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Emile Berliner and the Invention of the Microphone

January 17, 2013

The use of microphones is fairly commonplace, even in the cold winter months, whether it’s used by an announcer at an NFL game, at one of the many winter award shows, or at the 2nd inauguration of the President of the United States, it is clear that microphones have become an important means for communicating to large crowds whether inside or out. But how did this powerful instrument of communication come about?

The story begins in a crowded immigrant neighborhood of 19th century New York, where making your voice heard above the rest was no easy task. That’s the situation that 25 year-old Emile Berliner found himself in 1870. MicrophoneEmile was an avid reader of scientists and technological inventors of the day. He worked by day at a livery stable and at night he would take classes in physics and electronics.

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone came to life. That year was also the 100th year of America’s independence and huge festivals were being celebrated in New York. Emile ventured to the festival in New York. With all of the commotion and noise, he noted one significant flaw in Bell’s new device: the receiver volume was low, making the caller’s voice hard to hear. Emile resolved that day to augment the voice capability of the new invention. A year later, he created a device that picked up on the sound vibrations coming from a telephone call and then enhanced the volume. The rest as they say is history, the very first microphone had been developed.

Alexander Graham Bell was so impressed when he heard about Mr. Berliner’s new invention that he paid him $50,000 for the rights to it and hired him to immediately begin researching other inventions on behalf of his Bell Telephone Company. It’s an interesting paradox when you think about it: all that Emile had to do in order to make himself heard in America was to listen to one of America’s greatest inventions – and respond as only a genius could – with an invention of his own.

Keystone’s products like battery clips, contacts and holders, LED lens caps, phono plugs and jacks, and grommets can be found in microphones and other similar devices. As you watch the next NFL game and hear a referee call a play after switching on his microphone or as you listen to 44th President take the oath of office, remember that the microphone that enables you to hear was once an only the spark of an idea in the late 1800s. Emile Berliner was the inventor who improved a great invention by creating a microphone, just as Keystone is a manufacturer that builds components to keep the microphones working, in either case it definitely is what’s on the inside that counts.