This is an archival page

Bell Labs Text-to-Speech Synthesis: Then and Now

Bell Labs and "Talking Machines"

Bell Labs first demonstrated an electronic speech synthesis device, the "Voder," developed by H.W. Dudley, at the 1939 World's Fair. The New York Times declared, in describing the machine's operation, "My God, it talks." This early analog system was the forerunner of Bell Labs work in articulatory synthesis, conducted by Cecil Coker in the 1960s, and Joe Olive's work on concatenative synthesis in the 1970s.

Bell Labs: Where "HAL" First Spoke

One of the more famous moments in Bell Labs' synthetic speech research was the sample created by John L. Kelly in 1962, using an IBM 704 computer. Kelly's vocoder synthesizer recreated the song "Bicycle Built for Two," with musical accompaniment from Max Mathews. Arthur C. Clarke, then visiting friend and colleague John Pierce at the Bell Labs Murray Hill facility, saw this remarkable demonstration and later used it in the climactic scene of his novel and screenplay for "2001: A Space Odyssey," where the HAL9000 computer sings this song as he is disassembled by astronaut Dave Bowman.

Joe Olive, recognized as the leading expert in text-to-speech synthesis, recently contributed a chapter, "The Talking Computer: Text to Speech Synthesis," to the book "HAL's Legacy: 2001's Computer as Dream and Reality," (M.I.T. Press, 1996), edited by David Stork.

In 1997 the Bell Labs TTS system was used in the product offerings of several Lucent business units. The Lucent Business Communications Systems' Intuity( Conversant( integrated voice and information processing system uses TTS signal processing cards for applications that include, among others, an e-mail reader. TTS allowed companies to build applications such as voice dialing, voice-activated response systems, or reservations centers using the AYC speech boards.

Here is what the Text to speech webpage looked like in 1997.

[ Text-to-speech webpage image ]