Skip navigation
Breakthrough technology brings fragile old recordings to digital life

Narrator:       This is Science Today. A physicist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed breakthrough technology that can bring fragile old recordings on wax cylinders and shellac to life as digital files. Carl Haber says the basic idea of the process, which they call the IRENE Project, is to take high-resolution images of the entire surface of the phonograph record.

Haber:            Once you have this image, you use a computer to analyze the image and extract information. Now, computer analysis with images is ubiquitous — once there is a pattern that can be described mathematically, an image is merely a table of numbers, so you can write an algorithm down. So, what we asked the algorithm to do is follow the groove and calculate at every point how the groove was moving.

Narrator:       The resulting image map is then used to create a "virtual stylus," which can mimic the motion of a real stylus and digitally reproduce audio content without anything ever touching the fragile audio surface.  For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.