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Tech journalist since the dark ages. Windows Secrets, LangaList newsletter, Windows Magazine (NetGuide, Home PC), Byte, Popular Computing, yadda yadda yadda. Google me, if it matters.

This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Via NPR: Edison's Talking Dolls Can Now Provide The Soundtrack To Your Nightmares

"Back in 1890, Thomas Edison gave us some of the world's first talking dolls. Today, the glassy-eyed cherubs that are still around stand about 2 feet tall; they have wooden limbs and a metal body; and they sound supercreepy.... Edison built and sold about 500 of them back in 1890. Now, new technology has made hearing them possible for the first time in decades."
The dolls were a commercial failure in part because they were expensive, and in part because the primitive wax recording technology required speech at a very high volume --- too loud for kids to produce, in fact.

The mechanism:



So, Edison used adult employees to fake childrens'  voices.

The results were, um, not euphonious.

Sample ("Now I lay me down to sleep..."):
http://www.nps.gov/av/ner/avElement/edis-heitz-dilg-edison-c-now-i-lay-me-20020211-90rpm.mp3

Full story:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/05/05/404445211/edisons-talking-dolls-can-now-provide-the-soundtrack-to-your-nightmares