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Reconstruction of Disc from Image - A Don Wilson Project


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Many of you have seen my ads in APS magazine or may have even bought reproduction discs from me, until now virtually all of these discs were loaned from collectors to be copied, but the 5" Berliner in the below picture is very different; a physical copy of this disc has not existed for 130 years.  It was an experimental recording made by Emile Berliner, the disc was then coated in ink and pressed into a sheet of paper.  The sheet of paper containing this image is all that remains of the record, which is housed at the Library of Congress where Patrick Feaster found it a number of years ago.  I made previous attempts to engrave or burn the image into various materials, none of which were successful.  Late last year I had the pleasure to speak with Oliver Berliner, who mentioned (almost in passing) about Emile's connection to Philadelphia (where I live).  Oliver mentioned that Emile setup his Filbert street location in order to be closer to the incredible advances that were happening in lithography at that time.  His comment set my brain on fire and for months I had difficulty thinking of anything else...  Emile imagined this, he knew it could be done and even wrote about it, so was it now possible with the benefit of many new materials?  As it turns out, yes, it is very possible (as it was also possible back then).


The paper print is smudged, lines are broken, it has scratches and pronounced "color" from the paper fibers; all of this had to be removed to yield a clean mono image of the groove.  The digital clean-up of this image took 50 - 100 hours, maybe more.  The resulting image was then used to etch the groove into a plate until the depth was approximately correct.  There was then a significant amount of post-processing to yield a copy in a hard, long lasting material (as shown).  


The development of this technology is still in its early stages and further work will largely depend on commercial interest.  It's my hope that archives will see a need for such technologies and that I'll be able to invest in better tooling and materials (which quickly become cost-prohibitive).  This is likely the greatest achievement I've made in the area of recorded sound and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to share it with you.  At present, there are four records known to exist only as images on paper; the attached disc, two other 5" Berliners ("Zahlen" and "Handschuh") and a 7" Zonophone/Berliner.  I hope to recoup some of my costs by selling copies of these discs in the near future and hope that others will be able to supply me with additional scans of 5" Berliners (including from original copies).   If you have any such discs, and are willing to share high-res scans of them, please contact me. 


Questions, comments and suggestions on what to do next with this technology are welcome and appreciated. 


Below are two links, one to my Google drive folder where you'll find audio and images from the disc, the other link is to Patrick Feaster's presentation where he discusses the disc (starting at 20:14).  A description of the files in the Google drive folder are as follows...





Schalldruck.jpg - this is a copy of the original image that I was sent. The resolution is reduced to make it more manageable, but it's still plenty high enough to see the detail.

Schalldruck-Raw-Transfer.wav - an archival transfer at full 32 bit. The print of the disc is backwards, so the raw transfer is also backwards. It was played with a Shure M-44-7 with a 2.7mil conical stylus at 45rpm.

Schalldruck-Cleaned.mp3 - OK, just to set expectations, I'm an inventor, not an audio engineer. Patrick Feaster is ***way*** better at audio restoration than I am, so my "cleaned up version" should be considered as very crude. It's still at 45rpm (which seems about right) and was reversed to play properly. Only basic noise reduction was performed.

1080p Microscope Video - as the name implies, it's the disc under a digital microscope. A calibration slide shows a ruler that's 1mm long, the ruler has 100 divisions, though only the 5 and 10 hundredths are visible at the shown magnification. The video is very high resolution (60fps) so that there will be no doubt as to what I've accomplished.

There is also a link to a video of Patrick Feaster discussing this disc, including translation. The video should start at 20:14, which is where the disc begins. You'll also notice that Patrick does not play the entire disc, where as I've uploaded the full audio of it, showing that the full disc is playable.


Thank you,


Don Wilson-




Edited by Don_Wilson
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Wow -- that is nothing short of astonishing!


Patrick Feaster and Stephan Puille co-authored an article about this recording in the September 2010 issue of The Sound Box, which is available in pdf format to APS members at antiquephono.org.



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Don, that's an outstanding achievement.  It's an exciting time to be witnessing modern technology, materials, and efforts combining to resurrect sounds have have been lost for well over a century.  Congratulations!


George P.

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Amazing, Don! I assume that this technology would mean you no longer would need an actual physical record to create replicas, but merely a hi-res photo scan?

Edited by Fran604g
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Great that there are playable discs of the "Schalldruck". Emile Berliner had originally planned it this way, but the technical development went in a different direction.  


I recall that the Schalldruck of 1889 from the Library of Congress is of 7" size. It was introduced at the June 2010 issue of The Sound Box. Why was it scaled down to 5"? 45 rpm is a bit slow, I prefer 50 rpm. 


Several years ago, the Schalldruck of "Handschuh", which I believe is also larger than 5", was transferred by a photochemical etching process to a playable metal disc by a German record collector. I held this disc in my hand about 10 years ago at the Phonograph Show in Rüdesheim and was absolutely amazed at the time.   

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21 hours ago, Fran604g said:

Amazing, Don! I assume that this technology would mean you no longer would need an actual physical record to create replicas, but merely a hi-res photo scan?

Yes, but a direct copy via silicone will still be ideal.  Digital scanning has very hard limits as to its resolution, whereas silicone's resolution is more theoretical (though nano-fabricators would argue with that)... 

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  • 6 months later...

Hello Don,


absolutely amazing. Great works!!!

I have a question, which I want to discuss only with you personally. I need to contact you with your personal Email adress. Would this be possible? There are a few things, you could work out. Great stuff!!


Would be nice to hear from you.






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