When Thomas Edison was only 31 years old, Popular Science profiled him, getting a look inside his shop and talking to him about the best writers of the age. The article cites the carbon telephone and the phonograph as the best of his many inventions, not knowing, of course, that records would one day become ubiquitous before being replaced by CDs, then MP3 players, only to make a comeback among audiophiles.
The phonograph was invented largely by accident, as so many good things are. Edison was tinkering with an automatic transmitter for Morse Code when he realized that the vibration from spoken word could make a needle make an indentation on paper, and an even better one on tinfoil. Then, when the grooves were run under the needle again, his words were spoken back to him and the recording was born.
Read the full story in Sketch of Thomas Alva Edison.