Throwback Thursday Object: APH Variable Speech Control Module

For readers of audio books, especially folks readingtechnical or reference material prior to the age of computer indexing, youoften wanted to scan through material quickly to find the passage youneeded. Talking book machines for blind and visually impaired readersstarted to include such features almost from the very beginning. But thefirst such controls were simple, speeding up the phonograph. Most kids ofmy era know how entertaining it could be to play a 33 rpm record at 45. It speeded it up, yes, but the singer sounded like one of Santa’s elves. Sound guys called that “chipmunk distortion.” Later machines thatappeared in the 1970s included a component that adjusted the pitch as youincreased the speed, and kept the speaker’s voice sounding relativelynormal. But if you couldn’t afford to buy a new player, you could get ourObject of the Week, the APH Variable Speech Control Module. It wasbasically a phonograph accessory allowing recorded speech to be increased ordecreased without pitch distortion. It was introduced in the APH catalogin 1976. A digital version came out in 1999. It used proprietarytechnology developed by the VSC Corporation, which took the “chipmunk” out ofspeed listening. It is a rectangular aluminum box about 6 inches square with apatch of wood grain on the front. I’m not sure why everything in the1970s had to have fake wood grain, but there you are. On the front aresliding switches to adjust the pitch and volume and jacks for a headphone andto bring in the signal from the phonograph or cassette player.Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Stan Greenwood
A humble human, who is always found working on something or drinking coffee. A perfect introvert who talks barely anything but shares a lot through his blog posts at FredForum.

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