Researchers have discovered the world’s first voice mail: an audio recording of Alexander Graham Bell made on April 15, 1885, using a mixture of cardboard and wax.
The Smithsonian Magazine has posted the audio recording, in which the inventor of the telephone announces, “In witness whereof—hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell.”
Listen to the audio recording here.
The recording was made in humble surroundings, inside a former stable used by Bell and his cousin in Washington, D.C. Biographer Charlotte Gray explains that Bell was motivated to create the recording in an attempt to improve upon an earlier audio recording made by Bell’s rival, Thomas Edison.
Along with this prized recording, and Bell’s legacy of having invented the telephone, he's credited with other forward-thinking technology as well. In 1880, he patented an optical telephone system, which is seen as predicting the use of mobile phones and fiber optics.
Bell had a wide range of interests, covering topics as diverse as early research into hydrofoils and alternative fuel sources.
Over the years, he donated a number of his laboratory materials to the Smithsonian Institution, including more than 400 discs and cylinders that documented his attempts at making an audio recording between 1880 and 1886.
However, curator Carlene Stephens of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History said the discs were considered “mute artifacts” until physicist Carl Haber at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., found a way to extract the recordings.
Before Haber was able to isolate the recording, he used optical scanners to convert an audio recording that included voices speaking a series of numbers, words from “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and Hamlet’s famed soliloquy from the eponymous Shakespeare play.