Once upon a time in 1989, before app-whisperers like iPhone’s Siri and Windows’ Cortona fit conveniently in our jean pocket, people built rather large and strange-looking speech synthesis machines, like this one. The Talking Machine, a 230cm rack of pipes that looks like something out of Dr. Seuss, was built by Martin Riches, who controlled it via home computer and posited it as art. Here are a few technical details from Riches’ blog to help you process what you’re seeing and hearing: “The machine is arranged like an organ; a pipe for each speech sound. Each pipe consists of a noise-maker—a reed or whistle” and also has a filter piece that shapes the acoustic blast into speech. I would say it’s impressive how far we’ve come, but I’d much rather have this gizmo than my generic white phone.