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Mechanical Voices for Phone Numbers

New developments whereby science goes still farther in its assumption of human attributes were described and demonstrated recently by Sergius P. Grace, Assistant Vice-President of Bell Telephone Laboratories, where the developments were conceived and worked out.

One development described, and soon to be put into service in New York, transforms a telephone number dialed by a subscriber into speech. Although the subscriber says not a word the number dialed is spoken aloud to the operator.

The device is expected to simplify and speed the hooking together of automatic and voice-hand-operated telephone exchanges, and also to speed long-distance calls from automatic phones through rural exchanges.

The numbers which can thus be spoken are recorded on talkie films and those which are to go into use here have already been made, all by an Irish girl said to have the best voice among the city's "number, please" girls.

Mr. Grace demonstrated this device by carrying into the audience a telephone with a long cord connected with a loud speaker on the stand, which represented central. A member of the audience was requested to dial a number, and choose 5551-T, the letter T representing the exchange.

This number the spectator dialed on the phone Mr. Grace carried. There was no sound but the clicking of the dial. Then, two seconds later, the loudspeaker spoke up clearly, in an almost human voice, "5551 T."

As for the recording of the sound films, there is a film for each of the ten Arabic numerals from zero to nine, and these wound on revolving drums. The dial on the telephone automatically sets in action the drum corresponding to the numeral moved on the dial.

Another development which sounds promising for bashful suitors and other timid souls, enables a person to store within himself electrically a message he desires to deliver and then to deliver it without speaking, simply by putting a finger to the ear of the person for whom the message is intended.

This Mr. Grace demonstrated. He spoke into a telephone transmitter and his words were clearly heard by all in the audience, by means of amplifiers. At the same time a part of the electrical current from the amplifier, representing the sentence he voiced, was stored in a "delay circuit," another recent invention of the laboratories. After being stored four and a half seconds this current was transformed to a high voltage and passed into Mr. Grace's body. He then put his finger against the ear of a member of the audience, who heard in his brain the same sentence. The ear drum and surrounding tissues are made to act as one plate of a condenser-receiver, Mr. Grace explained, with the vibrations of the drum interpreted by the brain.

A new magnetic metal, "perminvar," and a new insulating material, "para gutta," which make possible construction of a telephone cable across the Atlantic to supplement the radio systems, were also described. Actual construction of the cable is expected to be started in 1930, Mr. Grace said.