Monday, August 24, 2015

Is Sex Necessary?

This is one of 1122 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are, second edition. The book is available from Amazon for $20.95 print and $9.95 Kindle and also as an ebook from Apple, Kobo, and Scribd for $9.95. It's fixed format so it's better with a tablet, laptop, or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog here. And there is a book preview website.

Is Sex Necessary?

Mr. Herbert Televox was a robot first built in 1927 by the Westinghouse Electric Company. It could pick up the phone and listen to instructions given by different notes blown on a pitch pipe and acknowledge with a series of buzzes.

Televox could wirelessly turn appliances on or off or check if the furnace was too hot in a home. Industrial uses included controlling electric loads for the power company. Three Televoxes, Adam, Cain, and Abel ("Eve being omitted because the automatic kingdom has not been divided into two factions"), were employed by the War Department in Washington to report and control reservoir levels.

The New York Times reported June 4, 1928 "Mechanical man now can also talk. Televox gets vocal cords to call up employer and tell him latest news." A few sentences were recorded on film, like a movie sound track. Now it would answer the phone with "Televox speaking" and could initiate a phone call: "this is the Televox calling for Main 5000." The rest of the conversation would then be with buzzes.

Mr. Televox made a special appearance at the American Booksellers' Association convention in 1930. When asked what his favorite book was, he replied Is Sex Necessary? a book by humorist and cartoonist James Thurber.

Copyright © 2020 Joseph Mirsky

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