Wax Cylinder Laser Scanner

Endpoint Cylinder Transfer Machine:

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12 Responses:

  1. Dara says:

    They've really come a long way with ability to recover this stuff. Neat.

    • jwz says:

      Yeah, it's pretty amazing. Those vinyl turntables with the laser pickups just seemed so amazingly futuristic when they came out, but now I guess it's just kind of the obvious way to do it. I remember reading in the 90s or so about someone who had managed to rip a vinyl record using a single image from flatbed scanner. It didn't work very well at the time, but it probably would now.

    • Eric TF Bat says:

      I'm amazed at how much of the tune my brain fills in when clearly there can't be any tune there. The clicking of the waxless gap just sounds like it's over the music, which is itself apparently uninterrupted. Is that a mental trick, like filling in visual shapes in dim light, do you think? Or does the playback simulate the music where it's not present?

      Every now and then, you get the distinct feeling that you're living in the future. Just for a moment.

      • tfb says:

        I don't know if the recording has been filled in. However really a lot of what you 'hear' when listening to music is invented by your brain from stuff which isn't actually there.

        Here's an example: guitar synthesizers generally work by having a pickup (usually 6 little pickups) which listen to the strings and decide what the pitch is and drive some tone generator (or spit out MIDI messages). Anyone who has used a guitar synth will find that they're often annoyingly laggy on the low strings of the guitar.

        Well, it's inherently the case that very short bits of sound don't have well-defined pitches: you can think of them as being compatible with lots of pitches: they occupy a fair chunk of frequency space, not a single point. But the poor guitar synth has to output something which says 'make this pitch': it can't say 'make some noise and I'll tell you the pitch later'.

        So it really has to wait until it can make a fair guess at the pitch. That's at least one complete cycle and in practice a bunch more cycles than that, especially since the first few cycles of any plucked string are full of transient crap. The low E string of a guitar is 82Hz, so if it has to wait for 8 cycles, that's 1/10 second, and that's ... laggy (if you're playing at 120bpm 4/4 then a quaver is 1/4 a second, so you're losing the best part of a semiquaver, and that's not playing fast by the standards of guitarists who play (too) fast). Even four cycles is 1/20 which is pretty perceptible and I really doubt they can do it in four cycles.

        But if you listen to a guitar you don't hear that lag. That's because your brain knew it had heard something at the start of the note, and then later on went back and lied and said it knew it was (say) a low E all along. It didn't, and it could not have: it's just lying to you.

        (Of course, the underlying problem for a guitar synth is that it has to say 'play this note', not 'play some noise and I'll tell you the note in a bit'. There are some recent guitar synths which are meant to be very quick, and I suspect that what they do is exactly that trick: they just start spitting out white noise or something and then, a bit later, turn it into a pitch, and your brain fools you. Of course, they can't do MIDI because MIDI can't do that since it was designed for keyboard instruments where you know the pitch the moment the key goes down.)

        (It doesn't appear that these magic non-laggy guitar synths make people who play guitar synths less inherently awful. There must be good music made by people using one, but I've never heard any.)

      • milesinside says:

        It's the WaxTrax remuxx.

  2. Andrew Klossner says:

    The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is using this device to listen to mystery recordings.

    • Chris W says:

      Why do I get the feeling that the recording is going to turn out to be saying something like Libera Te Tutemet Ex Inferis?

      Because then we're really screwed.

      • milesinside says:

        If you close your eyes, or gouge them out, you can picture Sam Neil actually MAKING this recording.

    • Dara says:

      I am genuinely excited about this and... I mean, surely they'll put this stuff online, right?

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