Experimental Talking Clock

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The Experimental Talking Clock was recorded c. 1878 by inventor Frank Lambert. It was long thought to be the world's oldest playable sound recording and is listed in both the Guinness Book of World Records and The Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound as such; however, an older phonautogram recording from 1857 by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville was reproduced for the first time in 2008 with the aid of modern technology.[1] The talking clock is still the oldest recording that can be played back with its own mechanism, without the involvement of digital technology.

Unlike modern recordings, the recording medium of the Experimental Talking Clock is a part of the primitive recording device itself and cannot be easily changed. Seeking to create a more durable recording, Lambert chose to experiment with a cylinder made of lead rather than the more common practice of recording onto a wrapping of tin foil. Lasting 1 minute 40 seconds, the hand-cranked recording features an assortment of peculiar sounds, from Lambert calling out the hours of the day to indistinct speech and what may be chimes or bells. Portions of the recording sound in reverse, which raises the possibility that the phonograph may have been cranked counter-clockwise during certain points of recording.

The 'Experimental Talking Clock' was discovered by early phonograph and recordings collector Aaron Cramer.


  1. ^ Cowen, Ron (June 1, 2009). "Earliest Known Sound Recordings Revealed Researchers unveil imprints made 20 years before Edison invented phonograph". Science News. U.S.News & World Report. Retrieved 2009-06-26. 

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