Today marks the day that recorded sound officially entered the world when Thomas Alva Edison was awarded U.S. Patent No. 200,521 for his invention--the phonograph--on February 19, 1878. It was just one battle in his ongoing war with Alexander Graham Bell as they among others raced to produce a way to send sound over distance. The patent issued to Edison was a method—embossing—for capturing sound on tin-foil-covered cylinders.
The next critical improvement in recording technology came courtesy of Edison's competitor in the race to develop the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell. His newly established Bell Labs developed a phonograph based on the engraving of a wax cylinder, a significant improvement that led directly to the successful commercialization of recorded music in the 1890s and lent a vocabulary to the recording business—e.g., "cutting" records and "spinning wax"—that has long outlived the technology on which it was based.
Courtesy of these pioneers we are now able to run around with plugs in our ears and motion pictures in our hands while taking phone calls complete with video on our watches. On the horizon our telephones will access our bank accounts, order dinner cooked based on "like" and just so you won't be lonely sending Mr. or Miss Right around to call because "there's an Ap for that."
Knowing me, you would assume that there is a musical connection here beyond the facts of telephone and phonograph which, of course, there is. When he was only 19, Bell wrote a report on his work and sent it to philologist Alexander John Ellis who would later be used by George Bernard Shaw as the inspiration for Henry Higgins in Pygmalion. In turn, the playbecame the foundation for Lerner and Loew's musical My Fair Lady. Therefor, I give you: Why Can't The English