Penn’s Language Laboratory allowed students to work on improving their foreign language skills by listening to recordings and also recording their own pronunciations.
Created in 1959, the Lab in Logan Hall was equipped with 40 booths that contained apparatus that provided students with audio of expert pronunciation of languages, including Spanish, French, Russian, and German.
Using headsets, students could select a recording from the library, listen to it, and repeat what they heard. They could then make recordings of their own pronunciations of words and compare the recordings.
Through a master control unit, up to six groups of students, each studying a different language, could receive instruction simultaneously.
On the day that the lab opened, Paul King (left) of Magnetic Recording Industries, which installed the recording units, demonstrated how the equipment operates to Sculley Bradley, the University’s vice provost.
By 1971, the Language Laboratory grew to include film as well as audio recording equipment. Soon, interest in the lab expanded for other teaching and learning purposes. Some faculty used the audio-visual facilities for multimedia lectures or to place long-distance conference calls to hear from a specialist at another university.
A School of Social Work professor used the lab to help train students to deal with clients. The students were filmed during a class discussion so they could see how they appear when they interacted with clients.
The Language Laboratory was renamed the Audio-Visual Center in 1976.
Its name was changed again in 1992 and was known as Multi-Media and Educational Technology Services (MMETS).
Today it is called the SAS Computing’s Multi-Media Services (MMS). Located in the basement of David Rittenhouse Labs, it provides the Penn community with computer labs, classroom technology support, equipment loans, and assists with campus conferences and meetings.
For more information about this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives online.