Spoken Word with Electronics is an audio series delivering to you a two side recording of unusual stories paired with vintage modular electronic sounds
Greetings everyone, welcome back to the show. This week we look back at telephone polling hardware from the 1980s and ask the question: “What if they’d evolved into how we vote in elections?” The technology for phone voting became pretty robust, including synthesized voices and other nice ideas. But nice ideas are quickly exploited, so it got quickly monetized into the foul world of 1-900 numbers.
The monetization of spending 50¢ to call a 1-900 number and leave an opinion destroyed public perception of the phone as a democratic tool, but before that happened there were a few wonderful innovations. Bell Labs had been working on voice recognition since the 1950s, for example, and this week’s episode of SWWE focuses on one company’s effort to develop two devices: The simply named TELEPHONE POLL from 1982 and the exotic named follow-up, the ESCAPE-600, from 1986. Here is a collection of brochures and other material on both the TELEPHONE POLL and the ESCAPE-600. We also discuss the September 15th “Burn Your Mask” day, which Media Matters has chronicled here in full idiocy.
SPOKEN WORD WITH ELECTRONICS #23: 1980s Telephone Voting Hardware
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Have a good week, Ethan