A Day With David Johnson – Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph


A day with David Johnson.


I took on a part time job serving as a companion – someone to talk to, help with medicine & food for a few hours twice a week.  This is a man who is currently living with Parkinson’s disease.  In a nut shell – it is a progressive disorder of the nervous system and affects movement.


David & his wife live in a unique house with many antiques, vintage items, art work, and books.  I had a tour of the house & was in amazement, quite speechless.  There were many things unknown to me and things that were vaguely familiar.  This house is quite vintage & unique, things our grandparents & great grandparents would have been around for, this couple has.  A Quekett Microscope, various Vintage Cameras, transparencies to view in cameras, record players, antique Edison phonographs, etc. & the best part about it – EVERYTHING is still functional!  There is a whole floor dedicated to all his artwork, stained glass & other forms of art.  Then they also have their own little personal library in which antiques and books are stored.  Walking through this house I feel like I am on a field trip!  I am stepping into another world, another dimension in a sense.  It is the “lost reality” of David Johnson`s world as he so calls it.


Before I parted for the day, he mentioned to me that he is fighting to “keep his mind in tact” while the disease is trying to take from it.  So exercising his brain, jogging his mind is what he tries to do while my time is spent there.

Today he played an Edison Diamond Disc phonograph from the 1915-1925 era.  It was quite awesome to see the whole process & experience music from an Edison Diamond Disc phonograph.  It sounded like the background music from the old black & white films.  He cranked the knob on the side of the phonograph slowly -the trick is to not wind it up too tight, the springs inside would be stressed and caused to snap.  Then there was a lever on the inside that controlled the hand & needle that was placed over the disc.  Carefully managing it, he placed the needle over the record.  Music played filling the empty house.  When the music starts to wind down, then you must crank that lever once again.  Once the record is done playing one side, you may flip it over.

Through mechanical energy and no electricity, imagine that.  Imagine winding up your car before driving it & stopping constantly to start it.  Can you picture yourself winding up music in your car or a DJ cranking records to play in the club?  We probably wouldn’t be able to live without our CDs, MP3s, IPods, etc.

I was able to take out my Iphone and snap some quick photos that I would be able to take with me.  Within seconds these photos can be texted, emailed, shared/posted to any site for me to share.  As opposed to years ago when the first camera had to be placed on a tripod; you had to snap a photo and pose and stay in that position without movement for 15 minutes.  Can you imagine, waiting 15 minutes for each individual photo that you wanted to take?  To take it back even further before photographs were invented, there was only sketches of images to keep a memory.  You either drew it yourself or you went to buy the drawing already done.


A day in the David Johnson Household.


4 thoughts on “A Day With David Johnson – Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph

  1. New View From Here says:

    One of your very best posts! Very touching & I’m instantly drawn in by the story of your efforts to help this man and his wife. The images add so much to this very well-written story of humanity, history, & heart. I am so glad you found the time & motivation to share this!

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