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He was born on March 22, 1840 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
He started a small machine shop in Bridgeton, New Jersey, where he lived most of his life, which became known as the Ferracute Machine Company in 1877. For the entire existence of the company he was the president and chief engineer.
He died on July 19, 1926 in New Jersey.
In an article that appeared in the British magazine - Electrical World, he suggested (probably for the first time) the use of permanent magnetic impressions for the recording of sound. Smith had fabricated a cotton or silk thread, into which steel dust or short clippings of fine wire would be suspended. These particles were to be magnetized in accordance with the alternating current from a microphone source. Smith also discussed the possibility of using a hard steel wire, but thought it scarcely possible. A working unit was never built. Many of Smith's ideas were used by Valdemar Poulsen when he developed the first true magnetic recorder.
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