Speak & Spell

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Speak & SpellThe Speak & Spell line is a series of electronic handheld[1][2][3] educational toys created by Texas Instruments that consist of a speech synthesizer, a keyboard, and a receptor slot to receive one of a collection of ROM game[4] library modules (collectively covered under patent US 3934233 ). The first Speak & Spell was introduced at the summer Consumer Electronics Show in June 1978,[5][2] electronic[5] devices with a visual display[6] to use interchangeable game cartridges.[7] making it one of the earliest handheld

The Speak & Spell was created by a small team of engineers led by Paul Breedlove, himself an engineer, with Texas Instruments (TI) during the late 1970s. Development began in 1976 with an initial budget of $25,000, as an outgrowth of TI's research into speech synthesis.[8] The completed proof version of the first console utilized TI's trademarked Solid State Speech technology to store full words in a solid state format similar to the manner in which calculators of the time stored numbers. Additionally purchased cartridges (called expansion modules) could be inserted behind the battery receptacle to provide new solid state libraries and new games.[4] This represented the first time an educational toy utilized speech that was not recorded on tape or phonograph record (as with Mattel's See 'n Say line or the earlier Chatty Cathy dolls).[6]

The original Speak & Spell was the first of a three-part talking educational toy series that also included Speak & Read and Speak & Math. This series was a subset of TI's Learning Center product group and the Speak & Spell was released simultaneously with the Spelling B (a non-speech product designed to help children learn to spell), and the First Watch (designed to teach children to read digital and analog timepieces).[6] The Speak & Spell was sold, with regional variations, in the United States,[6] Canada, Australia, in Europe,[9] and Japan.[10]

The toy was originally advertised as a tool for helping young children to learn to spell and pronounce over 200 commonly misspelled words.[6] It shipped as a bundle with only the basic cartridge called Basic Unit (containing the minigames, Mystery Word, Secret Code, and Letter.)[11]

The Speak & Spell used the first single-chip voice synthesizer, the TMC0280, later called the TI TMS5100, which utilized a 10th-order linear predictive coding (LPC) model by using pipelined electronic DSP logic.[32] A variant of this chip with a very similar voice would eventually be utilized in certain Chrysler vehicles in the 1980s as the Electronic Voice Alert.

Speech synthesis data (phoneme data) for the spoken words were stored on a pair of 128 Kbit metal gate PMOS ROMs. 128 Kbit was, at the time the largest capacity ROM in the late 1970s. Additional memory module cartridges could be interchangeably plugged into a slot in the battery compartment and selected via a button on the keyboard. The technique used to create the words was to have a professional speaker speak the words. The utterances were captured and processed using a mini-computer. Finally the data were hand edited to fix any voicing errors while reducing the data rate to an optimal level. The stored data were for the specific words and phrases used in the Speak & Spell. The data rate was about 1,000 bits per second.

The video-display employed in the Speak & Spell was a vacuum fluorescent display (VFD). The later Super Speak & Spell model, had a much slimmer case and an LCD screen rather than a VFD screen. The unit could use either 4 "C" batteries or 6 volt DC power adapter with positive tip polarity.

Cartridges (also known as expansion modules) are freely exchangeable ROM libraries that provide additional content without providing additional functionality. These cartridges are plugged into a slot near the battery compartment in order to introduce new software libraries. Word and game lists are of differing lengths depending upon the cartridge and the word lists in models marketed for different languages reflect the language marketed for. Separate word lists also exist for regional variants such as the American and British English versions. The word list used in each of the regional models reflects the recommendations of educators in each country. The English, French, German and Italian versions were all created by a team of non-specialists, in TI's plant near Antibes, France, under the watchful eye of Larry Brantingham who had patented the underlying technology.

The Speak & Spell has been employed in recent years in commercial music as an instrument either in its original form or as a modified "bent" circuitJean Michel Jarre, have used the musical samples from the Speak & Spell's opening sequence in their songs[49] Artists in various other (typically electronic) genres have employed the non-musical vocal portions of the Speak & Spell to create vocal parts in their songs. Thus, Speak-&-Spell-generated speech synthesis has featured in Alternative music (with artists such as Beck[50] and Coldplay[51]), Electronic music (with such groups as Kraftwerk[52]), in Synthpop music (with such groups as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark[53] and Freezepop[54]), House music (e.g. Sōta Fujimori[55]), Electropop (e.g. TLC[56]), Nu metal (e.g. Limp Bizkit[57]), Christian rock (e.g. Resurrection Band,[58] Family Force 5[59]), Pop (e.g. Cheetah Girls[60]), and Children's music (e.g. Tickle Tune Typhoon[61]). instrument (see below). Artists like French electronic musician

British synthpop band Depeche Mode's 1981 debut album, Speak & Spell is named in reference to the Speak & Spell.

Some musicians have also used modified "circuit bent" Speak & Spell units in their compositions. By opening the Speak & Spell's case, cross-wiring terminals, and installing electronic components such as switches and potentiometers, amateur hobbyists purposely disrupt normal functioning of the Speak & Spell's membrane keyboard matrix circuit in order to create new sounds. These modifications act to overwhelm the unit's keyboard switch matrix to produce an effect known in the field of electronics as key jamming or ghosting. This effect can be triggered in the Speak & Spell without making modifications if more than 3 keys in the same row are depressed simultaneously however, within the circuit bending culture, emphasis is given to the fact that these units are being used as instruments and thus externally manipulable components are often accentuated. Great attention may be given to enhancing the visual aesthetics of the units by adding decorations and repainting "bent" Speak & Spells, and these units have been traded and sold online and within the circuit bender community.

Examples of artists who have used circuit bent Speak & Spells in their compositions include Beck,[62] CocoRosie,[63] Eisbrecher,[64] Experimental Audio Research,[65] Fantômas,[66] Scrabbel,[67] Venetian Snares,[68] and Claude Woodward The Sonic Manipulator.[69]

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