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James L. Flanagan, Who Helped Make Computers Talk, Dies at 89

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James L. Flanagan, Bell Laboratories

James L. Flanagan, right, with fellow Bell Laboratories scientist in 1970. Mr. Flanagan published a prescient article while at Bell Labs that foretold several technological advances.

Credit: Alcatel-Lucent/Bell Labs

James L. Flanagan, whom we can thank for articulate digital assistants like Siri and intelligible subway loudspeakers and blame for the disembodied voices that inform frustrated telephone callers to listen carefully because their bank’s, airline’s or insurance company’s automated customer care options have changed, died on Tuesday at his home in Warren Township, N.J. He was 89 and would have turned 90 the next day.

From The New York Times
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