DECtalk was a text-to-voice speech synthesizer popular in the 1980s. This nifty little piece of technology came with a variety of built-in voices which enabled people who had lost the power of speech to communicate. Its best known user is Stephen Hawking who communicated with the voice “Perfect Paul” (DTC 01).
The DECtalk was also famously the voice of the US National Weather Service on radio and supplied the message to many a telephone answer machine.
In 1939 the Voder was the first attempt at synthesizing human speech by breaking down words into acoustic components. It was the “first device that could generate continuous human speech.”
All well and good, but the one that tickles my fancy was the first time a speech synthesizer was successfully used over a phone to order pizza. This happened at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Michigan State University in 1974, when Donald Sherman who suffered from Möbius syndrome—a facial paralysis—made his order using a Votrax voice synthesizer and a mainframe computer.
Now you may have seen the recent clip of Monty Python’s argument sketch recreated with speech synthesizers by Per Kristian Risvik. Well here’s another little film he’s made using speech synthesizers to recreate a classic scene from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. It’s a perfect fit and far, far more creepier.
Here’s the dialog as performed:
Lead Cenobite: The box… you opened it, we came.
Kirsty Cotton: It’s just a puzzle box!
Lead Cenobite: Oh no, it is a means to summon us.
Kirsty Cotton: Who are you?
Lead Cenobite: Explorers… in the further regions of experience. Demons to some, angels to others.
Kirsty Cotton: It was a mistake! I didn’t… I didn’t mean to open it! It was a mistake! You can… GO TO HELL!
Female Cenobite: We can’t. Not alone.
Lead Cenobite: You solved the box, we came. Now you must come with us, taste our pleasures.
Kirsty Cotton: Please! Go away and leave me alone!
Lead Cenobite: Oh, no tears please. It’s a waste of good suffering!
Kirsty Cotton: Wait! Wait! Please, please wait!
Lead Cenobite: No time for argument.
Kirsty Cotton: You’ve done this before, right?
Lead Cenobite: Many, many times.
Kirsty Cotton: To… to a man called Frank Cotton?
Female Cenobite: Oh, yes.
Kirsty Cotton: He escaped you!
Lead Cenobite: Nobody escapes us!
Kirsty Cotton: He did! I’ve seen him, I’ve seen him!
Female Cenobite: Impossible.
Kirsty Cotton: He’s alive!
Lead Cenobite: Supposing he had escaped us, what has that to do with you?
Kirsty Cotton: I… I can… I can lead you to him and you… you can take him back instead of me!
Female Cenobite: Perhaps we prefer YOU!
Lead Cenobite: I want to hear him confess, himself. Then maybe… maybe…
Female Cenobite: But if you cheat us…
Lead Cenobite: We’ll tear your soul apart!
Asian Merchant: What is your pleasure, sir?
Lead Cenobite: We have such sights to show you.
Risvik used a DECtalk Express for the central character Kirsty (“Rough Rita modified for higher stress level”). A Dolphin Apollo 2 for the voices of Pinhead and the female Cenobite (“Heavily altered versions of voice 2/3”). And an Intex Talker (Votrax SC-01A) for the Asian Merchant.
Listen to eerie sound of the Cenobites via a speech synthesizer, after the jump…