One doesn't normally expect a computer to talk, or even to emit sounds, for that matter. Of course we have always recognized that robots could talk, because robots are basically people made outta metal -- hardware analogs of wetware. The thing that was really pathbreaking about HAL 9000 in 2001 was that a very obviously non-human entity was doing the most distinctively human thing -- talking. And more recently, as sound cards have become increasingly pervasive on desktop computers, all kinds a sounds are being emitted by all kinda computers that, like talking parrots, have no idea [I think] what they are saying.
Where all of this is heading is anyone's guess. For now, there seem to be a number of unresolved issues:
- For entertainment purposes only, or mission-critical value added??? The various exemplars we are fooling around with on our site provoke the shock of the new, and are mildly amusing, but almost certainly aren't mission critical to our site. Indeed, I find that the dang things get rather annoying after a while, and are probably going to discourage rather than encourage repeat users [I mean, after all, ole HAL 9000 didn't have that much to say...
- Technical standards and implementation techniques. We have only been fooling around with WWW audio for a few months, so maybe all of this is well resolved, but I am guessing that it is going to take as long to figure out AU, WAV and MIDI as it took to figure out GIF and JPEG [and clearly some folks still haven't managed that one either]. The prospect that one could treat audio files as just another file format that could be manipulated the same way that one fiddles with text or graphics files is pretty mind-boggling, but if there are standard online resources for the newbie on this one I have yet to find them. Maybe I just need to look a bit harder, as we kinda lost interest in the matter last year when we determined that those little 8 kHz Java AU files weren't going to cut it, and this current audio exploit is only a couple of days old, prompted by the mind-blowing realization that one can embed WAV and MIDI files in Netscape 3.x pages.
- So What? But to get back to the "so what?" factor, it is still a bit difficult to see what one would do with these gizmos. One might imagine having jump pages or even entire sites with "signature" audio transitions [like we have done on this page], but I am not sure what this accomplishes, and it could get pretty annoying. Part of the problem is that even with < loop="false" > the dang audio snippet plays every time you visit the page, which gets annoying, but if it doesn't behave this way, the "signature" effect is lost. I could also imagine some sound effects to accompany some types of content, but this needs a lot more thought.
- Copyright As far as I can tell, just about every online audio archive is a massive festering oozing copyright violation just begging for some lawyer to come by and shut it down [I could be wrong in some cases, but not many]. The problem is that as far as I can tell, the music business industry doesn't have an analog to the Fair Use Doctrine of the print content industry. As far as the audio folks are concerned, there is no snippet of sound too small to be protected by copyright. This is a real problem for the online world [as is well known] in that the music business industry is trying to rewrite the online intellectual property rights framework in their own image, while the underlying technology and practice of the online world runs in a completely opposite direction. If the person who first created had been able to charge for this GIF, they would have been richer than Bill Gate$. I am hoping that the audio file stuff is going to move in the direction that we have seen with online images, with relatively inexpensive CDROMs containing audio snippets, mood music and other stuff that one can use on a website, along with standard easy-to-use tools for creating original material, but until this happens, I fear that we are all on thin ice indeed.
FAS WAV Audio Enhanced Pages
These files are protected by multiple copy rights. Copyrighted audio files obtained over the
Internet are not to be redistributed or used for commercial purposes without the permission of the
copyright holder(s) of the file.
Maintained by John Pike
Updated Wednesday, June 04, 1997 11:17:00 AM