Watch: The great grandfather of synthesisers demonstrated back in 1939

The Associated Press and British Movietone announced yesterday that they’re uploading 500,000 historic videos to YouTube. And guess what? The treasure trove is already throwing up gems.

Take the video above. It shows the ancestor of the modern vocoder – which is all over modern pop music – being demonstrated in 1939.

The Voder (a portmanteau of ‘Voice Operation Demonstrator) was created by the inventor of the Vocoder, Homer Dudley, at Bell Labs.

The Vocoder itself began as a project to replicate human speech with a machine and allow it to be transmitted over long distances.


Because the Vocoder enabled speech compression down to a very narrow frequency, it was crucial in enabling many telephone conversations to be transmitted at the same time on one line.

The Voder, as demonstrated at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco, was a means of creating spoken sentences that linked a Vocoder to a keyboard with foot pedals.

It’s arguable that the Voder is the great grandfather of every modern synth.

Expect to see many more incredible videos emerging from the newly-released archives. If you want more now, check out this incredible dog walking machine.

Human Voice Machine [British Movietone/YouTube h/t Parker Higgins]

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