Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Microphone Part 3

The microphone is easy to forget. I forget that there's one built into my answering machine and my mp3 player. They all descend from one experimental microphone invented by Emile Berliner in 1876. but what's amazing is that the man that made this mic work had only a rudimentary understanding of electronics and no knowledge of physics.

Emile came to America from Germany in 1870. He did not go to work directly for Bell telephone. He actualy shoveled manure at a livery in washington D.C. While hosing off his shovel he often thought about the new technology of the wireless. He was a tinkerer. He got a part time job as lab assistant to one Dr. Fahlberg (the dude who discovered saccharine) .

He studied Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. Bells phone consisted of two identical cases containing an electro-magnet and a diaphragm connected by an electrical circuit. Unfortunately , the message transmitted wasn’t very clear. The invention had a good receiver but a poor transmitter.

Emile thought he could do better. Working alone in his rooming house he fashioned a new type of microphone which he called a "loose-contact" transmitter. It was a type of microphone, which increased the volume of the transmitted voice. It was a type of carbon microphone that varied the contact pressure between two terminals as a sound pressed against the microphone. This was much better than the crude microphones before it. Great detailed history here:

He sold out to Bell immediately and hung up his shovel. Berliner worked for Bell Telephone in New York and then Boston from 1877 and became an American citizen 4 years later. He left in 1883 and returned to Washington and established himself as a private researcher.