Albert Michelson’s Harmonic Analyzer

November 18, 2014 4:42 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

I stumbled upon this incredible machine that has a lot to do with the work I do with wave forms. I have been working on two projects both has a lot to do with the harmonics in single cycle wave forms. Today this is easy calculations to do either on a graphical calculator or I can just skip that part and just take a sound, analyse it and get the computer to output and even play back the result of the analysis that is incredibly close to the original. The concept that all sounds are built up by sinusoidal fluctuations is something many of us has to learn about in school, and if we get the concept we might or might not ever get any use of that knowledge. This machine is kind of useless, it do not make soundsother than squeals from it’s mechanical parts. But it’s machines like this and the underlying theory that made synthesizers what they are. Both subtractive synthesizers, additive synthesizers and for example the tone wheel organ builds on this concept. I think the thing that makes me drawn to this is the same as the early computers. And by early computers I do not mean the early PC’s like the C64 but these that actually was built up be pushing marbles and actually people doing calculations then put in to a system to solve a really big problem. It’s what this magic of computers and synthesizers are built upon.

So this is the machine;


Awesome, right!?

To Michelson:
What manner of man was so wise,
As to make a machine Synthesize?
—With springs and levers it combines
Weighted sines or cosines—
And most wondrous of all: Analyze!

I could go on trying to tell you what it does but these videos explains that much better than I ever can.






360 view of the machine


The amplitude bars


The crank, that’s how it’s powered


The cylinder gears


The pen mechanism used to display the waveform


Bill Hammack has also published a book about Albert Michelson’s Harmonic Analyzer you can get.

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