As technology continues to advance, there are many forms of music playback that we will never experience. If you’re of a certain age, for instance, you probably haven’t touched a CD. Going back even further, there’s one device that even fewer people alive today would’ve listened to—the gramophone. This invention was the preferred way to play tunes in the early 20th century; through 78rpm records, people of this era enjoyed listening to genres like bluegrass, swing, gospel, and ragtime. But just because the technology is obsolete doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. Through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, you can now listen to the same music for free.
The Wayback Machine calls their endeavor The Great 78 Project, and it features a staggering collection of more than 25,000 digitized 78rpm recordings. They prove a great way to experience history. With every click, crackle, or hiss—the fragile discs were made of shellac—you can picture yourself listening to it hundreds of years ago on a large gramophone player.
Preserving our analog history in a digital format is of great importance to the Wayback Machine. Though they’re known for cataloging websites of yesteryear, the site is also a non profit digital library. “We’re trying to make sure the physical object is saved, as well as the digital, because we don’t know which will last longer,” explained sound collections curator B. George. “When information disappears digitally, it’s gone forever.”
The Great 78 Project makes it easy to peruse their collection. Use filters like style, year of recording, and language to get you started listening to a song you’ll love.