Search Results for "marketing"

Google Unveils a Digital Marketing & E-Commerce Certificate: 7 Courses Will Help Prepare Students for an Entry-Level Job in 6 Months

During the pandemic, Google launched a series of Career Certificates that will “prepare learners for an entry-level role in under six months.” Their first certificates focused on Project Management, Data Analytics, User Experience (UX) Design, IT Support and IT Automation. Now comes their latest–a certificate dedicated to Digital Marketing & E-commerce.

Offered on the Coursera platform, the Digital Marketing & E-commerce Professional Certificate consists of seven courses, all collectively designed to help students “develop digital marketing and e-commerce strategies; attract and engage customers through digital marketing channels like search and email; measure marketing analytics and share insights; build e-commerce stores, analyze e-commerce performance, and build customer loyalty.” The courses include:

In total, this program “includes over 190 hours of instruction and practice-based assessments, which simulate real-world digital marketing and e-commerce scenarios that are critical for success in the workplace.” Along the way, students will learn how to use tools and platforms like Canva, Constant Contact, Google Ads, Google Analytics, Hootsuite, HubSpot, Mailchimp, Shopify, and Twitter. You can start a 7-day free trial and explore the courses. If you continue beyond that, Google/Coursera will charge $39 USD per month. That translates to about $235 after 6 months.

If you don’t want to pay, you can audit each course for free, without ultimately receiving the certificate.

Explore the Digital Marketing & E-commerce Professional Certificate.

Note: Open Culture has a partnership with Coursera. If readers enroll in certain Coursera courses and programs, it helps support Open Culture.

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When Movies Came on Vinyl: The Early-80s Engineering Marvel and Marketing Disaster That Was RCA’s SelectaVision

Anyone over 30 remembers a time when it was impossible to imagine home video without physical media. But anyone over 50 remembers a time when it was difficult to choose which kind of media to bet on. Just as the “computer zoo” of the early 1980s forced home-computing enthusiasts to choose between Apple, IBM, Commodore, Texas Instruments, and a host of other brands, each with its own technological specifications, the market for home-video hardware presented several different alternatives. You’ve heard of Sony’s Betamax, for example, which has been a punchline ever since it lost out to JVC’s VHS. But that was just the realm of video tape; have you ever watched a movie on a vinyl record?

Four decades ago, it was difficult for most consumers to imagine home video at all. “Get records that let you have John Travolta dancing on your floor, Gene Hackman driving though your living room, the Godfather staying at your house,” booms the narrator of the television commercial above.

How, you ask? By purchasing a SelectaVision player and compatible video discs, which allow you to “see the entertainment you really want, when you want, uninterrupted.” In our age of streaming-on-demand this sounds like a laughably pedestrian claim, but at the time it represented the culmination of seventeen years and $600 million of intensive research and development at the Radio Company of America, better known as RCA.

Radio, and even more so its successor television, made RCA an enormous (and enormously profitable) conglomerate in the first half of the twentieth century. By the 1960s, it commanded the resources to work seriously on such projects as a vinyl record that could contain not just music, but full motion pictures in color and stereo. This turned out to be even harder than it sounded: after numerous delays, RCA could only bring SelectaVision to market in the spring of 1981, four years after the internal target. By that time, after the company had been commissioning content for the better part of a decade (D. A. Pennebaker shot David Bowie’s final Ziggy Stardust concert in 1973 on commission from RCA, who’d intended to make a SelectaVision disc out of it), the format faced competition from not just VHS and Betamax but the cutting-edge LaserDisc as well.

Nevertheless, the SelectaVision’s ultra-densely encoded vinyl video discs — officially known as capacitance electronic discs, or CEDs — were, in their way, marvels of engineering. You can take a deep dive into exactly what makes the system so impressive, which involves not just a breakdown of its components but a complete retelling of the history of RCA, though the five-part Technology Connections miniseries at the top of the post. True completists can also watch RCA’s video tour of its SelectaVision production facilities, as well as its live dealer-introduction broadcast hosted by Tom Brokaw and featuring a Broadway-style musical number. SelectaVision was also rolled out in the United Kingdom in 1983, thus qualifying for a hands-on examination by British retro-tech Youtuber Techmoan.

