We, the editors of innowiki, have reviewed thousands of inventions. We’ve read through countless idea, rejecting the vast majority not because they lacked merit but because they didn’t rock the world.
Of the innovations we accept there are very few who have more than one invention. Granted, the raw number of innovations does not balance to their impact. Doriot, the inventor of venture capital, created just one but the impact is more nuclear blast than a nudge in moving the world forward.
Still, very few people make more than one thing that genuinely matters, and many of those are hyped-up in hindsight.
Which is a long-winded way of saying Thomas Alva Edison is the real deal. We’re not ready to say he’s the greatest inventor in history because we’re still parsing. But we sure wouldn’t pick a fight with anybody who made that assertion.
The phonograph, that changed the world of music and communications, is one of Edison’s lesser contributions. That’s not to say it is unimportant: it certainly belongs on the list of great inventions. It revolutionized music.
But because Edison invented it, and he invented so many other things (ex: the electricity plant and power grid), it tends to lay in the background. He moves the curve, so to speak.
Getting to the point, Edison’s phonograph records and plays back music. Which is a vast understatement. It’s like saying the power plant Edison later invented generates an electric current, which it does without explaining the value it creates.
The ability to record and playback music was, like many Edison inventions, a once-in-a-lifetime breakthrough that changed the world. Except that, for Edison, it wasn’t a one-time thing; it was one of the early, and lest significant, of his countless inventions. We’re tagging the phonograph as automation technology because that’s how musicians treated it. Despite our feelings Edison said “… of all my inventions I like the phonograph the best.” We assume that’s because it allowed him to listen to music while inventing all the rest of the stuff.