The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: vocoder

What makes a Good Podcast?

My first thoughts after listening to both the professional podcasts and the student made podcasts was that podcasting is very difficult, and to be good at it, one needs to put in a lot of time and practice. The professional podcasters in 99% Invisible sounded so fluid and smooth, as if they were having a completely normal conversation. Music and sound effects fit in extremely well, and they complemented the podcast without distracting from what was being said. I imagine that it would be very easy to accidentally mess up how the music fits into a podcast properly, so I was very impressed.

In both of the 99% Invisible podcast, and especially Vox Ex Machina, I liked how the producers used stories to describe all of the examples they were making. They started with a relatively broad topic, and slowly narrowed it down to the specifics of how it was used in the war, using stories and narratives. I found it very interesting how the vocoder turned out to be something used commonly today in a lot of music. I’ve heard so many songs with that “robot voice”, but I never knew the vocoder was responsible. It seems like a lot of things that were created for wars have ended up being remade into common modern day items. I find this very interesting, but it also makes sense. Wars are a time where we are trying to make new technologies to one-up our enemies, and a lot of this stuff can eventually be adapted.

After listening to these, I think it would be cool to do a podcast on Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, though I’m not sure how unique of a topic that is.

The Progress of Necessity

In 99% Invisible’s episode Vox Ex Machina, the producer outlines the transformation of a piece of groundbreaking technology from recreational to military use in the midst of the Second World War. The “Voder” was introduced in 1939 to a crowd of dazzled people at the World Fair. A marvel of mechanical mimicking of the human vocal chords, inventor Homer Dudley had embarked on a quest that would shape the way humans will communicate up to this day.

I really enjoyed how the producer, Delaney Hall, pulls the audience in with the dramatic shift from a playful invention to a wartime necessity. Soon after Pearl Harbor, the United States Government commissioned specifically Homer Dudley to design a machine that would effectively encrypt radio waves for secure communication. Halls use of a dramatic need with a ticking clock adds an element of interest to the podcast. Furthermore, she expands on not just the one time use of the “vocoder”, but the way it transformed the history of communication.

The continued decrease in size brought on by the military’s improvements was a gradual process that aided Cold War negotiations. Consequently, these adaptations eventually reached the grasp of the public. With AT&T’s lawsuit against the military to release information, the capability of public communication skyrocketed. I enjoyed the fun twist Hall applied to the end of the podcast where she included links to its effects on electronic music of famous artists. Hall’s creativity and dramatics made this podcast extremely gripping and will be elements I incorporate into my own podcast.


Cryptography Based in Recreation

99% Invisible’s “Vox Ex Machina” tells of the history of vocal synthesis. This episode of the podcast was very informative, following vocal synthesis from it’s inception to its modern-day applications. As I learned during the episode, vocal synthesis played a key role in secure communications for the Allies during World War 2. I found this interesting because I would never have thought to use such a method to encrypt communications. When I think of vocoders, I think of Black Moth Super Rainbow, one of my favorite bands, not cryptography.

The podcast producer made the material presented interesting by including interviews with people who worked on SIGSALY and providing a simulated conversation between Wilson and Churchill. This gave me a better idea of what SIGSALY actually did.

The producer made technical aspects of the material accessible by providing concrete examples of everything mentioned in the podcast.

Based on this episode, I think I want to talk about something that is not originally based on cryptography but instead was later applied to the cryptographic field. In terms of format, I would like to include examples of what I am discussing, making the material easier to digest for the listener. I would also like to have multiple speakers covering different portions of the show, as that makes things easier to understand.


From War Machine to “Wow! Double Rainbow”

99% Invisible’s podcast Vox Ex Machina is an excellent telling of the story of speech encryption. I found myself listening to a  intriguing story that sounding nothing like a excerpt from a textbook, and one can tell that the producers definitely enjoyed what they were talking about. This in turn made me take notice of the topic of discussion: the Vocoder.

The producer also points heavily to the most interesting detail of the Vocoder: it’s many useful implications. It’s predocessor, the Voder, was used to synthesize speech on a consumer level. The Vocoder was then constructed to better encrypt speech for communications during WWII. After the war and its declassification, the Vocoder was starting to be used in music. Now, it is used in technologies like cell phones, music players, and video compression.

To make the podcast interesting, its producers kept telling the story from an interesting perspective. From talking about the Voder in the World’s Fair in 1939 to the Vocoder’s heavy involvement in the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Bombs, the producers keep the story compelling by giving listeners intriguing information. They even go as far to have people that actually used these devices to tell of their times actually working with these machines.

Based on Vox Ex Machina, I think I will try to make my podcast about something that really intrigues me. I believe this makes me enjoy actually doing the podcast, and if I enjoy it, that will push me to make my podcast more enjoyable for my listeners.

Review of Vox Ex Machina

The episode of this Podcast was very interesting and managed to keep my attention for the duration of it. It utilized multiple voices along with different people to help explain different ideas in order to prevent one voice from becoming too monotoned. In addition, the podcast used upbeat music at times to illustrate examples which also helped bring the listeners back to focus. My favorite part was how they kept the listeners captivated which involved explaining their examples thoroughly to ensure that all listeners of any caliber could process the information being told. This was used by allowing the listeners to listen to the sounds the vocoder made as well as listen to the sounds that occurred when sending messages during private conferences. I also enjoyed that the  podcast had a similar script below it to allow listeners to follow along with the speakers to prevent them from getting lost. Within this script, there were pictures so the listeners could visualize what the speakers were talking about and better understand the vocoder and its capabilities. Furthermore, I liked that the script provided was not exact to the speakers dialogue because as it allowed me to keep track of their stories and explanations, but I did not feel like I was reading either or that it was too repetitive. Based off of this, I want to incorporate multiple voices into my podcast as well as an outlined script below possibly with pictures to help the listeners follow along and better understand the topic of the podcast episode.

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