Younger generations have come to know a lot of digital voices thanks to the rise of smartphones—Susan Bennett as Siri, for example. But the godfather of them all, Elwood Edwards, was scurrying across phone lines long before Siri, Alexa, and Google Now were even born.
Back in the late 80s, early 90s, long before the iPhone 4 was left behind in a Silicon Valley bar, programmers at AOL were apparently looking for someone to lend their voice to the software. It just so happened that Edwards, whose wife was a customer service rep for AOL, was available.
In 1989, my wife was a customer service rep for the company that was about to become America Online. She heard Steve Case talking to some of the programmers about how fun it would be to add a voice to the software. I’ve been an announcer throughout my broadcasting career, and she volunteered me.
Edwards went on to record what are now some of the internet’s most famous phrases: “Welcome,” “You’ve got mail,” “File’s done,” “Good-bye.” According to Edwards, at AOL’s peak, his voice was heard by more than 35 million times a day.
Unfortunately, Edwards says his association with AOL has led to him being typecast for voiceover work. In one example, he played a doctor in the Simpsons who uttered variations of his famous AOL phrases. Still, Edwards says he’s happy with his legacy as the AOL guy, even if that means hearing his own voice every time he signs on.