Speech synthesizing valentine from 1991


Back in 1991, a young [Backwoods Engineer] and his new wife went to a Valentines day get together. One of the conditions of the shindig was having the guys make – not buy – a Valentines day card. Go big or go home, he though, and after a few days he had a talking Valentines day card that would become one of his wife’s most treasured possessions.

The early 90s were a different time; in case you haven’t yet been made to feel very old yet today, 1991 is closer to 1970 than 2013 is to 1991. Likewise, the circuitry inside this heartfelt talking token of appreciation bears more resemblance to something from a 1970s electronics magazine than an Arduino project of today.

The project is powered by an old Intel MCS-48 microcontroller attached to one of the old speech synthesis chips Radio Shack used to sell. These are, in turn, connected to a programmable logic chip and a masked ROM that translates English words into phonemes for the speech synthesizer.

The entire device is constructed on a hacked up piece of perf board and a few wire wrap sockets; sturdy construction, even if the battery compartment has been replaced a few times.

As for what the talking valentine says? “”OK!  Hello, I am a Talking Valentine Card.  “Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing” and in this case also needs batteries!” You can check that out after the break.


  1. Thanks for posting it. Yeah, it’s cheesy. But all the Arduino guys should appreciate what you have today :-)

  2. EdgarVice says:

    The card says “I am your Talking Valentine Card” not “a”…

  3. Apex1302 says:

    “in case you haven’t yet been made to feel very old yet today, 1991 is closer to 1970 than 2013 is to 1991″
    OK you are right. After reading that I feel old.

  4. Luke Schaefer says:

    If you look closely, it also winks at ‘needs batteries’. Or maybe just a way to know the synth is resetting.

  5. Ren says:

    Gee, maybe I’ll get around to wiring up my pair of Radio Shack speech chips, someday…

    • Ren says:

      “Before the breathing air is gone, before The Sun, is just a bright star in the nighttime,..”
      -Three Dog Night

    • Matt says:

      Yup, got a couple of those sitting in the basement myself, from back when RS stocked that kind of thing. Now kindly remove yourself from my lawn.

    • RoadWarrior222 says:

      Heh, heh, me too, I never came up with the “killer app” for the one I bought on clearance (Phoneme based). I had a phoneme speech synth for an 8 bit that disabused me of notions of how garrulous I could make a device before it merely grated harshly on the nerves, though it provided endless seconds of enjoyment just mashing the keyboard to hear it say “eggs, eggs, gugglegoo.” etc. Though come to think of it, I believe I also got a digitised speech chip from radioshack as well, which I also never got to deploy, needed something I couldn’t get hold of IIRC…

      Makes me wonder what I’d ever use it for, maybe a semi autonomous 1/4 scale Stephen Hawking bot, that follows me round and quotes random snippets of “Brief History of Time” or something.

  6. wretch says:

    So, that’s a 3D-printed case, is it?


  7. Circuitmage says:

    That actually looks like 1 to 2 hrs worth of wire wrapping…..eeeek. :(

  8. Zeropoint says:

    I am a thirty second valentine! I am a thirty second valentine!
    . . .

  9. Providio says:

    SP0256 – Where can i buy such a chip ?

    • rue_mohr says:

      I tried to get that chip from radioshack about 1998, and it wasn’t available.
      somewhere I have the radioshack datasheets for it, nice chip.

    • kommune78 says:

      I have 2 of those Chips available. I would sell them for 45$ including worldwide shipping each. Contact me at kommune78@yahoo.com

    • George Johnson says:

      There’s a few still out there, like several here, I have a couple. Try Speechchips.com I think, there’s a new chips out there. But I haven’t played with that one. I used this one, to make a speech board connected to a Z-80 based Microprofessor, that said “Ho! Ho Ho! Merrrrryyyyyy ChrisT-mas….” I never could get that to sound “quite” right, but they’re fun.

  10. pcf11 says:

    I had an SPO256 it made this ringing, bell chime sound and when it was hooked up to an oscilloscope it made the coolest pattern that looked like a rotating crown. I burnt mine up powering it with a flakey power supply. It was fun to play with while it lasted though.

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