Stephen Hawking needs a new technician – Boing Boing

By at 10:27 am Friday, Dec 30

Sam Blackburn is the technician who for five years kept Stephen Hawking’s communication systems running. now Hawking is looking for a new Technical Assistant. to get a sense of the job, New Scientist interviewed Blackburn. Stephen’s voice is very distinctive, but you say there might be a problem retaining it?

I guess the most interesting thing in my office is a little grey box, which contains the only copy we have of Stephen’s hardware voice synthesizer. The card inside dates back to the 1980s and this particular one contains Stephen’s voice. There’s a processor on it which has a unique program that turns text into speech that sounds like Stephen’s, and we have only two of these cards. The company that made them went bankrupt and nobody knows how it works any more. I am trying to reverse engineer it, which is quite tricky.

Can’t you update it with a new synthesizer?

No. It has to sound exactly the same. The voice is one of the unique things that defines Stephen in my opinion. He could easily change to a voice that was clearer, perhaps more soothing to listen to – less robotic sounding – but it wouldn’t be Stephen’s voice any more.

The man who saves Stephen Hawking’s voice” (New Scientist)

Think you could be the next Technical Assistant?” (

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Stephen Hawking needs a new technician – Boing Boing

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