A California library has created an online audio time machine by archiving some of the oldest sounds ever recorded. Curators at the University of California at Santa Barbara's Donald C. Davidson Library have digitized 6,000 late 19th-century and early 20th-century wax and plastic cylinder recordings -- precursors to the flat record. The audio, which includes ragtime hits, vaudeville routines and presidential speeches, encapsulates history with crackles and hisses, but archivists say preserving the sounds now is vital because the cylinders are deteriorating.
"The major record companies have been neglecting this aspect of music for the better part of 90 years," said David Seubert, director of the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project. Since the site went up in November, audiophiles have downloaded 700,000 recordings, much to Seubert's surprise. The collection excites audio experts and cylinder fans, who now have free access to the works anytime, anywhere. People are burning them onto CDs, using them on internet radio stations and possibly remixing them, he said.
All recordings on the site are in the public domain, Seubert said, and cleaned-up MP3 versions hold a Creative Commons license.
From article in WiredNews March 20, 2006 (http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70378-0.html)