Archive - July 11, 2010

How To Wreck A Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop

How To Wreck A Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop
by Dave Tompkins (Stop Smiling Books; $35)

World War II increased the rate of human innovation to a pace unseen in any other period of history. New technology from the era includes everything from synthetic rubber to the atomic bomb to magnetic audio tape, which the Germans successfully kept secret until the war’s end. After the Reich fell, Lt. Jack Mullin of the US Army Signal Corps shot footage outside of Hitler’s home, grabbed one of the Fuhrer’s piano strings for a souvenir, and brought two AEG Magnetophons (along with fifty reels of Farben recording tape) back with him to the states. He then sold a reel-to-reel tape recorder to Bing Crosby, revolutionizing broadcasting and music-making in the process. Another device that made its debut in World War II only to be later adopted by the entertainment industry is the Vocoder.

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