An Adventure into Android Makes the VIC-20 Speak

History and [Bil Herd] teaches us that Commodore begged, borrowed, or stole the engineers responsible for the Speak & Spell to add voice synthesis to a few of the computers that came after the C64. This didn’t quite work out in practice, but speech synthesis was something that was part of the Commodore scene for a long time. The Votrax Type ‘n Talk was a stand-alone speech synthesizer that plugged into the expansion port of the VIC-20. It was expensive, rare, but a few games supported it. [Jan] realized the state of speech synthesis has improved tremendously over the last 30 years, and decided to give his VIC a voice with the help of a cheap Android phone.

A few VIC-20 games, including [Scott Adams] adventure games, worked with the Votrax speech synthesizer by sending phonemes as text over the expansion port. From there, the Votrax would take care of assembling everything into something intelligible, requiring no overhead on the VIC-20. [Jan] realized since the VIC is just spitting out characters for each phoneme, he could redirect those words to a better, more modern voice synthesizer.

A small Bluetooth module was wired up to the user port on the VIC, and this module was paired with a cheap Android smartphone. The smartphone receives the serial stream from an adventure game, and speaks the descriptions of all the scenes in these classic adventure games.

It’s a unique experience judging from the video, but the same hardware and software can also be added to any program that will run on the VIC-20, C64, and C128. Video below.

13 thoughts on “An Adventure into Android Makes the VIC-20 Speak

  1. You could do text to speech synthsis on the C64. Code for it came out in c64 or compute magazine. You had to bastardize your spelling a bit to get it away from its funky androidy accent. Other then that though it was pefectly acceptable.

    That was a standalone program and didn’t add functionality to other programs like an OS supported voice engine does now. It did however exist.

  2. I interfaced to one [votrax] a long time ago to allow a visually impared person at NASA ‘read’ what was on the display of a computer system my company had designed, and to have it read files to hime, instead of typing them. It had a built in censor, and if you asked it to say ‘shit’, it would say ‘sugar’ instead.

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