By
August 12, 1996 12:00 PM

ECHOES OF THE PAST

History resonates for Maurice Crane, who heads the nation’s largest voice library at Michigan State University. “Machiavelli once said everyone he was interested in talking to was dead,” he says. “Around here, they talk back.”

Now they also talk on the Internet. For the past two years, Crane has been bringing some of MSU’s 50,000 recordings of famous speeches, broadcasts and unwritten languages—such as the Creek tribes’—out of the stacks and onto the Web (http://web.msu.edu/vincent), where users can hear Babe Ruth extol “the only real game, I think, in the world” or Anwar Sadat vow “no more war or bloodshed.”

Crane would like to bring the complete collection to the Web (“That takes a lot of money, I’m afraid,” he says), but for now users can sample a handful of historic recordings dating from as early as 1890 or order from thousands of titles through an online catalog.

And Crane, who at 70 may seem an atypical Web surfer, says he actually enjoys the hour it takes him each day to fill e-mailed orders from as far away as Switzerland. “You can probably tell I don’t get out much,” he quips.

A ROCKIN’ GOOD TIME

While it may not (yet) be recognized by the Grammys, the air guitar is one of the country’s most popular instruments, even if its practitioners rarely own up to their guilty pleasure. Now there’s good news for wannabe guitar gods: Virtual Music Entertainment aims to bring the pleasures of pantomime out of the closet and onto the computer screen.

The power riffs of air-friendly Aerosmith provide the basis for VME’s Quest for Fame (distributed by IBM for PC and Mac, $48.95), in which players can work their way up from a garage-band sound to gigs with the likes of Steven Tyler. Users learn the rhythms of “Dude Looks Like a Lady” or any of five other Aerosmith hits by flicking a supplied pick in time with an EKG-style monitor along the bottom of the screen. The thrill of executing a couple of windmills to the delight of screaming groupies is far from virtual.

Come fall, would-be Jimi Hendrixes will be able to test their skills against that guitar deity (and others) in more air-guitar adventures produced by VME with Rolling Stone magazine. And parents may want to stock up on ear plugs: VStix, a drum simulator, is planned for a winter release.

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