[Ads-l] Slight But Important Antedating of Term "Oscar"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jun 9 17:58:38 EDT 2018


Thanks to Peter who told me in a separate off-list message that the
Oscar sound recording device was employed by researchers at Bell Labs.

I found another picture of Oscar here:

https://goo.gl/TtGSJ1

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Oscar-from-AT-T-an-early-binaural-recording-dummy-Image-via-ACTA-Acustica_fig2_308815964

Here is the caption of the picture:

[Begin caption]
Fig. 4. Oscar from AT&T, an early binaural recording dummy. Image via
ACTA Acustica.
[End caption]

A 2009 article by Stephan Paul titled "Binaural Recording Technology:
A Historical Review and Possible Future Developments" includes
pictures of "Oscar", "Oscar II", "Oskar" and other similar devices for
recording sound

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233582452

https://goo.gl/Emf8mu

Here is the description of Oscar which points to a 1932 article from
Bell Laboratories about the original research.

[Begin excerpt]
The manikin, named "Oscar", was made using a manikin bought from a wax
figure dealer and had microphones mounted on the cheeks, just in front
of the ears 10 as shown in Figure 4 [14]. The construction of “Oscar”
as well as the efforts undertaken for calibration and equalization of
the binaural signals were described in detail by Hammer and Snow [14].
[End excerpt]

[14] K. Hammer, W. Snow: Binaural Transmission System at Academy of
Music in Philadelphia. Memorandum MM-3950, Bell Laboratories, Nov.
1932.

Garson

On Sat, Jun 9, 2018 at 1:20 AM, Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:
> Yesterday I expressed doubt about Popular Science's depiction of Oscar the microphone dummy based on their history of making some elaborate fake images to accompany their articles.
>
>
> But I just found another image of Oscar the microphone dummy, this one from a decade later and shown full-length in action.
>
>
> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/20802706/asbury_park_press/
>
>
> It appears to be exactly the same head, face, coat and tie and microphone ears as represented in the 1932 Popular Science issue, but also showing the stand and wires extending below the torso.
>
>
> The full-page article is about developing new sound techniques, including one that IBM scientists called "stereophonic sound", for manipulating audience emotional responses to film and stage productions.  Although there is a picture of Oscar mentioning him by name, the article does not specifically address how he was used and where he fit into the research.
>
>
> The article describes a "now famous" demonstration in 1933, under the control of Bell Telephone Laboratories, of a performance performed live in Philadelphia's Academy of Music and broadcast to an audience at Constitution Hall in Washington DC.  Leopold Stowkowski sat in a bow in Constitution Hall manipulating the knobs of the contrls for the speakers.
>
>
> Since the 1932 Popular Science magazine describes a performance in Philadelphia's Academy of Music, my guess is that the article was prepared during preparations for the later demonstration (assuming that the dates are correct).
>
>
> Which raises the possibility that "Oscar" the dummy who may have suggested a statuette in appearance, may have been a one-off, high-tech dummy used primarily by Stevens Institute of Technology and Bell Labs and not something that would have been a frequent guest on movie sound stages.
>
>
> Interesting in any case.
>
>
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Peter Reitan <pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Thursday, June 7, 2018 3:19 PM
> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
> Subject: Re: Slight But Important Antedating of Term "Oscar"
>
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Peter Reitan <pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Slight But Important Antedating of Term "Oscar"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Popular Science has a history of mocking up images to make things look fanc=
> ier than they actually are.
>
> Las year I wrote about Bazooka Bob Burns who designed a musical device call=
> ed a "Bazooka" in about 1918.  The actual bazooka was two pieces of gas pip=
> e, a funnel, and a handle for moving the two pieces of pipe in an out like =
> a trombone - it looked like what would later be called a bazooka (in its ho=
> nor) during WWII.  But Popular Science put together a fake bazooka that loo=
> ked more like a Dr. Suess instrument, with tubes and pipes tangled in a mes=
> s and the whole thing looking more like a complicated baritone or tuba, rat=
> her than a simplified trombone.
>
>
> The story was more or less truthful, but the image was made to be more inte=
> resting - proto-clickbait, I suppose.
>
>
> I wonder whether the wax head wearing a tie and suit is more Popular Scienc=
> e fantasy.  Perhaps the gist of the article is true, but the representative=
>  image is false.  Notice it's not a photo of it in action - it's just a clo=
> se-up showing the head a shoulders.
>
>
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of ADSGar=
> son O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Wednesday, June 6, 2018 2:18 PM
> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
> Subject: Re: Slight But Important Antedating of Term "Oscar"
>
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -------------------=
> ----
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Slight But Important Antedating of Term "Oscar"
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------------=
> ----
>
> Peter Reitan  wrote:
>> The FBI purchased rights to a "little Oscar" listening device in 1936. Mi=
> =3D
> ami News, May 26, 1936, page 4.
>>
>> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/20730553/the_miami_news/
>
> Thanks, Peter.
>
> The April 1932 issue of "Popular Science Monthly" has a picture of the
> "Oscar" dummy used by the sound engineers at the Philadelphia Academy
> of Music. It is surprisingly elaborate. Maybe simpler versions of
> "Oscar" devices were used by other sound engineers.
> <http://www.americandialect.org>
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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