In 1890, Thomas Edison unleashed his infamous talking dolls – the first of their kind, each containing a phonograph with a pre-recorded cylinder. When played, they were intended to mimic the sounds of a young girl reciting nursery rhymes and prayers. But what consumers actually received – all 500 or so of them – was something along the lines of the sounds from Hell.
Not too many of these dolls still exist. Truth be told, they weren’t exactly popular in their own time, either; they were expensive, and even Edison admitted “the voices of the little monsters were exceedingly unpleasant to hear.” Their production ran for all of six weeks.
Sidenote: I first learned about these dolls quite a few years ago in a book called Edison’s Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life. It’s about the evolution of automata, and our history with attempting to recreate ourselves. It gets a bit unfocused (if I remember right, it ends with an interview with one of the original Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz), but I thought it was pretty good.
// via New York Times