“Alexander Graham Bell, in his 1876 patent for the telephone, invented the first viable “dynamic microphone” for the capture of the human voice. Engineers working for the manufacturing arm of Bell’s company, which between 1881 and 1925 was known as Western Electric, held the patents for many devices and technologies which would become ubiquitous in the 20th century. One such device was the electret condenser microphone, developed by James West at Western Electric beginning as early as 1916. Unlike the early dynamic microphones or the larger condenser microphone shown here, the electret condenser miniaturized the technology and reduced its manufacturing costs, suggesting a democratization of audio capture technology. In both forms, condenser microphones were much more sensitive to sound, and did not need to be held close to a sound source in order to pick it up.”