July 16 - "It's like a photocopy machine for sound."
A new technology being tested at the Library of Congress makes it possible to extract audio signals from record grooves without playing them with a stylus.
The system photographs the grooves and a computer converts the images of groove modulation into audio signals. The process can even "play" records that have been broken and put back together, all without a skip or tick. The computer ignores groove features that are obviously scratches or dirt, which are heard as ticks and pops.
The technology was invented by Carl Haber, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. He calls the system IRENE, after the first recording he and collaborator Vitaliy Fadeyev digitized, "Goodnight Irene" by The Weavers.
The Library of Congress is investigating whether IRENE should be used to transcribe the Library's vast collection of recordings, much of it on old and obsolete disc formats. IRENE has much potential because it doesn't require playing the record with a stylus, which could potentially degrade the recording.
You can read the story - and listen to test tracks - reported by National Public Radio here.