Edison’s Top Ten Uses for the Phonograph

Edison Advertisement Created at West Orange Labs

Edison Advertisement Created at West Orange Labs, New Jersey

As we prepare to celebrate the 135th anniversary of the invention of the phonograph in 2012, it’s insightful to think about what Thomas Edison thought would be the major uses of his favorite invention. All inventors try to anticipate major applications of their creations so they can define possible markets for their products.

Here from our archives is a “top ten” list of phonograph applications Edison thought would rock the world in 1878 – a year after his phonograph patent was awarded. Here we go …

1. Letter writing, and all kinds of dictation without the aid of a stenographer.

2. Photographic books, which will speak to blind people without effort on their part.

3. The teaching of elocution.

4. Music-the phonograph will undoubtedly be liberally devoted to music.

5. The family record; preserving the sayings, the voices, and the last words of the dying members of the family, as of great men.

6. Music boxes, toys, etc. – A doll which may speak, sing, cry or laugh may be promised our children for the Christmas holidays ensuing.

7. Clocks, that should announce in speech the hour of the day, call you to lunch, send your lover home at ten, etc.

8. The preservation of language by reproduction of our Washingtons, our Lincolns, our Gladstones.

9. Educational purposes; such as preserving the instructions of a teacher so that the pupil can refer to them at any moment; or learn spelling lessons.

10. The perfection or advancement of the telephone’s art by the phonograph, making that instrument an auxiliary in the transmission of permanent records.

Imagine yourself in that time period of the late 1870s, what might you have used the phonograph for?

Editor’s Deep Dive:

Listen to Some Old Time Recordings:

“…I’ve made some machines; but this is my baby [the phonograph], and I expect it to grow up to be a big feller and support me in my old age.”


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