Tag Archives: 1940s

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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.