MSU Computer Orders Pizza…in 1974
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It was 1974 and Donald Sherman had never ordered a pizza over the phone. He couldn’t. A rare disorder called Möbius syndrome caused facial paralysis and made speech difficult, if not impossible. But on December 4th, 1974, thanks to scientists at Michigan State University, Sherman did order a pizza over the phone, using a computer. But not just any computer. It was a talking computer built by Michigan State University’s Artificial Language Laboratory.
Sherman tried calling Dominoes four times, but because of the lag between responses, they thought it was a prank and hung up on him. But the now defunct “Mr. Mikes” in East Lansing came through. According to Lansing City Pulse, Assistant Manager James Kenny patiently took the call.
The machine was designed by John Eulenberg and J. J. Jackson incorporating a Votrax voice synthesizer, a product of the Federal Screw Works Company of Troy, Michigan. The inventor of the Votrax voice synthesizer was Richard Gagnon from Birmingham, Michigan. Wired.com says it was a CDC 6500 mainframe computer nicknamed “Alexander”.