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How To Wreck A Nice Beach: The Machine Speaks – Dave Tompkins

How To Wreck A Nice Beach: The Machine Speaks – Dave Tompkins

The Vocoder started life as a phone scrambler for Churchill – five tons of valves and some self-destruct double decks, went on via late funk, early electro, Kubrick, Stalin and the Muppets – and ended up as the autotune chip that powers X-Factor and wibbles out of every sodcaster’s mobile. A fabulous story, but an exhausting read – as if in tribute to his subject Tompkins writes so obliquely you have to decode every sentence.

Reviews.

This book had all the ingredients to become a classic, but is sadly - and massively - let down by a couple of fatal flaws. First, the author's writing style is comically longwinded and pretentious - nothing is ever explained in a straightforward, accessible way, while tiny, irrelevant details are puffed up to imply some spurious significance. To put it bluntly, Tompkins seems to be pushing the tolerance - and patience - of his readers.
Which is a shame, because he has a great story to tell, less about the technology than about the amazing cast of characters involved in the Vocoder, its precursors and successors. And Tompkins does have some fascinating points to make - drawing out links between the Vocoder and technology, culture, warfare and much more.
I'd really like to be able to give this a better review - Tompkins is usually a brilliant writer, but in this case he's really dropped the ball.

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