Two physicists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have discovered a way to adapt technology they're using for atom smashing to "read" old records, making it possible to transfer tens of thousands of old, scratchy recordings from the Library of Congress into digital formats. Carl Haber and Vitaliy Fedayev were building extremely precise detectors to be used in particle accelerators. In order to ensure the parts were made exactly right, they used an industrial Smart Scope, a high-resolution digital camera attached to a microscope. Haber realized that the Smart Scope could be used to take extremely precise pictures of a record’s groove. And because the twists and turns of the groove carry the pattern of the recording, a clear enough picture should allow them to recreate how a needle would have moved as it ran through the groove, without ever having to play it. The pair purchased used copies of older folk and blues recordings to test the concept. Each picture taken by the instrument measured an area of only 0.7mm by 0.54mm. Then each individual picture had to be stitched together like a gigantic quilt to give the final, high-resolution picture of the record. When they applied the computer programs to the picture of the grooves, they were able to reproduce the music. Once decoded, a DAW can then be used to remove clicks, pops or scratches.
For more information, visit www.math.unc.edu/Faculty/thb/.