SelectaVision lasted just three years. Its failure was perhaps overdetermined, and not just by the bad timing resulting from its troubled development. In the early 1980s, the idea of buying pre-recorded video media lacked the immediate appeal of “time-shifting” television, which had become possible only with video tape. Nor did RCA, whose marketing centered on the possibility of building a permanent home-video library in the manner of one’s music library, foresee the possibility of rental. And though CEDs were ultimately made functional, they remained cumbersome, able to hold just one hour of video per side and notoriously subject to jitters even on the first play. Yet as RCA’s ad campaigns emphasized, there really was a “magic” in being able to watch the movies you wanted at home, whenever you wanted to. In that sense, at least, we now live in a magical world indeed.

Related content:

The Story of the MiniDisc, Sony’s 1990s Audio Format That’s Gone But Not Forgotten

A Celebration of Retro Media: Vinyl, Cassettes, VHS, and Polaroid Too

The Beauty of Degraded Art: Why We Like Scratchy Vinyl, Grainy Film, Wobbly VHS & Other Analog-Media Imperfection

The Museum of Failure: A New Swedish Museum Showcases Harley-Davidson Perfume, Colgate Beef Lasagne, Google Glass & Other Failed Products

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


Take 193 Free Tech and Business Courses Online at Udacity: Product Design, Programming, A.I., Marketing & More

Each of us now commands more technological power than did any human being alive in previous eras. Or rather, we potentially command it: what we can do with the technology at our fingertips — and how much money we can make with it — depends on how well we understand it. Luckily, the development of learning methods has more or less kept pace with the development of everything else we now do with computers. Take the online-education platform Udacity, which offers “nanodegree” programs in areas like programming, data science, and cybersecurity. While the nanodegrees themselves come with fees, Udacity doesn’t charge for the constituent courses: in other words, you can earn what you need to know for free.

Above you’ll find the introduction to Udacity’s Product Design course by Google (also creator of the Coursera professional-certificate programs previously featured here on Open Culture). “Designed to help you materialize your game-changing idea and transform it into a product that you can build a business around,” the course “blends theory and practice to teach you product validation, UI/UX practices, Google’s Design Sprint and the process for setting and tracking actionable metrics.”

This is a highly practical learning experience at the intersection of technology and business, as are many other of Udacity’s 193 free courses, like App MarketingApp Monetization, How to Build a Startup, and Get Your Startup Started.

If you have no particular interest in founding and running the next Google, Udacity also hosts plenty of courses that focus entirely on the workings of different branches of technology, from programming and artificial intelligence to 2D game development and 3D graphics. (In addition to the broad introductions, there are also relatively advanced courses of a much more specific focus: Developing Android Apps with Kotlin, say, or Deploying a Hadoop Cluster.) And if you’d simply like to get your foot in the door with a job in tech, consider such offerings as Refresh Your Résumé, Strengthen Your LinkedIn Network & Brand, and a variety of interview-preparation courses for jobs in data sciencemachine learning, product management, virtual-reality development, and other subfields. And however cutting-edge their work, who couldn’t another spin through good old Intro to Psychology?

Find a list of 193 Free Udacity courses here. For the next week Nanodegrees are 75% off (use code JULY75). Find more free courses in our list, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Note: Open Culture has a partnership with Udacity. If readers enroll in certain Udacity courses and programs that charge a fee, it helps support Open Culture.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


An Introduction to Consumer Neuroscience & Neuromarketing: A Free Online Course from the University of Copenhagen

Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy, a neuropsychologist at the University of Copenhagen, presents An Introduction to Consumer Neuroscience & Neuromarketing, a course that explores the following set of questions:

How do we make decisions as consumers? What do we pay attention to, and how do our initial responses predict our final choices? To what extent are these processes unconscious and cannot be reflected in overt reports? This course will provide you with an introduction to some of the most basic methods in the emerging fields of consumer neuroscience and neuromarketing. You will learn about the methods employed and what they mean. You will learn about the basic brain mechanisms in consumer choice, and how to stay updated on these topics. The course will give an overview of the current and future uses of neuroscience in business.

You can take Introduction to Consumer Neuroscience & Neuromarketing for free by selecting the audit option upon enrolling. If you want to take the course for a certificate, you will need to pay a fee.

Introduction to Consumer Neuroscience & Neuromarketing will be added to our list of Free Business Courses, a subset of our collection: 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Related Content:

For a complete list of online courses, please visit our complete collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

For a list of online certificate programs, visit 200 Online Certificate & Microcredential Programs from Leading Universities & Companies, which features programs from our partners Coursera, Udacity, FutureLearn and edX.

