The History of the Microphone

The Microphone, Mic or sometimes Mike has some dubious history of who actually invented it. But Alexander Bell has been credited with the early format of the microphone soon after his success with the telephone.

What Is a Microphone

A microphone is a device, actually a transducer that can take a sound and convert that sound into a signal that can be transferred electrically. There are many applications for this and we see the microphone being used in many different ways. They can be used in connection with public address systems, TV’s, phones, hearing aids and a multitude of other applications.

The First Microphone

As early as 1828 the term microphone was being used, and in 1876 the first microphone was used in a telephone by Emile Berliner. He had seen the Bell telephone company develop the telephone and decided to improve the technology. Soon after Bell bought his design and put it into production. Around forty years later the carbon microphone was developed to great acclaim. And with the success of radio the ribbon microphone was designed in 1942 for broadcasting.

1964 saw Bell once again at the forefront of microphone development when they invented the electroacoustic microphone which was more reliable and much smaller in size. Most of the microphones used today are versions of condenser and dynamic designs that were developed in the 1970’s. They are much clearer in sound recording and allow for a lower sound sensitivity.

The Future

Recently the design of microphones has been quite revolutionary with technology concerned with detecting movement in response to pressure variation. Another development has been to look at laser-velocity transducers, where a reflective surface that is vibrating can be scanned by a laser. Then this Doppler shift can carry an audio signal which may lead the way to optical microphones. One of the modern microphone manufacturers, Sennheiser have already developed an optical microphone which is being used in gas stations for giving warning of any leaks, the technology will not cause explosions as it does not use biasing voltages as many microphones do these days. The humble microphone has come a long way since its inception and more and more research and development is being carried out to improve this device. Even things like actor’s makeup and sweat are considerations for damage to equipment so smaller more efficient models are being sought.

There is extensive research also being carried out in providing a digital output, done by opto-sensing the amount of movement in the diaphragm. This research is quite widespread but the problem is that the technology is not quite there yet for this to become a reality, although no doubt it will only be a matter of time. Whatever the new technologies are in microphone development, they are all to enhance the product’s performance which can open the box to far more uses of one of the most iconic of inventions.

This will then provide the world with ways and means of not just transmitting sound but also to develop different uses that can provide safety in many hazardous industries, and benefits to such things as hospital equipment.