The making of a perfect original musical or other record is a matter of no small difficulty, as it requires special technical knowledge and skill gathered from many years of actual experience; but in the exact copying, or duplication, of such a record, with its many millions of microscopic waves and sub-waves, the difficulties are enormously increased. The duplicates must be microscopically identical with the original, they must be free from false vibrations or other defects, although both original and duplicates are of such easily defacable material as wax; and the process must be cheap and commercial not a scientific laboratory possibility.
For making duplicates it was obviously necessary to first secure a mold carrying the record in negative or reversed form. From this could be molded, or cast, positive copies which would be identical with the original. While the art of electroplating would naturally suggest itself as the means of making such a mold, an apparently insurmountable obstacle appeared on the very threshold. Wax, being a non- conductor, cannot be electroplated unless a conducting surface be first applied. The coatings ordinarily used in electro- deposition were entirely out of the question on account of coarseness, the deepest waves of the record being less than one-thousandth of an inch in depth, and many of them probably ten to one hundred times as shallow. Edison finally decided to apply a preliminary metallic coating of infinitesimal thinness, and accomplished this object by a remarkable process known as the vacuous deposit. With this he ap- plied to the original record a film of gold probably no thicker than one three-hundred-thousandth of an inch, or several hundred times less than the depth of an average wave. Three hundred such layers placed one on top of the other would make a sheet no thicker than tissue-paper.
The process consists in placing in a vacuum two leaves, or electrodes, of gold, and between them the original record. A constant discharge of electricity of high tension between the electrodes is effected by means of an induction-coil. The metal is vaporized by this discharge, and is carried by it directly toward and deposited upon the original record, thus forming the minute film of gold above mentioned. The record is constantly rotated until its entire surface is coated. A sectional diagram of the apparatus (Fig. 6.) will aid to a clearer understanding of this ingenious process.
After the gold film is formed in the manner described above, a heavy backing of baser metal is electroplated upon it, thus forming a substantial mold, from which the original record is extracted by breakage or shrinkage.
Duplicate records in any quantity may now be made from this mold by surrounding it with a cold-water jacket and dipping it in a molten wax-like material. This congeals on the record surface just as melted butter would collect on a cold knife, and when the mold is removed the surplus wax falls out, leaving a heavy deposit of the material which forms the duplicate record. Numerous ingenious inventions have been made by Edison providing for a variety of rapid and economical methods of duplication, including methods of shrinking a newly made copy to facilitate its quick removal from the mold; methods of reaming, of forming ribs on the interior, and for many other important and essential details, which limits of space will not permit of elaboration. Those mentioned above are but fair examples of the persistent and effective work he has done to bring the phonograph to its present state of perfection.
In perusing Chapter X of the foregoing narrative, the reader undoubtedly noted Edison's clear apprehension of the practical uses of the phonograph, as evidenced by his prophetic utterances in the article written by him for the North American Review in June, 1878. In view of the crudity of the instrument at that time, it must be acknowl- edged that Edison's foresight, as vindicated by later events was most remarkable. No less remarkable was his intensely practical grasp of mechanical possibilities of future types of the machine, for we find in one of his early English patents (No. 1644 of 1878) the disk form of phonograph which, some ten to fifteen years later, was supposed to be a new development in the art. This disk form was also covered by Edison's application for a United States patent, filed in 1879. This application met with some merely minor technical objections in the Patent Office, and seems to have passed into the "abandoned" class for want of prosecution, probably because of being overlooked in the tremendous pressure arising from his development of his electric-lighting system.
ALTHOUGH Edison's contributions to human comfort and progress are extensive in number and extraordinarily vast and comprehensive in scope and variety, the universal verdict of the world points to his incandescent lamp and system of distribution of electrical current as the central and crowning achievements of his life up to this time. This view would seem entirely justifiable when we consider the wonderful changes in the conditions of modern life that have been brought about by the wide-spread employment of these inventions, and the gigantic industries that have grown up and been nourished by their world-wide application. That he was in this instance a true pioneer and creator is evident as we consider the subject, for the United States Patent No. 223,898, issued to Edison on January 27, 1880, for an incandescent lamp, was of such fundamental character that it opened up an entirely new and tremendously important art--the art of incandescent electric lighting. This statement cannot be successfully controverted, for it has been abundantly verified after many years of costly litigation. If further proof were desired, it is only necessary to point to the fact that, after thirty years of most strenuous and practical application in the art by the keenest intellects of the world, every incandescent lamp that has ever since been made, including those of modern days, is still dependent upon the employment of the essentials disclosed in the above-named patent--namely, a filament of high resistance enclosed in a sealed glass globe exhausted of air, with conducting wires passing through the glass.
An incandescent lamp is such a simple-appearing article-- merely a filament sealed into a glass globe--that its intrinsic relation to the art of electric lighting is far from being ap- parent at sight. To the lay mind it would seem that this must have been THE obvious device to make in order to obtain electric light by incandescence of carbon or other material. But the reader has already learned from the preceding narrative that prior to its invention by Edison such a device was NOT obvious, even to the most highly trained experts of the world at that period; indeed, it was so far from being obvious that, for some time after he had completed practical lamps and was actually lighting them up twenty-four hours a day, such a device and such a result were declared by these same experts to be an utter impossibility. For a short while the world outside of Menlo Park held Edison's claims in derision. His lamp was pronounced a fake, a myth, possibly a momentary success magnified to the dignity of a permanent device by an overenthusiastic inventor.