The year was 1860. Abraham Lincoln was taking the political world by storm, South Carolina had decided it needed a break from the rest of the Union, and the first ever audio recording was made in France by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville on his latest invention; the phonautograph (left).
The device worked by “scratching sound waves onto a sheet of paper blackened by the smoke of an oil lamp.” It lacked a multi-touch interface and came with only 32MB of memory and no expansion slot. The first-ever recording is a ten-second snippet of a woman singing “Au clair de la lune, Pierrot répondit,” which I guarantee P. Diddy’s going to sample and re-release before the end of the week.
Roughly 17 years later, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph and was kind enough to issue a $200 refund to early adopters of the phonautograph.
You can listen to the recording here at the FirstSounds.org web site.