Writing with your voice (Mar, 1947)

Writing with your voice

Years ago Alexander Graham Bell dreamed of “a machine that should render visible to the eyes of the deaf, the vibrations of the air that affect our ears as sound.” He never realized that dream, but his researches led to the invention of the telephone.

Today Bell Telephone Laboratories have turned the dream into a fact—translating the spoken word into readable pictures.

By this new invention of the Laboratories, the talker speaks into a microphone. Vibrations of the voice are unraveled through electronic circuits, and then are reassembled as luminous patterns which travel across a screen. Each syllable of sound has a distinctive shape and intensity.

Visible speech is still in its infancy, and is not yet available to the public. But educators of the deaf are now evaluating it.

Indications are that the deaf can learn to read the patterns and, by comparing the patterns their own voices make with the patterns of correct speech, can improve their diction.

Patterns of visible speech also provide a means for analyzing and recording sound in the study of phonetics and of languages. Eventually, visible speech may make possible visual telephony for the deaf.

This is but one of many contributions by Bell Telephone Laboratories to the understanding and control of sound.

Exploring and Inventing, Devising and Perfecting for Continued Improvements and Economies in Telephone Service

  1. Toronto says: May 13, 20137:03 am

    We’ve gone from “si e ns unr a v uls sp ee t sh” to having machines that ‘wreck a nice beach” to Siri.

  2. Stephen says: May 14, 20133:14 am

    This is an early spectrograph, a machine from which linguists learnt a lot about how speech is produced. Whether it was useful for the deaf I don’t know.

  3. Anton says: May 15, 20134:59 am

    Charlie, you have provided us all with a most interesting blog for several years and have a great multitude of friends you have never met face to face. Many thanks.

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