The Voder

The Voder was an early attempt at speech synthesis developed by Bell Telephone Laboratory for the 1939-40 New York World's Fair. Controlled by hand, the operator manually forms each syllable using complex button sequences and it would take about a year of practice to able to produce fluid speech.

Helen Harper was one of the first people to figure out how to operate the Voder effectively, and was the live demonstrator at the World's Fair. She later went on to form a year-long course instructing women to use the Voder. Of 100 applied students, only 20 were able to graduate and match Harper's skills.

This application puts you in the shoes of the few women capable of operating the Voder.

Try create vowel formants pressing the button combinations below on your keyboard, or if you are using a mobile device scroll down and tap console display:

Replicating the sequence "She saw me" like in the video above requires the following inputs with exact timing; experiment until it sounds right to you. The results will not sound exactly like the video because of subtle articulations the operator is performing for inflection and dynamics.

“She (shē)
  1. Space: [sh]
  2. A + K: [ē]
saw (sô)
  1. Space: [s]
  2. D + V + J: [ô]
me.” (mē)
  1. A: [m]
  2. A + K: [ē]

After you get the hang of the former example, try saying "She seesaws" by resequencing some of the formants.

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