A microphone is a device made to capture waves in air, water (hydrophone) or hard material and translate them into an electrical signal. The most common method is via a thin membrane producing some proportional electrical signal. Most microphones in use today for audio use electromagnetic generation (dynamic microphones), capacitance change (condenser microphones) or piezoelectric generation to produce the signal from mechanical vibration.
Several early inventors built primitive microphones (then called transmitters) prior to Alexander Bell, but the first commercially practical microphone was the carbon microphone conceived in October 1876 by Thomas Edison. Many early developments in microphone design took place at Bell Laboratories.