This is one of those great thrift store finds that makes searching through endless piles of crap so very worth while. This fascinating little 7″, which I found mixed in with a bunch of disco and Sesame Street 45’s and without any sleeve, was instantly intriguing to me, and I certainly had no qualms about dropping the eighteen cents to buy it. So the pictures are pretty self explanatory, and you can find any info you might seek about Bell Telephone Laboratories with a simple web search. I got the picture sleeve scan from The Personal Computer Museum, and if you are interested in reading the extensive liner notes that go along with this record, you should go there. This record consists of several examples of early synthesized speech, interspersed with eloquent explanations from a (human) male speaker. There is also a bit of song, representing one of the earliest examples of electronically produced music. I assume that the odd words on the label are some of the speech sounds which would be fed to the computer on paper punch cards to tell it what to say. Duh, and I just now realized that they say “He Saw The Cat”.
When I was a kid, I spent many hours playing with a little program called Dr. Sbaitso, which was a speech simulator that would say whatever you wanted it to, as well as sort of answering some questions you could ask of it. Anyway the unfortunately un-named computer featured on this record is basically the great-grandaddy of Dr. Sbaitso, and while some of these artificial vocalizations are remarkably coherent, most of them are not. For me, the best parts of this record are the two versions of that American classic song ‘Bicycle Built For Two’. It really does sound sweet to be serenaded by this bizarre artificial voice. Be sure to note that the second, accompanied version of this song required an extra computer to create the simple music which accompanies our love lorn crooner. As with any encounter I have with antiquated technology, I am greatly impressed by the science represented on this record and, even more so, I am amazed at how far this technology has come. So next time you are talking to a computer on the telephone, remember: it all started here.
So I was actually able to find several rips of this record with a quick web search, but since I am not one to be easily outdone, I have decided to include a rip of the hitherto un-digitized B-side of this record, which consists of a blank 35 second long groove ending in a locked groove which could play indefinately. Now, why did they even bother to press a blank groove on the B-side? Who knows, either way, i have included an MP3 of it in the zip archive for this record, along with full scans and a couple of photos. Click below to download.
I was also playing around as my needle rode around in the locked groove and made a few little noise improvisations by layering some live effects onto the crackling sound made by the record. I cut out a few tracks, made a little picture, and folded it all into a zip archive for anyone who would like to hear it.