If you were a child of the 1980’s like I was, then you probably either had one or had a friend who owned a Speak & Spell toy from Texas Instruments. It was probably most popular after it’s role in the film, “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” as one of the components used in the communicator built for E.T. to “phone home.”
In probably the first time I’ve actually turned my television to see anything being broadcast in over a year, I passed by either MTV or VH1 and caught sight of a Speak & Spell unit in the video for “Fireflies” by Owl City. This sparked a Google search and I read about the history of the device on the Wikipedia page for the Speak & Spell units. And probably a highlight of my search was an online emulator.
According to the website for the emulator, the flash program was inspired by an eBay purchase of an old Speak & Spell unit, which unfortunately wasn’t in a working state when he obtained it. So his emulator is able to recreate the sounds and some basic functionality but not all the various modes of the device. The Speak & Spell was a revolutionary toy at the time as it was the first time an educational toy utilized speech that was not recorded on a tape or phonograph, it was built into the solid state electronics of the device.
I had some fun playing it with just to hear that creepy computer voice pronouncing the letters again brought waves of nostalgia for me as I once had one of these speech synthesizer toys. After a couple of rounds of spelling the words it asked me to spell, I decided to just spell some words that tend to be a bit ruder just to laugh as I clicked on the letters. If you ever had one of these toys growing up, go ahead and give it a whirl and see if the creepy computer voice of the Speak & Spell brings back some nostalgia for you. Click here to play with the flash based emulator.
If the emulator doesn’t meet your needs for nostalgia purposes, perhaps find a real one on eBay instead.