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Chicago O’Hare International Airport (photo from Wiki Commons)

 

Quick question… is the voice of the announcements in the airport a person or a computer?  Hmm, perhaps you’ve never stopped to think about it before.  My answer would probably be computer.

I would be wrong.

Ironically enough, I saw the headline for this story the night before I headed to the airport on my most recent trip.  I didn’t get to see the news story at the time but I made a note to come back and check it out later.  Today is later.  Let’s dig in and see what I found out…

Instantly recognizable in this video clip from CBS This Morning, is the voice of the announcements heard in airports everywhere.  How fun to learn that it is not a computer, but in fact a real person. Surprising in this day and age of endless technology.  Though if I had really thought it through all the way before answering my own question, I would realize that I’ve been hearing her announcements for years.  Which means I’ve been hearing it since before the internet and technology and computer voices came into such wide-spread use.  Click play and be instantly transported to the airport (or other mass transportation center).

According to an article on The Verge, the company, IED (short for Innovative Electronic Designs), is a small business based in Louisville, KY that controls the announcement systems in most public transportation systems in the country.  It is an “automated paging system: networked, computer-controlled equipment that controls audio notifications for big complexes.”  Though there are a couple smaller competitors, IED controls most of the business in this specialized sector.

Carolyn Hopkins’ first gig for IED was an announcement for Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon in 1989.  Her friend, Jack Fox, joined the company in 1991 after the Gulf War began because airports wanted a strong male voice for security announcements.  Both Carolyn and Jack started in radio but these days provide a small bit of comfort and familiarity to travellers here in America and around the world as they fight through the often stressful rigors of airport travel.

So now you know.  A real person made the recording for those announcements.  When you hear them next time, you’ll know.  That’s no computer talking!

(Just for fun – want to hear the announcer from Rio de Janiero’s airport?  A much different effect!  Check this NPR audio interview with Iris Lettieri)

 

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Have you ever stopped to wonder if the voice of the airport announcements is a person or a computer? After all it's the same voice in every airport across the country.
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Resources used in my research:

The Verge article with audio clips of interview

CBS This Morning newsclip

Wikipedia – Carolyn Hopkins

NPR Interview with Iris Lettieri

The Voice of the Airport via @behindeveryday
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