The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: Vox

Podcast Immersion

Vox encoding and speech compression is a common piece of technology that most people are completely unaware of. The podcast 99% invisible tells the entire story, from its inception in the form of a show act presented at a fair, to an integral part of World War II cryptography. The podcast medium plays well to this, as the narrator is able to tell a coherent story about this technology. What makes it interesting, is the examples that the studio is able to come up with. Imitating the encrypted talks between F.D.R. and Churchill while explaining each individual step plays well towards both providing a captivating story which places the listener into the middle of World War II, and also towards explaining technology that would otherwise require a diagram or a visual aid. A particular mark of the quality of the podcast is that since the subject matter deals with a recent time period, 99% are able to interview living people which were involved in the events, and sometimes they even were able to obtain recordings. However when they were unable to do so, they often supplemented with reenactments produced by the studio. This is sometimes difficult to distinguish where the actual event ends and the reenactment begins. It helps the listener to immerse themselves in the program, and makes the podcast feel less like a newscast, and more of an informative movie.

The Full Circle of a Voder

I do not listen to podcast at all. They are just not something that I bother to make time for. However, if I had to trust one media outlet with persuading to me to do otherwise, it would be Vox. They always know how to make a story interesting, and if it is already interesting, then they make it even more interesting. This podcast of theirs — Vox Ex Machina, 99% Invisible Episode 208 — is no exception.

With an interesting topic already in their hands, Vox tells us the history of the voder, a machine that can produce synthetic voices. What I found interesting in this story is what they describe as its “full circle.” It first started out as a silly machine used for laughs; then it “enlisted” to aid the Allied efforts in World War II by encrypting voices over radio communication; and then it returned back to civilian life, helping make some of our generation’s most iconic noises and sounds. There may other pieces of technology in our culture that have a similar story, but we might not learn about them, so it is at least cool know about the voder’s story.

Now the producer did many things to turn what was already an interesting story into an even more interesting story, but what really caught my attention was the soundtrack he used and how he used it. Every different track he used throughout the podcasts engaged me in the story, but that is not all. He also made sure to apply each different track to a spot in the story where it was appropriate. Thus, he produced a story that knew how to take itself seriously and humorously at the right moments.

On a related note, I also like how the producer incorporated videos and pictures throughout the podcast. They add another layer to the podcast that makes it even more enriching for the audience.

All of this has left me with some good ideas for the podcast episode that I will produce. While maintaining good journalism, I will always make sure that the audience is engaged. This means incorporating good color schemes, music tracks that complement the tone of the story, and pictures to add that extra layer of media.

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