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Published on Aug 21, 2010
On 9th March 2008, this ethereal 10 second clip of a man (or woman) singing the French folk song "Au Clair de la Lune", was played for the first time in 150 years. It is currently thought to be the oldest known recorded human voice, predating Thomas Edison's first phonograph recording of 1877. The "phonautograph", created by etching soot-covered paper by Parisian inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville, was played by US scientists using a "virtual stylus" to read the lines. The recording was initially believed to be the voice of a woman or adolescent, but further research in 2009 suggested the playback speed had been too high and that it was actually the voice of Scott himself. This would make sense since it would have been scott operating the machine, which is easier to time if you yourself are also producing the sound. (Incidentally, the "phonautograph" was designed only to record sounds, not to play them back. Thomas Edison was still the first to reproduce recorded sound.)