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Inventing Technologies

Dan visits the homes of Edison and Ford

I have been communing with great minds.

Dan at Thomas Edison’s lab in Ft. Myers, Fla.

I recently spent the day at Thomas Edison’s winter retreat/home in Fort Myers, Fla. When he wasn’t enjoying New Jersey winters, he and his good friend Henry Ford spent time at their neighboring winter homes. There he had a lab and did a lot of experiments with growing exotic plants to produce “U.S.-grown rubber,” but he also continued to advance his own work on electric (DC, of course), film and audio players. It’s now a private museum with exhibits, educational tours, historical homes, gardens and public events.

The Multiphone

This closeup shows the wax cylinders mounted in the carousel.

A Carousel Cart Machine
Most of us who worked in radio prior to the 1990s remember the carousel cart machine. What surprised me was stumbling over this invention that utilized Edison’s audio cylinder (note that Edison didn’t invent this particular machine). As I looked at it, I realized it really was the predecessor to not only the jukebox, but the cart carousel. The layout of this apparatus, called a “Multiphone,” beginning at the top featured the sound horn (speaker), a window displaying the song titles, the “carousel,” and near the bottom a coin (5 cents) slot to allow the user to put in their money to hear the cylinder of their choice.

If you’re in the area of New Jersey, you might visit several of Edison’s labs (national park and a state park). If you’re in Dearborn, Mich., you can visit Edison’s Menlo Park lab at the Henry Ford Museum (AKA The Henry Ford).

Radio & Technology Museums
If you find yourself in the area where Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky get together, you might look into the Museum of Radio and Technology in Huntington, W.Va. A little further into Ohio, near my old stomping grounds, you can find the Auman Museum of Radio and Television in Dover.

Please email your favorites to me and I’ll be sure to add them!

Before “Stacks of Wax” Discs
Much of the early history of audio and video (wax/tin cylinders and film) have been lost to time and deterioration. Here’s a great story about the University of California saving old wax cylinders (and their digitized copies are free to download!).

Strange New Technology
From the “What will they think of next?!” category … implanting “decorative electronics” in people. I hate to think of what happens if these also have “sealed” batteries that start leaking!

And finally …
For no particular reason, a great version of an old song … and performed so beautifully! If it’s cold where you’re at, watch this and daydream!

If you stumble across a good or unusual web site that might be of interest, please don’t hesitate to send me the link and any info you might have about it. My email address is [email protected].