When I watched the Brady Bunch as a youngster, there was one particular deep guffaw that always caught my attention. I knew the laughs were pre-recorded but always assumed that there was just a laugh track tape and they'd press play at the appropriate times. I liked (and still like) the faux communal experience that laugh tracks provide when watching the Bradys, Bewitched, the Beverly Hillbillies, and other great vintage sitcoms from the 1960s an early 1970s.
Turns out, that the rise of the laugh track was due to Charles Douglass (1910-2003), a Navy-trained electronics engineer/maker who went on to build a custom "Laff Box" of several dozen tape loops triggered by keys and dials. After its initial use on the Jack Benny Program, the machine, officially called the "Audience Reaction Duplicator," took the TV industry by storm. Douglass "played" the Laff Box like a proto-sampler and for years had the monopoly on TV laugh tracks. It was a process that the TV show producers and Douglass himself liked to keep secret.
It wasn't until 1992 that Douglass and his pioneering work at the intersection of media, psychology, and technology was recognized with a lifetime Emmy award for technical achievement.
For the whole story on Douglass and the Laff Box, don't miss this episode of the Decoder Ring podcast.
And here is an Antiques Roadshow segment appraising a Laff Box.
Our friend Donald Bell put together an excellent little tour of some of the game designs from the alt.ctrl showcase at last week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. And here’s a handy link list that Donald provides to the game projects covered: HELLCOUCH: A Couch Co-op Game (Carol Mertz, Francesca Carletto-Leon) Continuum Bacterium (HNRY) […]
In this delightful project, Will Gudgeon turned a frozen chocolate easter egg into a fun and effective pinhole camera. The first step is to eat the contents. “The main challenges were it melting, cracking and light leaks around the seal,” Gudgeon writes. “How to Make a Pinhole Camera Out of a Chocolate Easter Egg” (PetaPixel)
Andy George made his own camera lens with borax, river sand, and soda ash. From PetaPixel: “It has been one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever done,” George says after completing his lens. “Every single step in the project has been a huge pain.” Making clear glass took over a dozen tries, annealing the […]
There’s no shortage of stories about the benefits of cannabidiol, that benign (and non-psychoactive) cousin of THC. Some have been using it for years to deal with pain, stress, and sleeplessness. And the more people use it, the more discussion there is about how to use it. While there’s no shortage of quality edibles on […]
Are we done with capsule coffee makers yet? Sure, they’re easy. But they are not so easy on the environment, and it’s debatable whether they actually make a better cup. Luckily, there’s never been a better time to switch back to the good old reliable drip method – especially when drip coffeemakers have quietly been […]
If there’s one thing that stayed consistent through the last decade or so of tech industry turmoil, it’s the love affair between techies and Linux. There’s just a ton you can do with the OS, and its open-source format means you can customize your rig from the ground up. Apparently not content with that level […]