Situated Infrastructures

Telephone from the Past

Telephone from the Past

The “Telephone from the Past” is an interactive archive of bite-sized pieces of information about the history of voice analysis, generation, distortion and transmission. Users can dial the digits of a year to find out what happened during this time and listen to audio samples. An accompanying telephone book with an event list helps to navigate the archive.

As a result from our research, we created a large spreadsheet where we noted down various events and the year number. We wrote short informative texts about the events and added audio samples that we found in online archives or in YouTube videos. Here are a few examples: the first recording of a human voice singing, the first busy signal, AI generated voices on the telephone, voice manipulation.

To register when users pick up or lay down the handset and which numbers they dial, we hooked a microcontroller to the switches inside of the telephone. A laptop connected to the microcontroller receives this information through Arduino and looks for the correct audio file to play. The audio files are played on Bluetooth speakers hidden inside of the telephone handset.

When the user dials the year, an AI generated voice firstly mentions the year, then recites the corresponding piece of information. Afterwards, an audio file with an example or a further explanation regarding the topic plays automatically.

The telephone book introduces the user to our project. It informs about the content on the archive and includes a QR code linking to a YouTube tutorial on how to use the rotary phone. Using a cozy armchair and a plant as decorations, we tried to create an environment where people could feel comfortable while exploring the archive and hopefully have fun.

This interactive experience takes the user back in time, encouraging to flip the pages of the telephone book and search for a telephone number to dial, just like during older times. The aim of creating the "Telephone from the Past" is to provide an engaging and immersive way for users to explore the history of voice technology, fostering a nostalgic and educational experience through interactive audio samples and informative texts.

The situatedness of the "Telephone from the Past" project lies in its ability to create a tangible, nostalgic environment that connects users to the historical evolution of voice technology. By integrating a physical rotary phone and a telephone book, it situates users in a specific context that bridges past and present, enhancing the educational experience through sensory engagement and familiar, hands-on interaction.