Photo: Inventing Entertainment
Hey, entrepreneurs and inventors, can’t figure out what to call that cool new thing you made?Not sure what it might be used for?
No worries. You’re in good company.
Courtesy of Shaun Usher at Lists Of Note, who transcribed Thomas Edison’s original brainstorm notes (see them here), here’s a list of some of the names Edison and his colleagues thought of when they were trying to name what they eventually called the “phonograph.”
Many of the names are derived from Latin or Greek roots. Edison’s notes included the literal meaning:
Auto-Electrograph = Electric Pen
Polyphone = Manifold Sounder
Autophone = Self sounder
Kosmophone = Universal Sounder
Acoustophone = Sound hearer = Audible speaker
Octophone = Ear-sounder = speaker
Anitphone = Back-talker
Liguphone = Clear speaker
Minuttophone = Minute-sounder
Meistophone = Smallest sounder
Anchiphone = Near sounder or speaker
Palmatophone = Vibration sounder
Chronophone = Time-announcer = Speaking clock
Didaskophone = Teaching speaker, Portable teacher
Glottophone = Language sounder or speaker
Climatophone = Weather announcer
Atmophone = Fog sounder or Vapor-speaker
Palmophone = Pendulum sounder or Sounding pendulum
Pinakophone = Sound Register
Hemerologophone = Speaking almanac
Kalendophone = Speaking Calendar
Sphygmophone = Pulse speaker
Halmophone = Heart-beat sounder
Seismophone = Earthquake sounder
Electrophone = Electric speaker
Brontophone = Thunder speaker
Klangophone = Bird-cry sounder
Surigmophone = Whistling sounder
Bremophone = Wind sounder
Bittakophone = Parrot speaker
Krogmophone = Croaking or Cawing sounder
Hulagmophone = Barking sounder
Trematophone = Sound borer
Telephemist telephemy telepheme
Electrophemist electrophemy electropheme
Phemegraph = speech writer
Omphegraph -gram = voice writer or researcher
Melodograph Melograph Melpograph -gram = song writer
Epograph = speech writer, lecture or sermon
Rhetograph = speech writer
Kinemograph = motion writer
Atmophone = vapor or steam sound
Aerophone = air sound
Symphraxometer = pressure measurer
Synothemeter = pressure measurer
Orcheograph = vibration record
And that was naming the invention.
Then there was figuring out what it might be used for.According to “Inventing Entertainment,” here’s what Edison thought people might do with the Phonograph:
- Letter writing and all kinds of dictation without the aid of a stenographer.
- Phonographic books, which will speak to blind people without effort on their part.
- The teaching of elocution.
- Reproduction of music.
- The “Family Record”—a registry of sayings, reminiscences, etc., by members of a family in their own voices, and of the last words of dying persons.
- Music-boxes and toys.
- Clocks that should announce in articulate speech the time for going home, going to meals, etc.
- The preservation of languages by exact reproduction of the manner of pronouncing.
- Educational purposes; such as preserving the explanations made by a teacher, so that the pupil can refer to them at any moment, and spelling or other lessons placed upon the phonograph for convenience in committing to memory.
- Connection with the telephone, so as to make that instrument an auxiliary in the transmission of permanent and invaluable records, instead of being the recipient of momentary and fleeting communication.
Edison started a company to sell the phonograph—the Edison Speaking Phonograph Company. The company sold some phonographs as novelties, but the device was difficult to use and fragile, and the novelty quickly wore off. Edison, meanwhile, got bored and went off to invent the light bulb.
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