Today In History: First Stereo Patented So I Got To Dance
A French engineer and inventor from the late 1800s, Clément Ader, is known mostly for his advancements in aviation. He also tinkered to improve Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone (not sure if I should call it “tinkering” for something that huge in history). On this day in 1881 Ader patented the first stereo system. If you Google “first stereo” you don’t see his name, but you get a lot of people who came after him who built on his ideas. But he was the fellow who got the ball (and other dances) rolling.
At the Paris Opera during the Paris Exposition of 1881, he set up broadcasts from the stage with left and right channels, sending out the innovative dimensional transmission to listeners up to a two mile radius. It was the beginning of stereo sound, the dual listening pleasure that has evolved to the mind blowing sound we have today with our earbuds and iPhones when we hear our favorite tunes in the middle of our brains.
My first stereo still operates from our living room cabinet. I got the Technique components in 1984 after college. The turn table is way cool now by the way. Vinyl is all the rage. Hopefully all the cassette tapes I have will become gold soon — though I had to release the cassette player to the recycle center a couple of years ago.
When the kids were little, we played music all the time. Constantly. You know how they say “music hath charms to soothe the savage beast”? One should certainly employ it when one has four kids at once and needs to sedate and calm them. Enya was our faithful companion, even before they were born and I was in the hospital for two months. (I had a portable system for that stretch.) We and my four embryos grew (and grew and grew) to constant music — therapy, companionship, inspiration. Classical and new age tunes sustained us. Whether or not it impacted the kids, it certainly helped me hold it together. And it was what I learned to dance to. And I don’t mean learned a particular dance step or proper technique. I mean learned to let loose and dance.
In reality, I couldn’t dance my way out of a paper bag if my life depended on it. The humiliation would kill me anyway. I’d just stay in the bag thank you. I’ve tried it a few times. In high school, my sister Suzy and I went to Homecoming with her now-husband and his brother Jeff. To prepare, Suzy and I spent hours with Jerry Rafferty on the stereo while she tried to teach me how to move to the music. In the middle of a dance on Homecoming night, Jeff broke out laughing because I looked so ridiculous. He stifled his laughter and tried to be encouraging. But I knew I was a duck with one foot stuck in a trap. In my senior year for musical theater class we had to run and leap across the stage. First problem, I was wearing a dress with about four inches of skirt to spare for walking. Second, I didn’t know about leading with the toes of one foot and follow-through with the rest of the body. I thought you ran to the middle of the stage and threw your legs out in the splits then ran off. My classmates got a good laugh out of that one.
In college I took ballet classes. One was in a swimming pool at Colorado State. One was with other beginners at Colorado College. They were marvelous. I loved it. I learned so much and gained a life-long appreciation for the extraordinary strength, beauty, and control of the athletes and artists ballet dancers are. But I still wouldn’t do it in front of anyone other than the class or down under the water. Jason and I took some dancing lessons recently. Waltz and foxtrot. We were awful. It’s just not in our bones to dance. Not like that.
But when the kids were little, and it was just the five of us at home during the day (and no one was there to laugh at me), I learned to dance. We turned our favorite songs up on that wonderfully faithful old stereo of mine, and we danced. We danced. All around the living room, switching partners, laughing, twirling, wiggling, giggling. Since we had an odd number, sometimes we did group dances, other times single, or whatever it took to let us all move. One day I had Lilly (my ventriloquist dummy) out because I was doing some work on her talking mechanism. Spencer boogied over to the chair where she was sitting, watching, and grabbed her and she became his dance partner. She was as big as he was, and the two of them spun around and bobbed and whirled. And giggled. The rest of us paired up. I loved it. No inhibitions, no judgment, no rules. The six of us were free to absorb the music and be joy. I’m sure Lilly was having a beautiful time too.
Until her head fell off. He Rocked and her head Rolled.
We fell over laughing — after that first shock Spencer had of his dance partner losing her head. Then we got back up, put her back in her chair to pull herself together, and we went on, free, unrestrained, ebullient. Our stereo played and we danced. Really danced.
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