And if you’re interested in Online Mini-Masters and Master’s Degrees programs from universities, see our collection: Online Degrees & Mini Degrees: Explore Masters, Mini Masters, Bachelors & Mini Bachelors from Top Universities.


Simone de Beauvoir’s Philosophy on Finding Meaning in Old Age

Image via Wikimedia Commons

In the legend of the Buddha, prince Siddhartha encounters the poor souls outside his palace walls and sees, for the first time, the human condition: debilitating illness, aging, death. He is shocked. As Simone de Beauvoir paraphrases in The Coming of Age, her groundbreaking study of the depredations of growing old, Siddhartha wonders, “What is the use of pleasures and delights, since I myself am the future dwelling-place of old age?” 

Rather than deny his knowledge of suffering, the Buddha followed its logic to the end. “In this,” de Beauvoir writes ironically, “he differed from the rest of mankind… being born to save humanity.” We are mostly out to save ourselves – or our stubborn ideas of who we should be. The more wealth and power we have, the easier it may be to fight the transformations of age…. Until we cannot, since “growing, ripening, aging, dying – the passing of time is predestined.”

When she began to write about her own aging, de Beauvoir was besieged, she says, by “great numbers of people, particularly old people [who] told me, kindly or angrily but always at great length and again and again, that old age simply did not exist!” The hundreds and thousands of dollars spent to fight nature’s effect on our appearance only serves to “prolong,” she writes, our “dying youth.”

Obsessions with cosmetics and cosmetic surgery come from an ageism imposed from without by what scholar Kathleen Woodward calls “the youthful structure of the look” — a harsh gaze that turns the old into “The Other.” The aged are subject to a “stigmatizing social judgment, made worse by our internalization of it.” Ram Dass summarized the condition in 2019 by saying we live in “a very cruel culture” — an “aging society… with a youth mythology.”

The contradictions can be stark. Many of Ram Dass’ generation have become valuable fodder in marketing and politics for their reliability as voters or consumers, a major shift since 1972. But, for all the focus on baby boomers as a hated or a useful demographic, they are largely invisible outside of a certain wealthy class. Old age in the West is no less fraught with economic and social precarity than when de Beauvoir wrote. 

De Beauvoir movingly describes conditions that were briefly evident in the media during the worst of the pandemic – the isolation, fear, and marginalization that older people face, especially those without means. “The presence of money cannot always alleviate” the pains of aging, wrote Elizabeth Hardwick in her 1972 review of de Beauvoir’s book in translation. “Its absence is a certain catastrophe.”

The problem, de Beauvoir pointed out, is that old age is almost synonymous with poverty. The elderly are deemed unproductive, unprofitable, a burden on the state and family. She quotes a Cambridge anthropologist, Dr. Leach, who stated at a conference, “in effect, ‘In a changing world, where machines have a very short run of life, men must not be used too long. Everyone over fifty-five should be scrapped.’” 

The sentiment, expressed in 1968, sounds not unlike a phrase bandied around by business analysts thanks to Erik Brynjolkfsson’s call for human beings to “race with the machines.” It is, eventually, a race everyone loses. And the push for profitability over human flourishing comes back to haunt us all. 

We carry this ostracism so far that we even reach the point of turning it against ourselves: for in the old person that we must become, we refuse to recognize ourselves.” 

De Beauvoir’s response to the widespread cultural denial of aging was to write the first full-length philosophical study of aging in existence, “to break the conspiracy of silence,” she proclaimed. First published as La vieillesse in 1970, the book dared tread where no scholar or thinker had, as Woodward writes in a 2016 re-appraisal: 

The Coming of Age is the inaugural and inimitable study of the scandalous treatment of aging and the elderly in today’s capitalist societies…. There was no established method or model for the study of aging. Beauvoir had to invent a way to pursue this enormous subject. What did she do? …. She surveyed and synthesized what she had found in multiple domains, including biology, anthropology, philosophy, and the historical and cultural record, drawing it all together to argue with no holds barred that the elderly are not only marginalized in contemporary capitalist societies, they are dehumanized.

