By chance I came across one of those record players frequently advertised in magazines that can be connected to a computer via a Universal Serial Bus (USB) cable. These devices transfer the analogue audio output of the record into digital audio signals, which can be compressed and saved in various file formats.
Within minutes, the long abandoned discs were singing again and I had saved all the material ready to access at my finger tips without the need of transporting a turntable wherever I work. This technology can create backup copies of records that risk being worn out from overuse, and indeed convert 78 rpm discs into a practical format without the need of a 78 player. Records can now be played in the car CD player, or in the swimming pool through MP3 music players.
Some of the most extraordinary interactions between defunct mechanisms and digital technology have taken place in the music industry. Using optical scanning, scientists have been able to play back the earliest recording from 1860, an image of sound waves recorded onto smoke covered paper. See the story here:
And recently a shimmering new recording of Rachmaninoff playing the piano has been released. Celebrated records of the composer's performances do exist but this recording is completely new, made with the latest recording equipment. Zenph® Studios transforms original recordings into live performance, in ways that are too complicated for me to understand, so I refer you to their site:
Further explanation can be found here:
Despite the opportunities digital technology offers in reviving sounds from the past, some music lovers would rather hang on to their record collections. The rise in popularity of vinyl can be seen by the increasing space dedicated to it in large record shops, and, in February 2009, an influential German record label specialising in Jazz released its first albums on vinyl for 15 years.
For now it seems records are safe. I wonder if one day someone will find a way of transferring MP3 files back to vinyl?