hit single on the wax cylinder think again. A band obsessed with the Victorian era did just that, having a DIY’er produce the cylinders for them. The story was covered by the BBC and includes a lousy attempt to build a phonograph to play back the recording. The video shows their craftsmanship (or lack of it) but it’s not even in the same realm as the masterpiece we saw last September. You do, however,  get to see the production equipment used at about 2:45 into the clip.

[Thanks Charles]