Forty years ago this week, computers inched one step closer to sentient, when the warbley robotic voice of a computer ordered a pizza from a real live human for the first time ever. A group of scientists at Michigan State University’s Artificial Language Laboratory used some of the earliest language processing applications to give its computer a voice. For the first public test, a man with Moebius Syndrome, a communication disorder, uses the “high-tech” language software to put in an order for a large pizza. It takes the choppy computer a few tries (and a few different pizzerias), but eventually it completes an order, and per the video, the pizza arrives:
“It might not be very long before we’re all able to use computers to communicate,” a reporter says presciently at the end of the clip. Sure, most of us use computers communicate without voices, instead using texting, emailing, and chatting apps. But the Siris of the world wouldn’t be so pithy today if it weren’t for these ancestral beginnings.