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Dead medium: The Voder, The Vocoder, the Cyclops Camera, the Memex
From: (Bradley O'Neill) Source: From Memex To Hypertext: Vannevar Bush and the mind's machine. James M. Nyce and Paul Kahn (eds.); Academic Press Inc, 1991. #QA76.4F76 1991

page 94, from the essay "As We May Think" by Vannevar Bush, 1945.


"At (((the 1939))) World's Fair a machine called a Voder was shown (((created by AT&T))). A girl stroked its keys and it emitted recognizable speech. No human vocal cords entered into the procedure at any point; the keys simply combined some electronically produced vibrations and passed these on to a loud-speaker."

page 44 by editors Nyce and Kahn

"The American Telephone and Telegraph exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair featured "Pedro the Voder" (Voice Operated Demonstrator), an electronic human voice synthesizer which produced...English-language speech using 50 phonemes"

page 94, Bush, ibid.

THE VOCODER: "In the Bell Laboratories there is the converse of [the Voder] called a Vocoder. The loud-speaker is replaced by a micro-phone which picks up sound. Speak to it, and the corresponding keys move."

(((Think your PC has limited voice capabilities? Consider the situation in the 1930s and 40s. Bush suggests how to improve the interface:)))

page 95

"Our present languages are not especially adapted to this sort of mechanization, it is true. It is strange that the inventors of universal languages have not seized upon the idea of producing (((a human language))) which is better fitted the technique for transmitting and recording speech. Mechanization may yet force the issue, especially in the scientific field; whereupon scientific jargon would become still less intelligible to the layman.

"One can now picture a future investigator in his laboratory. His hands are free, and he is not anchored. As he moves about and observes, he photographs and comments...." (((Mobile photography would have come from Bush's never-produced 'Cyclops Camera' headband, sporting a microfilm cartridge.)))..."If he goes into the field, he may be connected by radio to his recorder. As he ponders over his notes in the evening, he again talks his comments into the record. His typed record, as well as his photographs, may both be in miniature, so that he projects them for examination." (((That is,a "projection" on the Memex bibliographic/hypertext machine, a Vannevar Bush thought-experiment that was also never built.)))