Before the 1930s, the only real way to capture music for playback later was on either a rotating cylinder or a rotating disc. The principle was the same: the mechanical energy of sound waves was stored in wavy grooves. To play back the sound, a needle retraced those grooves, converting them back into the mechanical energy of sound.
But some people were never satisfied with that. An inventor named Oberlin Smith came up with the idea of recording sound onto a magnetized wire, but he was never able to make it work. Then a Danish medical school dropout named Valdemar Poulsen made the physics work using piano wire and unveiled a device he called the “Telegraphon” in 1900. But no one cared.
More on the history of audio tape next time. Meanwhile, here’s The Ongoing History Daily for Friday.