In roughly 1965, Timothy Leary and his long-time traveling partner Richard Alpert (a.k.a. Ram Dass) became frustrated with the usual methods of describing ineffable psychedelic experiences. Leary, having recently discovered DMT and its language-shattering intensity for himself, recognized the futility of describing such an experience with words in real time. Reporting an experience after the fact was not a problem, but for the sake of his own studies he wished for a way to encode the events of a "trip" in a temporally accurate way, at the exact moment that they happened.
By the publication of Psychedelic Review #7 in 1966, Leary had the device he wanted, as designed by Dr. Ogden Lindsey at Harvard Medical and MIT's William Getzinger. It was composed of two ten-key keyboards, each with nine fingered keys separated into two rows, and a thumb key on each. The left keyboard also had a speaker and microphone for spoken communication at a distance, and a button that would light up when a corresponding button on the master console was pressed, and if pressed would light the master console button. All three units (the two keyboards and the master console) were connected by phone cords. The master console was also connected to a twenty-pen polygraph, which would record spikes for all buttons pressed on a moving scroll of paper acting as the the temporal record.
Each of the keys could be labeled, so the "language" of each session could change to point toward whatever concepts were deemed important by the experimenter. In the experiment published with the Psychedelic Review publication, a language was invented based on The Psychedelic Experience, by Leary, Alpert, and Dr. Ralph Metzner. The keyboard layout went as follows:
Right Hand: (personal apologies from the author for how far out this part is)
- Bodily sensations (e.g., pain, itch, tickle)
- Moods and emotional states
- Interpersonal feelings toward others
- Cognitive modes of perception
- Awareness in terms of body-maintenance games, including sex
- Awareness in terms of social-cultural games, including family
- Awareness in terms of aesthetic-recreational games
- Awareness in terms of intellectual-scientific games
- Awareness in terms of religious-philosophic games
- Master key which can modify any other key to indicate a negative experience
- Internal (closed eye) modifier of awareness
- Immediate sensory awareness without cognitive contact
- Direct process images (DPI)
- Learned form images (LFI)
- Trans-language experience
- Biological processes -- phenomenologically the subject experiences the life energy directly and without the imposition of any conceptual LFI.
- Awareness of physical energy processes, phenomenologically labeled "void," "white light," "pure energy," "vibrations," etc.
Because of the device's flexibility with respect to language, Leary also saw it as a possible way to do research in such areas as consciousness and linguistics, and even parapsychology, Extrasensory Perception, and so forth. He even went so far as to describe the advent of the typewriter with the words "The day of the psychologist imposing his game, his roles, rules, rituals and above all his language on the subject is about over" -- a quote which seems almost ridiculous considering the amount of learning and attention-paying needed to get usable feedback using the device.
Props out to the Dead Media Project, which provided the information on key function as well as the quote in the final paragraph.