Oberlin Smith

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Oberlin Smith

Oberlin Smith (March 22, 1840 - July 19, 1926) was an American engineer who published one of the earliest works dealing with magnetic recording in 1888.


He was born on March 22, 1840 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

He started a small machine shop in Bridgeton, New Jersey, where he lived most of his life, which became known as the Ferracute Machine Company in 1877.[1] For the entire existence of the company he was the president and chief engineer.

He died on July 19, 1926 in New Jersey.

Magnetic recording[edit]

On September 8th, 1888, Smith published a short note entitled "Some Possible Forms of the Phonograph" in the British journal Electrical World, where he suggested (probably for the first time) the use of permanent magnetic impressions for the recording of sound. Smith suggested using cotton or silk thread, into which steel dust or short clippings of fine wire could be suspended. These particles were to be magnetized in accordance with the alternating current from a microphone source. Smith also discussed the possibility of using a hard steel wire, but thought it scarcely possible. A working unit was never built. Many of Smith's ideas were used by Valdemar Poulsen when he developed the first true magnetic recorder.


  1. ^ Oberlin Smith: Biography, IEEE Global History Network. Accessed November 2, 2010.

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