Thursday Thowback: Speak & Spell

When I was a kid, I found the coolest toys to be the ones that were interactive. You know, push a button and it says something to you, or does something fancy. Those kinds of toys. Well, in all my day, I found none to be cooler than the Speak & Spell from Texas Instruments.

Introduced in 1978, it was marketed as the first time the human vocal tract had been electronically duplicated on a single chip of silicon. The Speak & Spell was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was different from tape recorders, in that it used no moving parts. When it was told to say something, it just drew a word from memory, processed it through an integrated circuit model of a human tract, and spoke it electronically.

Never mind that it sounded like Stephen Hawking, the Speak & Spell made learning fun, just like the slogan said it would. As someone who grew up to love the written word, this toy was instrumental in shaping me as boy. While I don’t know whatever became of my trusty learning tool, I do know that it provided me with hours of fun. As I got older, I wondered if it could do swear words. Upon testing it, I found out that it couldn’t. Bummer. Still, the Speak & Spell will go down in history as one of the best toys that ever existed.