Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)


Friday, January 30, 2009

Remembering the Speak and Spell

Just a little more than thirty years ago, Texas Instruments brought us an important development that would change many a childhood, the Speak and Spell.

Despite it's humble size, The Speak and Spell played an important role in Speech History. It was one of the first highly accurate and widely available text-to-speech products, really one of the first practical applications of speech synthesis for a consumer market.

The toy was a direct outgrowth of Texas Instrument's bizarre 1970s experiments in speech synthesis. The world had just seen man create the tech required to reproduce human speech with tuned voices stored on ROMs. Seeing the potential of those speech fruits, Paul Breedlove, a TI engineer, began development of the Speak & Spell in 1976 with a $25,000 budget. Yes, even then it seems that the world callously and stupidly turned a cold shoulder to speech. Breedlove, however, would be vindicated. Within two short years, the Speak & Spell was flying off the 1978 shelves.

Breedlove's completed proof incorporated TI's trademarked Solid State Speech technology, which stored full words in solid state the way calculators of those halcyon 1970s days stored numbers. The Speak & Spell even had a slot for "expansion module" cartridges, which could be inserted to beef up the onboard vocabulary.

The Speak and Spell had its limitations, but had great staying power. The machine was produced for nearly twenty years and saw many improvements over its 1978-1992 run. Its vacuum florescent display was replaced with liquid crystal, it was given a membrane keyboard (which in turn was changed from ABC to a standard QWERTY layout), and it saw several releases in different languages.

Click this link to learn more about the Speak and Spell from Wikipedia.

Article Source:

No comments:

Subscribe to receive posts via email

* indicates required

Browse Articles by Subject

Follow us on Twitter


Write for us

Your input and support in the evolution of Fred's Head are invaluable! Contact us about contributing original writing or for suggestions for updating existing articles. Email us at


The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the Fred's Head articles; however, APH makes no warranty, guarantee, or promise, expressed or implied, concerning the content or accuracy of the information provided in Fred's Head. APH does not endorse any technique, product, device, service, organization, or other information presented in Fred's Head, other than products and services directly offered by APH.

The products produced by the American Printing House for the Blind are instructional/teaching materials and are intended to be used by trained professionals, parents, and other adults with children who are blind and visually impaired. These materials are not intended as toys for use by children in unstructured play or in an unsupervised environment.

The information and techniques contained in Fred's Head are provided without legal consideration (free-of-charge) and are not warranted by APH to be safe or effective. All users of this service assume the risk of any injury or damage that may result from the use of the information provided.

Information in Fred's Head is not intended as a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Consult your physician before utilizing information regarding your health that may be presented on this site. Consult other professionals as appropriate for legal, financial, and related advice.

Fred's Head articles may contain links to other websites. APH is not responsible for the content of these sites.

Fred's Head articles created by APH staff are (C) copyright American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. You must request permission from APH to reprint these articles. Email to request permission.

Any submissions to Fred's Head should be free of copyright restrictions and should be the intellectual property of the submitter. By submitting information to Fred's Head, you are granting APH permission to publish this information.

Fair Use Notice: This website may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright holder(s). This site is operated on the assumption that using this information constitutes 'fair use' of said copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law.

Opinions appearing in Fred's Head records are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Printing House for the Blind.