Speech Reinforcement System
For many years, the poor acoustics of the Senate Chamber were a constant topic of concern. When the Chamber underwent extensive remodeling in the late 1940s, workers added conduits beneath the floor to permit the future installation of a "public address" and media broadcasting system. In 1969 the Senate authorized such a system, and in 1971 each Chamber desk was fitted with a small microphone on its left side and an amplification box on its bookshelf. Amplification boxes were also placed strategically throughout the public galleries. Except for the substitution of digital for analog technology in 1994-1995, the original system remains in place today.
The microphones are activated only when removed from their holders, broadcasting a senator's words to the low-volume speakers in the amplification boxes. These boxes also amplify any words spoken from the clerks' and presiding officer's desks on the dais when microphones there are activated.