THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

3 posts from February 2008

29 February 2008

The Diamond Anniversary of Stereo

This year is the 75th anniversary of the first stereophonic discs, which were recorded and cut by Alan Blumlein of EMI studios in England in 1933.  The recordings were of Blumlein and his fellow engineers talking to each other while walking past a series of stationary microphones.  Each microphone was linked to one of two recording channels, depending on its position in the auditorium.  These two channels were cut to disc instantaneously, and their combined sound on playback gave the impression of a wide audio field, with disparate signals to left and right.

While Blumlein was not the first engineer to aim for recording in more than one audio channel, he was the most influential.  His earlier development of a ‘floating’ disc-cutter (which minimised audio interference from the disc itself by responding directly to the loudness of the sound being played) was both the technological precursor to his own stereo system and the innovation that allowed other engineers to develop theirs.  A technical description of stereo and the inventions that led up to its birth can be found here.

As part of our site’s recently added Records & Record Players collection, we present an interview with Blumlein’s son, Simon.  In this interview, Simon discusses his father’s work in radio and for EMI, and also his development of the first working radar system and blind navigation bombs during World War II.

14 February 2008

A Wellcome Addition

Recently, the Archival Sound Recordings site launched two new collections: Records and Record Players and Scientists’ Lives.

The bulk of our initial offering in Scientists’ Lives is taken up with an oral history of the Medical Research Council’s Common Cold Unit in Harvard Hospital in Salisbury, south-west England.  A unique establishment in British medicine from its formation in 1957 to its closure in 1990, the Common Cold Unit combined laboratory research in virology with epidemiological work and experimental clinical studies on volunteers.

As an addition to this collection of interviews, we present a transcript of a Witness Seminar about the Common Cold Unit held at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine (now the Wellcome Library) in 1997.  It features testimony from many of the people interviewed in Scientists’ Lives, and crucially provides a chronological guide to the history of the Unit.  The transcript begins on page 212 of this web document.

Niall Anderson, Metadata Editor

01 February 2008

Death of Cyprian Ekwensi

Cyprian Ekwensi was one of the foremost Nigerian writers of the 20th century, and is correspondingly well represented in the African Writers’ Club collection on ASR.  He died of an undisclosed ailment on 4 November 2007, and was described in the Nigerian Tribune as someone “who shaped the destiny of Nigeria through his books and contributions to nation-building,” and as “the father of Nigerian literature.”

A prolific journalist, playwright and novelist, Ekwensi’s most famous works were written between 1961 and 1966.  This African Writers’ Club broadcast comes from the end of that period and features a discussion of Ekwensi’s work to date, excerpts of an interview between Alex la Guma and Ekwensi, and Lionel Ngkane reading extracts from Ekwensi’s work.

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