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In 1938, Homer Dudley and Richard Riesz of Bell Telephone Laboratories created the first machine capable of producing comprehensible speech. This machine was affectionately named "Pedro, the Voder" after Brazilian Emperor, Dom Pedro, who, when attending the U.S. Centennial Exposition in 1876, was excited by the newly invented telephone and exclaimed, "My God! It talks!"

Pedro, the Voder was not autonomous and needed a highly specialized operator that would control the "voice" using two keyboards, foot pedals, dials, and several switches. If operated correctly this machine could speak clearly with tone changes, enunciation and proper stressing of syllables. While not perfect, (it had trouble with l's and r's) it was, in one way, superior to the human voice in that it could easily be switched from high soprano through to low bass. It built words using the same 22 foundational sounds that the human vocal cords use to build our words. By using the proper combination of keystrokes and dial settings, the operator had the machine hold up its end of a conversation. Displayed at the New York World Fair of 1939 demonstrators were asked to have the machine speak complicated foreign phrases like, "Hasenpfeffer" and "Comment allez-vous?", which were both executed perfectly by Pedro.


My inquiries to Bell Labs have proven unsuccessful in finding out where the original Voder is. If you know anything about the location of ol' Pedro please /msg me.
Source - Science News Letter January 14, 1939

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