National Geographic : 1954 Jul
© National Geographic Society 105 Ektachrome by National Geographic Photographer Willard R. Culver Solid Sounds: Bell Scientists Build Three-dimensional Models of Words To study ways different people say the same words, Bell Laboratories rebuild sounds in plastic. These ranges of peaks and valleys represent spoken numbers: (left to right) 7, 6, 1, 8, 9. Green spectrograms below are graphs of the same words in two dimensions. In the plastic "seven," for example, high frequencies-like the hissing sound of "s"-are shown by peaks on extreme left. Peaks farther right represent lower frequencies of vowels. The time it took to say "seven" can be measured by the model's thickness from front to back. Through such studies, Bell engineers may someday build long-distance telephone exchanges which will analyze your voice. Instead of sending words, machines will transmit much simpler code symbols describing what you said and how you said it. At the other end, other machines will translate the symbols into a reasonable facsimile of your voice. Equipment like this would permit many more conversations to go over expensive long-distance circuits.