Vox ex machina

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The Allies used an incredible Rube Goldberg contraption to encrypt voice during World War II.

The 99% Invisible podcast:

In 1939, an astonishing new machine debuted at the New York World’s Fair. It was called the “Voder,” short for “Voice Operating Demonstrator.”  It looked sort of like a futuristic church organ.

An operator — known as a “Voderette” — sat at the Voder’s curved wooden console with a giant speaker towering behind her. She faced an expectant audience, placed her hands on a keyboard in front of her, and then played something the world had never really heard before.

A synthesized voice.

The voder didn’t store recorded words and phrases. It synthesized sounds – phonemes – and the operator created words by operating the controls in realtime.

The voder begat the vocoder, which became a key component in an unbelievably complicated multiton device used by the Allies to encrypt voice communications during World War II.

Vocoders – or their descendants – continue to be used today in cell phones, and pop music.

A brief history of Jackie, one of the MGM lions known as “Leo”

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One of several cats with the stage name “Leo,” Jackie was domesticated and gentle – by lion standards. He appeared in several movies, as well as the opening roar that runs before the credits in films including The Wizard of Oz

The studio put him in a monoplane in the 1920s to travel across the US, but he crash-landed in the Arizona desert. He survived unharmed, and toured the US on the ground. But lions aren’t built for that kind of treatment.

AKA Leo [The Memory Palace]

Leo the Lion (MGM) [Wikipedia]

Photo source: Wikipedia

The Spanish Civil War: ‘The first battle of World War II’

 


Hitler backed the Fascist Nationalists, and used the war to try out weapons and strategies he’d later use in World War II. The Soviet Union backed the Communist Republicans, along with a cadre of American volunteers – the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

Also backing the Spanish Fascists: Texaco, led by CEO Torkild Rieber, who later hired German Nazis, was fired by Texaco when the US turned resolutely anti-Nazi on the verge of our entry into World War II, and went to work for the Nazis directly.

On Fresh Air:

Nearly 80 years ago, about 2,800 Americans volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War. The war began in July 1936, when Gen. Francisco Franco led a fascist military coup against the the country’s newly elected democratic government. It lasted until Franco’s victory in 1939.

Journalist Adam Hochschild tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that “it was by far the largest number of Americans before or since who’ve ever joined somebody else’s civil war.”

Hochschild chronicles Americans’ involvement in the war in his new book, Spain in Our Hearts. He says that the majority of Americans in Spain (including writer Ernest Hemingway, who reported on the conflict) were sympathetic to the Republican forces who fought against Franco’s Nationalists.

In Many Ways, Author Says, Spanish Civil War Was ‘The First Battle Of WWII’ [Fresh Air]