The book is just as relevant in its major points, argues professor of philosophy Tove Pettersen, despite some sweeping generalizations that may not hold up now or didn’t then. But the exclusions suffered by aging women in capitalist societies are still especially cruel, as the philosopher argued. Women are still stigmatized for their desires after menopause and ceaselessly judged on their appearance at all times.

De Beauvoir’s study has been compared to the exhaustive work of Michel Foucault, who excavated such human conditions as madness, sexuality, and punishment. And like his studies, it can feel claustrophobic. Is there any way out of being Othered, pushed aside, and ignored by the next generation as we age? “Beauvoir claims that the oppressed are not always just passive victims,” says Pettersen, “and that not all oppression is total.” 

We may be conditioned to see aging people as no longer useful or desirable, and to see ourselves that way as we age. But to wholly accept the logic of this judgment is to allow old age to become a “parody” of youth, writes de Beauvoir, as we chase after the past in misguided efforts to reclaim lost social status. We must resist the backward look that a youth-obsessed culture encourages by allowing ourselves to become something else, with a focus turned outward toward a future we won’t see.

As an old Zen master once pointed out, the leaves don’t go back on the tree. The leaves in fall and the tree in winter, however, are things of beauty and promise:

There is only one solution if old age is not to be an absurd parody of our former life, and that is to go on pursuing ends that give our existence a meaning — devotion to individuals, to groups or to causes, social, political, intellectual or creative work… In old age we should wish still to have passions strong enough to prevent us turning in on ourselves. One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation, compassion.

Borrow de Beauvoir’s The Coming of Age from the Internet Archive and read it online for free. Or purchase a copy of your own.

via The Marginalian

Related Content:

Ram Dass (RIP) Offers Wisdom on Confronting Aging and Dying

Bertrand Russell’s Advice For How (Not) to Grow Old: “Make Your Interests Gradually Wider and More Impersonal”

Life Lessons From 100-Year-Olds: Timeless Advice in a Short Film

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness



Take Graphic Design Courses to Launch Your Career as a Graphic Designer, Video Game Designer, UI Designer & More

What can you do with graphic design skills? More and more, it seems, as emerging technologies drive new apps, software, and games. New design challenges are everywhere, from human-machine interfaces, to 3D modeling in video games and animated films, to re-imagining classic designs in print and on screen. In addition to traditional jobs like art director, graphic designer, production artist, and animator, the past few years have seen a sharp rise in demand for User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) designers, roles that require a variety of different creative and technical skill sets.

You could get a four-year degree in design to work in one of these fields, or you could take a Coursera Specialization and be one step closer. Coursera has met the demand for new job skills and tech education by partnering with top arts institutions and universities to offer online courses at low cost. All of these courses grant certificates that show potential employers you’re ready to put your learning to use. If careers in art and contemporary design, graphic design, web user experience and interface design, or video game design appeal to you, you can learn those skills in the five certificate-granting Specialization programs below.

Graphic designers can choose to be as specialized or generalized as they like, but as in all creative fields, they need a thorough understanding of the basics. A Coursera Specialization is a series of courses intended to lead students to mastery, building on the history and foundations of the field. You can enroll for free and try out any of the Specializations for 7 days. After that, you’ll be charged between $39-$49 per month until you complete the courses in a Specialization. (Financial aid is available).

The exciting Specializations from CALARTS and the Museum of Modern Art will bring you many steps closer to a new career, or maybe even a new personal passion project.

Note: Open Culture has a partnership with Coursera. If readers enroll in certain Coursera courses and programs, it helps support Open Culture.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


Computer Scientist Andrew Ng Presents a New Series of Machine Learning Courses–an Updated Version of the Popular Course Taken by 5 Million Students

Back in 2017, Coursera co-founder and former Stanford computer science professor Andrew Ng launched a five-part series of courses on “Deep Learning” on the edtech platform, a series meant to “help you master Deep Learning, apply it effectively, and build a career in AI.” These courses extended his initial Machine Learning course, which has attracted almost 5 million students since 2012, in an effort, he said, to build “a new AI-powered society.”

