Version: Feb. 23, 2004

Charles Adams Randall

Switched-on sound



In 1888 Charles Adams Randall, an English electric engineer, filed patents for electric recording and playback of phonograph cylinders. The playback machine (in the drawing above), called the automatic Parlophone, was coin-operated. The sound was produced by an electromagnet acting on an iron membrane at the narrow end of a horn. So far nothing strange, but the way of converting stylus movement to electric current was very particular: the movement of the stylus would close and open a switch (at 44 in the drawing). So the current would be either on or off, with no intermediate levels at all. The player was apparently never built, and certainly never marketed. Just as well, for the sound must have been clearly inferior to the common acoustic players of the time.

Christer Hamp, 2004

The image on this page is from Paul Charbon's book Le phonographe la Belle Epoque (1977). The patents referred to are filed on 5 and 10 July 1888 (No. 9762 and 9996). I have looked for them in some databases on the web, but it seems I was looking in the wrong place. Could anyone direct me to those patents?

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