Happy National Radio Day from all of – well – me.

On this holiday each year I think about sound, and all the ways we have tried to document it and play it back.

Today most everything is digital, with computers and devices encoding the sounds we make into ones and zeroes to store on hard drives and digital discs.

Before that, most recording was done on magnetic tape.

Edison’s phonograph was even earlier, but between those cylinders and tape there was magnetic wires, a little-known system that could have been what cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes became for the world of sound.


Picture it: Denmark, 1898. Inventor Valdemar Poulson sets up a system using a long, thin wire that’s fed through a recording head with an electrical signal.

That signal creates magnetic impressions on the wire that correspond with the sounds being made as the wire moves.

To play it back, the wire is fed through the system without the electric signal, letting the system read the magnetic data instead of writing new information.

The telegraphone, as it was called, hit its high point in 1900, when it recorded the voice of Austria’s emperor, Franz Josef.

It never really caught on the way the phonograph did, but the idea of magnetized media is still very much in use today.

So maybe it’s time for some hipsters to bring back this vintage sound technique and tell the rest of us how much better everything sounds on wire?


A sound recording is in a way mimicking its source, and so is an eye-catching new building in Italy.

The House of Music near Bologna is designed to replicate the shape of an orchestra, with nine rooms each leading to a central space.

Those rooms have oak facades, as a callback to wooden instruments, and they’re shaped to better amplify sound throughout.

Sounds like a good place to listen to our show.

Welcoming a new cast of characters into the archives: Wire recordings (Penn Libraries)

Solar-powered House of Music mimics the shape of an orchestra (Inhabitat)

Keep our recordings coming as a backer on Patreon!