Internet finally ready to replace answering machine cassette tape

It's a simple message and I'm leaving out the whistles and bells

Cassette tape exposed

2015 will see the internet finally replace an answering machine that uses cassettes as its storage medium, or at least the answering machine used by alt.rock outfit They Might Be Giants' iconic Dial-A-Song service.

They Might Be Giants created Dial-A-Song in 1983 when one member broke his wrist and the other's home was burgled. Fearful of losing momentum, the pair acquired an answering machine, recorded their tunes onto the cassettes it used and publicised the chance to dial in and hear a new song every day.

The service took off, to a degree. Once the band achieved mainstream success with songs like "Birdhouse in Your Soul", the existence of Dial-A-Song became more widely known and something of a music legend. The duo kept the service going regularly and although daily updates became less frequent, it is thought that 500 original songs played on the Brooklyn number (718) 387-6962 over the years.

Most featured the group's famously obscure lyrics. "Birdhouse in Your Soul" is the band's highest-charting hit - #3 in the USA, #6 in the UK – despite offering the following perplexing rhymes:

I have a secret to tell

From my electrical well

It's a simple message and I'm leaving out the whistles and bells

So the room must listen to me filibuster vigilantly

My name is blue canary one note spelled l-i-t-e

My story's infinite

Like the Longines Symphonette – it doesn't rest

The band tried replacing the answering machine with a computer in the late 1990s, but the PC chosen proved too unreliable. The duo instead sought out second-hand replacements for their preferred model of answering machine, and succeeded in part thanks to fan tipoffs about eBay sales.

The service lapsed in 2006, but the duo have now announced it will return online at www.dialasong.com in 2015, complete with weekly updates.

Just what technology is being pressed into service to make the new Dial-A-Song work hasn't been revealed, but the placeholder at the site is a full-screen YouTube video.

If that's the group's chosen solution, it will end a 17-year quest for computerisation, 32 years after the service began.

To those of you who doubt that internet can take over from legacy applications: here's your case study. ®




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