Ng’s goals are ambitious, to “teach millions of people to use these AI tools so they can go and invent the things that no large company, or company I could build, could do.” His new Machine Learning Specialization at Coursera takes him several steps further in that direction with an “updated version of [his] pioneering Machine Learning course,” notes Coursera’s description, providing “a broad introduction to modern machine learning.” The specialization‘s three courses include 1) Supervised Machine Learning: Regression and Classification, 2) Advanced Learning Algorithms, and 3) Unsupervised Learning, Recommenders, Reinforcement Learning. Collectively, the courses in the specialization will teach you to:

  • Build machine learning models in Python using popular machine learning libraries NumPy and scikit-learn.
  • Build and train supervised machine learning models for prediction and binary classification tasks, including linear regression and logistic regression.
  • Build and train a neural network with TensorFlow to perform multi-class classification.
  • Apply best practices for machine learning development so that your models generalize to data and tasks in the real world.
  • Build and use decision trees and tree ensemble methods, including random forests and boosted trees.
  • Use unsupervised learning techniques for unsupervised learning: including clustering and anomaly detection.
  • Build recommender systems with a collaborative filtering approach and a content-based deep learning method.
  • Build a deep reinforcement learning model.

The skills students learn in Ng’s specialization will bring them closer to careers in big data, machine learning, and AI engineering. Enroll in Ng’s Specialization here free for 7 days and explore the materials in all three courses. If you’re convinced the specialization is for you, you’ll pay $49 per month until you complete the three-course specialization, and you’ll earn a certificate upon completion of a hands-on project using all of your new machine learning skills. You can sign up for the Machine Learning Specialization here.

Note: Open Culture has a partnership with Coursera. If readers enroll in certain Coursera courses and programs, it helps support Open Culture.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


What Is Batman? Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #124 Debates the Character, the Legacy, and the New Film


In light of the recent release of Matt Reeves’ film The Batman, we consider the strange alternation of darkness and camp that is Batman. Is he even a super hero? What’s with his rogues’ gallery? What’s with DC’s anti-world-building?

Your Pretty Much Pop host Mark Linsenmayer is joined by philosophy prof/NY Times entertainment writer Lawrence Ware, improv comedian/educator Anthony LeBlanc, and Marketing Over Coffee host John J. Wall, all of whom are deeply immersed in the comics, and we touch on other recent shows in the Batman universe.

Some relevant articles include:

Follow us @law_writes, @anthonyleblanc, @johnjwall, and @MarkLinsenmayer.

Hear more Pretty Much Pop. Support the show at or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.


Dying from Overwork: Disturbing Looks Inside Japan’s Karoshi and China’s “996” Work System

By most measures, Japan boasts the highest life expectancy in the world. But that ranking, of course, doesn’t mean that every Japanese person sees old age. Though the country’s rate of violent crime is low enough to be the envy of most of the world, its suicide rate isn’t, and it says even more that the Japanese language has a word that refers specifically to death by overwork. I first encountered it nearly thirty years ago in Dilbert comic strip. “In Japan, employees occasionally work themselves to death. It’s called karōshi,” says Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss. “I don’t want that to happen to anybody in my department. The trick is to take a break as soon as you see a bright light and hear dead relatives beckon.”

You can see the phenomenon of karōshi examined more seriously in the short Nowness video at the top of the post. In it, a series of Japanese salarymen (a Japanese English term now well-known around the world) speak to the exhausting and unceasing rigors of their everyday work schedules — and, in some cases, to the emptiness of the homes that await them each night.

The CNBC segment just above investigates what can be done about such labor conditions, which even in white-collar workplaces contribute to the heart attacks, strokes, and other immediate causes of deaths ultimately ascribed to karōshi. In a grim irony, Japan has the lowest productivity among the G7 nations: its people work hard, yet their companies are hardly working.

Initiatives to put a stop to the ill effects of overwork, up to and including karōshi, include mandatory vacation days and office lights that switch off automatically at 10:00 p.m. Among the latest is “Premium Friday,” a program explained in the Vice video above. Developed by Keidanren, Japan’s oldest business lobby, it was initially received as “a direct response to karōshi,” but it has its origins in marketing. “We wanted to create a national event that bolstered consumption,” says the director of Keidanren’s industrial policy bureau. By that logic, it made good sense to let workers out early on Fridays — let them out to shop. But Premium Friday has yet to catch on in most Japanese enterprises, aware as they are that Japan’s economic might no longer intimidates the world.

