An excerpt from GE Reports:
It’s the stuff of a flea market find, or a hidden treasure in the attic. A pile of dusty film canisters in the basement of the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium has yielded some of the world’s oldest surviving radio broadcasts. The 20 shows were first heard on Schenectady radio station WGY between 1929 and 1931. One features a talk by GE founder Thomas Edison in a broadcast celebrating the 50th anniversary of the incandescent light bulb. Another is a portion of a high school basketball game that’s believed to be the second oldest surviving sports broadcast. They were recorded on a long forgotten machine that GE developed in 1922 called a pallophotophone — after the Greek words for “shaking light sound” — in one of the earliest attempts to record sound on film. But there was only one catch with the great find: There weren’t any known pallophotophones in existence to play back the lost pieces of history. Enter the museum’s curator, Chris Hunter, and GE’s engineers, who together cracked the pallophotophone code.
They got the parts from eBay.