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Glimpse of Stephen Hawking's Computer 146

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the long-live-dectalk dept.
kenekaplan writes "Intel application engineer Travis Bonifield has been working closely with Hawking to communicate with the world for a decade. He's traveled from the United States to England every few years to hand-deliver Hawking a customized PC. Bonifield talks about the technology that powers the customized system." Hawking's latest machine is a Thinkpad x220. Lately he's been trouble speaking due to weakened cheek muscles (down to one word per minute). New Scientist has a brief interview with Hawking's outgoing technician on the challenges he faced. It turns out Hawking is still using a DECtalk (despite some reports suggesting otherwise).
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Glimpse of Stephen Hawking's Computer

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  • by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @07:13AM (#38649206)

    Someone found recordings of his original voice and offered to build a voice around this, but Hawking said that he did not even recognise it as his own voice anymore ...

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @07:19AM (#38649242)

    There's a company in Edinburgh that's doing the same thing with Roger Ebert, drawing on the large body of recordings of his voice. Wonder if it's the same one.

  • by Framboise (521772) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @07:48AM (#38649380)

    From the Telegraph link, we happily learn:

    In an interview with the New Scientist magazine to mark his 70th birthday on Sunday, January 8, he was asked: "What do you think most about during the day?" to which he replied: "Women. They are a complete mystery."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @07:55AM (#38649412)

    I have often wondered whether Hawkins has ever tried using dasher.

    http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/dasher/

    Occurs to me it is ideal for people with very little or no physical mobility

    http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/dasher/SpecialNeeds.html

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0d6yIquOKQ0

    Just a thought....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @10:44AM (#38650626)

    Yes it *could* be replaced with software. Probably sound exactly the same. However think about this.

    You buy a bit of kit for say 4500 in 1980ish. It works does exactly what you want (it talks). You know exactly how to use it. It integrates into your system. It may have bugs but you know how to work around them. It is a sunk cost with both time and money.

    Now lets upgrade.

    You buy another bit of kit for say 500.. It works does exactly what you want (it talks). You need to relearn how to use it (probably). It may/may not integrate into your system (another dollar/time cost). It may have bugs to work out and you need to spend time working around the probably existing ones and any new ones (time cost). You end up with the exact same functionality at the end but at a higher time cost.

    If it were me I would probably buy a couple of spares. Then just send them out to get fixed somewhere if they broke and do a swap if they do break.

    Remember this is a person how types about 5-7 characters a minute in effect. So he is not going to want to be able to play the latest fps on his wheel chair. He is too busy typing! And if he wanted that he could get a laptop that does it, and still retain the existing functionality he has in an interface he understands perfectly. To this man time is his commodity. Not smaller/faster/cheaper. He is living as if he has 6 months to live. Also at nearly 70 he probably doesnt have much time left and doesnt want to spend that time farting around with some new computer. He doesnt care about the latest gizmos (like many people in their 70s, not saying all but many)... If he wanted a new computer he would have had it by now. He is being eminently practicable about the matter.

    He probably thinks of it more as a wrench. You dont need a new wrench all the time. You only swap it out if you broke your previous one. Then you go buy one exactly like it as the last one lasted 30+ years... You just do not get that reliability out of newer stuff.

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