The aforementioned low productivity, along with a rapidly aging and even contracting population, contributed to Japan’s loss of its position as the world’s second-largest economy. It was overtaken in 2011 by China, a country with overwork problems of its own. The Vice report above covers the “996” system, which stands for working from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m, six days a week. Prevalent in Chinese tech companies, it has been blamed for stress, illness, and death among employees. Laws limiting working hours have thus far proven ineffective, or at least circumventable. Certain pundits never stop insisting that the future is Chinese; if they’re right, all this ought to give pause to the workers of the world, Eastern and Western alike.

Related content:

“Inemuri,” the Japanese Art of Taking Power Naps at Work, on the Subway, and Other Public Places

Why 1999 Was the Year of Dystopian Office Movies: What The Matrix, Fight Club, American Beauty, Office Space & Being John Malkovich Shared in Common

“Tsundoku,” the Japanese Word for the New Books That Pile Up on Our Shelves, Should Enter the English Language

The Employment: A Prize-Winning Animation About Why We’re So Disenchanted with Work Today

What is the Secret to Living a Long, Happy & Creatively Fulfilling Life?: Discover the Japanese Concept of Ikigai

Charles Bukowski Rails Against 9-to-5 Jobs in a Brutally Honest Letter (1986)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.


100-Year-Old Music Recordings Can Now Be Heard for the First Time, Thanks to New Digital Technology

Atlas Obscura · Frieda Hempel’s “Evviva la Francia!”

If you were listening to recorded music around the turn of the twentieth century, you listened to it on cylinders. Not that anyone alive today was listening to recorded music back then, and much of it has since been lost. Invented by Alexander Graham Bell (better known for his work on an even more popular device known as the telephone), the recording cylinder marked a considerable improvement on Thomas Edison’s earlier tinfoil phonograph. Never hesitant to capitalize on an innovation — no matter who did the innovating — Edison then began marketing cylinders of his own, soon turning his own name into the format’s most popular and recognizable brand.

“Edison set up coin-operated phonograph machines that would play pre-recorded wax cylinders in train stations, hotel lobbies, and other public places throughout the United States,” writes Atlas Obscura’s Sarah Durn. They also became the medium choice for hobbyists. “One of the most famous is Lionel Mapleson,” says Jennifer Vanasco in an NPR story from earlier this month.

“He recorded his family,” but “he was also the librarian for the Metropolitan Opera. And in the early 1900s, he recorded dozens of rehearsals and performances. Listening to his work is the only way you can hear pre-World War I opera singers with a full orchestra”: German soprano Frieda Hempel, singing “Evviva la Francia!” above.

The “Mapleson Cylinders” constitute just part of the New York Public Library’s collection of about 2,700 recordings in that format. “Only a small portion of those cylinders, around 175, have ever been digitized,” writes Durn. “The vast majority of the cylinders have never even been played in the generations since the library acquired them.” Most have become too fragile to withstand the needles of traditional players. Enter Endpoint Audio Labs’ $50,000 Cylinder and Dictabelt Machine, which uses a combination of needle and laser to read and digitize even already-damaged cylinders without harm. Only seven of Endpoint’s machines exist in the world, one of them a recent acquisition of the NYPL’s, which will now be able to play many of its cylinders for the first time in more than a century.

Some of these cylinders are unlabeled, their contents unknown. Curator Jessica Wood, as Velasco says, is hoping to “hear a birthday party or something that tells us more about the social history at the time, even someone shouting their name and explaining they’re testing the machine, which is a pretty common thing to hear on these recordings.” She knows that the NYPL’s collection has “about eight cylinders from Portugal, which may be some of the oldest recordings ever made in the country,” as well as “five Argentinian cylinders that have preserved the sound of century-old tango music.” In the event, from the first cylinder she puts on for NPR’s microphone issue familiar words: “Hello, my baby. Hello, my honey. Hello, my ragtime gal.” This listening experience perhaps felt like something less than time travel. But then, were you really to go back to 1899, what song would you be more likely to hear?

via Atlas Obscura

Related content:

Download 10,000 of the First Recordings of Music Ever Made, Courtesy of the UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive

Optical Scanning Technology Lets Researchers Recover Lost Indigenous Languages from Old Wax Cylinder Recordings

Hear Singers from the Metropolitan Opera Record Their Voices on Traditional Wax Cylinders

A Beer Bottle Gets Turned Into a 19th Century Edison Cylinder and Plays Fine Music

400,000+ Sound Recordings Made Before 1923 Have Entered the Public Domain

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.