doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

Listen to me

If you’re old enough to know what a 2400 Baud modem is, then you’ll appreciate this.

At one point in time, this sound defined the internet as we knew it.  Your computer’s modem connected to a modem on the other end of a telephone connection and data was transferred by the sounds that were generated.  Unless you were a real sucker for pain, you’d configure your modem to turn its speaker off once the connection was made so that your human ears didn’t hear the “conversation”.  Of course, if you’re like me, you just had to have one session where the speaker was left on, just because…

These memories came back to me as I played around with Google Tone here at the lab.  

It’s a simple concept and yet I could see playing around with it on a more serious level.

When you’re doing a lesson or a presentation, how do you get students or attendees to go to a specific URL?  Chances are, you open a slide in your presentation program and copy/paste the URL, make the font bold and as big as you can to fill the screen.  Then, you wait while everyone types the address into their browser and then further wait until everyone gets to the website.  If you’ve ever done this, you know the frustration of waiting until everyone gets it right.

Of course, the sophisticated user you are, you’ve moved on and instead of having a long URL to key in, you use a shortener like:

They’re shorter but might actually be more difficult since the characters are very random containing a mixture of case and digits in addition to letters.

Or, perhaps you have your class wiki with the link already in place.  The student just has to go to the wiki, click the link, and they’re there.  Of course, they have to key the address to the wiki correctly and then navigate to the proper page.

Could there be something simpler?

That’s where Google Tone factors into this.  It’s a simple concept – the link above takes you to a Google Chrome extension.  When you find a URL that you want to share, just click on the Tone icon.  

Your computer generates a series of sounds which was my original connection to the modem.  All that you need is to have another computer with the same extension installed listening.  When it hears the sounds and interprets them, you’re presented with a little popup that indicates that you could go somewhere just by clicking on it.  Voila!

Now, the lab here doesn’t have a multiple of devices sitting around listening but the few that did worked just fine.  From an academic point of view, it would be cool to see it work with a multitude of computers.

Of course, the ultimate would be – and here’s an idea for anyone looking for a smackdown idea – play the sound through the sound system at a conference and have the entire audience all load the same page at the same time.  (They just need to have the extension installed)

In the meantime, it was a hoot to play around with.


4 responses to “Listen to me”

  1. You do find the coolest stuff! One strategy I use with my classes is to make a custom link, where it’s words that make sense to the kids. QR codes work too, as long as the kids have a scan app on their phones. I totally want to use Tone at a BIT session – would just have to ask people to install the extension if they were planning on coming.


    1. Let me know how you’re planning to use it, Lisa. I’d love to see it in action.


  2. Well! The play-a-modem-sound-and-take-over-everyone’s-web-browser will be an interesting experiment to try when we get back to class in the new year.

    It sounds like the kind of thing John Steed and Emma Peel might have had to deal with, had there been Chromebooks around back in the 1960s. Certainly a reboot of The Avengers (not the Marvel ones!) in this day would find an episode in this. How scary could this be if you could play a sound that took everyone to a page that auto-played a subsequent, targeted sound that caused their device to upload or download malicious code or initiated a DNS attack on somebody?

    Hopefully the end-user has to approve the page load, and presumably they can read and understand the request-for-approval message? (On second thought, I may not experiment widely with this with my students in January.)

    But I will try it out today.


    1. Andy, as shown in the screen capture and I’m sure that you discovered with you tryout, the person on the receiving end actually had to intentionally click the message to make it happen. The link where you’re headed is identified in the popup.


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