Vintage Speech Synthesizer Croons The Oldies

If you listened to the National Weather Service Weather Radio in the US about 25 years ago, you’ll no doubt remember [Perfect Paul], one of the synthesized voices used to read current conditions and weather forecasts. The voice came from a DECtalk DTC01, a not inexpensive voice synthesizer first made in 1984 that also gave voice to [Stephen Hawking] for many years.

Long obsolete, the DECtalk boxes have a devoted following with hobbyists who like to stretch what the device can do. Some even like to make it sing, after a fashion, and [Michael] decided that making a DECtalk sing “Xanadu”, the theme song from the 1980 [Olivia Newton-John] musical extravaganza, was a good idea. Whether it actually was is debatable, and we’ll take exception with having that particular ditty stuck in our head as a result, but we don’t judge except on the merits of the hack.

It’s actually easy if you have a DECtalk; the song is a straight ASCII file with remarkably concise instructions on which phonemes the box needs to generate. Along with inflection, tone, and timing instructions, the text file looks almost completely unlike English while still somehow being readable. The DECtalk accepts the file over RS-232, which would be easy enough to do with a modern computer, but [Michael] upped his game a bit by using a TRS-80 Model 100 computer as a serial terminal. The synthesized song is in the video below, with the original included for reference by those who didn’t experience endure the late disco-era glory days.

DECtalks seem pretty rare in the wild, so we appreciate this glimpse at what they can do. There are other retro speech synthesizer hacks, though: the simulated walnut goodness of the Votrax and the MicroVox come to mind, as does the venerable TI Speak and Spell.

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Rudolph Toy Hacked To Announce Incoming Email

email-reading-reindeer

Tis the season for hacking, and [Nick McClanahan] at the GadgetGangster is certainly showing off his Christmas spirit with his most recent creation. He had an animatronic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer toy sitting around and thought it would be fun to convert him into an email reading machine.

He tore open the toy, removing its innards, disconnecting the built-in speaker and servos from the original PCB. He then extended wires from those components outside of the body before reassembling the toy. The reindeer is controlled primarily using a Propeller Platform, with an E-Net module and a small audio amp taking care of network communications and audio output, respectively.

Most of the work is done by the software [Nick] is using, which allows Rudolph to periodically check his Gmail inbox for new messages. When the message count increases, the reindeer springs into action, moving and lighting up his nose before announcing the sender’s name.

He’s using a phonemic voice synthesizer for the output, which does the job, though we would go mad if we had to listen to it all day. Since the reindeer is connected to his LAN, it might be feasible to run the data through a more robust voice synth on a PC, returning a better-sounding audio clip for playback.

Check out the video below to see a short clip of Rudolph in action.

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