Watch: Talking computer orders a pizza in 1974
History was made on December 4, 1974 when a computer was used to order a pizza. This wasn't an online order. This wasn't Yelp. This was a group of scientists at Michigan State University's Artificial Language Laboratory using a talking computer to make a first for science -- and pizza delivery.
Donald Sherman lives with Moebius Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that leaves those with the condition unable to move their face. Sherman had never ordered a pizza over the phone before. The Artificial Language Lab team, conducting what they called a "high-tech sociolinguistic experiment," let Sherman use a system they had created to place an artificial order over the phone.
One of the leaders behind this trail-blazing experiment was also the man who posted this video: John Eulenberg, the director of the Artificial Language Lab. Eulenberg designed the system used by Sherman, with help from the now-defunct Federal Screw Works Co. and their Votrax voice synthesizer.
The video clearly shows its age (and not just in the hair styles.) At one point, Sherman has to ask the patient pizza man, "Can you please phrase that question so that I can answer it with yes or no?"
But it is an incredible glimpse into the past -- when scientists and young programmers were laying the groundwork for computers as we know them today.
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