Tainter, Charles Sumner

SUBJECT AREA: Recording
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b. 1854
d. 1940
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American scientific instrument maker, co-developer of practical cylinder recording.
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He manufactured "philosophical devices" in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was approached by Alexander Graham Bell in connection with the construction of toys using sound recordings. A more formal co-operation was agreed, and after Bell's receipt of the French Volta prize in 1880 he financed the Volta Laboratory Association in Washington, DC. He founded this in 1881 together with a cousin and Tainter to develop a practical sound-recording and -reproducing system. Another area that was developed was the transmission of sound by means of modulated light and reception via a selenium cell.
The advances in sound recording and reproduction were very positive, and T.A. Edison was approached in mid-1885 in order to establish co-operation in the further development of a cylinder instrument. In early 1886 the Volta Graphophone Company was incorporated in Virginia, and an experimental laboratory was established in Washington, DC. The investors were connected with the secretarial services at the House of Representatives and needed the development for increasing efficiency in debate reporting. In mid-1887 Edison, against the advice of his collaborators, declined co-operation and went ahead on his own. There is no doubt that Tainter's skill in developing functional equipment and the speed with which he was able to work in the crucial years provoked other developments in the field, in particular the perfection of the Edison phonograph and the development of the disc record by Berliner.
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Bibliography
Tainter's patents were numerous; those on sound recording were the most important, because they incorporated so many fundamental ideas, and included US patent no. 341, 214 (with C.A.Bell), and US patent no. 375, 579 (a complete dictation outfit).
Further Reading
V.K.Chew, 1981, Talking Machines, London: Science Museum and HMSO, pp. 9–12 (provides a good overview, not only of Tainter's contribution, but also of early sound recording and reproduction).
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Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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  • Tainter, Charles Sumner — ▪ American inventor born Aug. 25, 1854, Watertown Mass., U.S. died April 20, 1940, San Diego, Calif.       American inventor who, with Chichester A. Bell (a cousin of Alexander Graham Bell), greatly improved the phonograph by devising a wax… …   Universalium

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