Science Presents Dumb Man With a Removable Voice (May, 1930)

Science Presents Dumb Man With a Removable Voice

C. F. LORENZ, a Wichita Falls, Texas, auditor who was dumb for months as the result of an operation is now one of the six persons in the entire world who can place his voice in his pocket after completing a conversation. Some time ago Mr. Lorenz was stricken with caricinoma or cancer of the larynx which is often called the human voice box. It was necessary to have the larynx removed and as a result he became dumb.

For months he carried on his work, using a pencil and pad for his part of a conversation. But a few months ago he learned of a Toledo surgeon who within ten days instructed Mr. Lorenz in the use of a manmade voice which enables him to talk as well as anyone else.

Mr. Lorenz does not care for publicity but in the hope that his experience might help some other unfortunate person he discussed his new voice. “In order to talk,” he said, “I hold the neck-piece of the instrument by means of a collar button, next to the opening in the lower portion of my neck through which I breathe. A rubber tube connects the neck-piece with the trumpet, and a tube from the trumpet conducts the. sound into my mouth. To speak, I press the neckpiece gently against my neck and blow air through the trumpet which sets up a sound resembling the normal voice. Thus the sound is conducted into my mouth, where it is formed into words as natural as those spoken by anyone.”

5 comments
  1. Nomen Nescio says: August 30, 20118:09 am

    the modern equivalent of this apparently involves a vibrator held against the throat to substitute for vibrating vocal chords. it works, and since it’s used instead of this old thing one presumes it must work better somehow, but the words formed do not sound “as natural as those spoken by anyone”; they come out sounding somewhat disconcertingly robotic.

  2. Hirudinea says: August 30, 20119:12 am

    This device probably required more training than the modern one, you probably had to learn to play this thing like a musical insturment, from the description of blowing, the modern just makes a drone that the user modulates with their mouth, still anything is better than nothing.

  3. Andrew L. Ayers says: August 30, 201110:34 am

    @Hirudinea: Actually, this device sounds like it might be somewhat superior; more in line with how our larynx works (sans modulation of the vocal cords, of course).

    Basically, according to the description, it sounds like breath blowing out through a tracheotomy (http://en.wikipedia.org…), into a tube to the device, presumably the breath goes past a set of reeds, causing them to vibrate with a tone, which is then transmitted to the mouth via another tube, much like a Talk box (http://en.wikipedia.org…) – where words could then be formed.

    It does seem like it would be more awkward to use and get used to at first, but the tone produced could be fairly pleasant (perhaps “flutelike”), vs the “buzzboxes” currently in use, plus since it needs no batteries, and there aren’t many moving pieces (perhaps none, if reeds aren’t used), there isn’t much to break or need replacing.

    The multiple tubes (and the need of a tracheotomy) is the biggest drawback – though I wonder if something like this couldn’t be made smaller and implanted in some manner…?

  4. Hirudinea says: August 30, 20112:03 pm

    @ Andrew L. Ayers – Well since its just a bit of a stub article we’ll don’t know much about the device so who knows what it sounded like, although probably nicer than a buzzer, but you think there had to be some disadvantage to it to be replaced by the buzzer. So does anyone else know anything about this thing?

  5. qyooqy says: August 30, 20115:11 pm

    Would you rather have a vibrator in your pocket or a hole in your throat? (That was fun to type) Imagine your talking being dependent on the availability of batteries. Could you get rechargeable batteries? If you could, you may still have to wait for them to charge before you could tell someone how full of !@#$%! they are. How big were the commonly available batteries in 1930? Were they fragile? Also, the thing needs to not be horribly noticeable. He looks like he’s smoking a pipe. He does not look like he’s winding up some strange device because he does not make enough money to afford batteries. Most people who are mute use hand sign language. A surgery later in life leading to an inability to speak creates a fairly small market. When the words say,”where it is formed into words as natural as those spoken by anyone”, I think that means that the words are formed in the mouth in the same way that anyone forms words. I do not think that this is referencing the way that the word sounds. Communication has many fun sides.

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