CRACK! That sound is your favorite record being crushed. Shed no tears thanks to a new optical scanning technique can pull the audio off the fragments with ease.
Carl Haber and Earl Cornell, the restoration specialist, used a hardware/software system called IRENE/3D to captures sound direct from any disc in any condition. What IRENE/3D does is take high resolution images of the broken disc while spinning and removes the errors of the damaged disc or cylinders. They then mimic the stylus as it moved over to the media, on a computer, reproducing the originally recorded voices.
At Berkeley National Laboratory, the software was used to scan a 125 year old recordings from Alexander Graham Bell, (cousin) Chichester Bell, and Charles Sumner Tainter. The disc, along with 200 others, were sent to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. However, a way to play them did not accompany the recordings. Over time the glass and wax recording began to crack and crumble. (So much for safekeeping).
Haber and Cornell used IRENE/3D to create a high-res image of one broken disc's surface. This disc was recorded by Bell and his associates saying "barometer" recorded in 1884:
This one is a electrotyped copper negative disc recorded in October 1881:
A green wax on a brass holder disc recorded in 1885 reciting Shakespeare:
Only 400 more records to go at the Smithsonian Institute. See their progress at http://bio16p.lbl.gov/