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Thread: Where does a baby retro computer geek start?

  1. #11

    Default Speed Listening

    Quote Originally Posted by Trixter
    ...This user was able to use our product through the use of a serially-attached speech synthesizer (turned up to very high speaking speed)...
    True, I often listen to audio from shows or news on the PC at higher speeds (1.3x to 1.8x) and it doesn't lose anything. There is an algorithm to maintain the pitch for fast playback.
    A discussion about language in the mind slowing down thought is a subject for another day.

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Freedom City
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    Quote Originally Posted by commodorejohn View Post
    Yes, Amiga Workbench up to version 1.3 ships with a speech synthesizer (it was removed from later versions due to licensing issues, but will still work fine if manually installed.)
    There is a replacement available on Aminet (I believe this one) which is much improved over the original. It will speak in different accents (including Klingon!) and you can even make it sing. I wrote a program to do that for a song that I band I used to be in did.

    Mind you, I don't know about the usefulness. You pretty much have to have a text file that you can have it read, and, it reads out everything explicitly.
    Last edited by KC9UDX; August 21st, 2014 at 11:22 AM.
    Be polite and I may let you live.

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    NorthWest England (East Pondia)
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    If you want the vintage experience and you read braille then perhaps you should get a Braille Printer. I am pretty sure that's the real vintage experience for yourself! There appear to be some on e-Bay but I am pretty sure in the day we had adaptations that let us print braille on "normal" impact, so daisy wheel printers,,...

    Looking for Analog Computers, Drum Plotters, and Graphics Terminals

  4. #14


    I think the Apple IIE had a serial attached speech box, you controlled the speed with a nob it changed the pitch as the speed went up. it used Echo speech if I'm remembering right. Oh I'd love a braille embosser, I've heard what the daisy wheel printers sound like and they are very much like what the old braille blazie sounded like. It printed one line at a time. you had to set baud rate, parity, and get the serial port setting right or no go. Ah yes, the braillenspeak, that was my first notetaker. No braille display there just a funny robot voice with an odd german accent. They're on youtube. From there it was a braillelite eighteen cell, no more robot boice unless a teacher wanted to hear its chatter. Then on to what is now a six thousand dollar paper weight the Braillenote thirty two. Unfortunately the display stopped working or I'd salvage it. Specialized tech ain't cheap. I miss hardcopy braille, that will come in handy for command list cheat sheets and learning programming language. Yes I'm crazy enough to want to stare at code. I've got my perkins brailler all manual, think braille typewriter. It needs to be recallobrated and oiled but I can do that at some point. Other than that I've got the vinux beast of a pc, from two thousand six with a floppy drive and both serial and paralel ports, oh and a compact flash and sd card reader. I haven't tested the floppy drive, I know the card reader works. Other than that it's a slate and stylus, pen and paper for us, and the iPAD. My Apple IIE disappeared long ago.

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
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    I know it says that ablindgibsongirl hasn't logged on since August 22, but just in case she somehow receives notifications of new posts off site:

    Has there been any new developments in setting up your vintage workstation?
    Looking for: Needham's Electronics PB-10 Microcontroller Adapter (yes, still looking after 2 years :P).

  6. #16


    I've started messing around with my beasty of a pc but have come to recognize that I am still in the rnd phaise of all this. It starts with fascination followed by data gathering. so far I've found that blind people really did use Dos and Unix at the time and that the braille and speak was a great little synth for speech with a dos machine as the terminal. Considering that not much of this would be of practical use today I'm wondering how to bring it back to bring it forward if that makes sense, use the retro experience of computing minimalism to do things today. As far as the braille display goes there's the Transforming Braille project which is working to create a low cost unit since for years they were a dream beyond many of us. This is grand news indeed as many have wondered at the usefulness of braille in the age of the IPAD. Of course any way of gaining direct access is a huge win. I think the only way to really know what is useful and possible is to sit with a few old geeks who have made the attempt and see what comes up, ya know plug in the old hardware and see what happens. I'd like my interest to be of real use.Oh and I've discovered the Linux based notetaker, stil more reading to do. Thanks for the links to the mailing list.

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Central VA


    I know from building custom Linux kernels that support for braille terminal devices is still present in the kernel. That'd get you early kernel message just like a serial terminal, and should also function as the system console. I suppose the difficulty there would be in finding a compatible braille terminal.

  8. #18


    There was also the Dectalk speech synthesizer, which I think was intended to connect between a terminal and a computer. Was that configuration ever used by blind users of DEC machines? I have a Dectalk, but I haven't done much with it so far.

  9. #19


    That's a good question. You'd think DEC would've had a leg up on the Unices in that department, on account of actually supporting readable quasi-English terms in their command shells...
    Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
    Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, E-mu Proteus/2, Moog Satellite, Oberheim SEM
    "'Legacy code' often differs from its suggested alternative by actually working and scaling." - Bjarne Stroustrup

  10. #20


    Quote Originally Posted by ablindgibsongirl
    ... I'm wondering how ... to bring it forward ... use the retro experience of computing minimalism to do things today ...
    I mentioned voice synthesis in my original message here. You can do a lot better today than the era of the "Compu-Talker" that was in the movie, "Wargames".

    Today the faster frequency and processing power of even an 8-bit micro can access a text stream grouped as letters, numbers or words and perform an efficient look-up into a silicon data storage chip to copy an associated voice snippet into a real-time playback buffer, supporting continuous digitized voice playback.

    The audio circuit is inexpensive. A data storage chip I'm using contains 1 GigaByte in each chip, that equivalent to a huge amount of voice-band playback.

    I think to be more practical as part of a sound-monitor it needs to playback at faster speeds; that's just firmware in the micro.

    I have a really good application note for design engineers talking about doing voice record, storage and playback mostly inside the micro itself. Its likely necessary that a more specialized micro would be used in the voice record circuitry to create the digital records, but then a more operating system capable micro, even a fast 8-bit could run your retro operating system while also doing the text look-up and playback.

    If done right, you should be able to add or replace playbacks for letters, numbers and words in your own voice.

    Note this could also render the sound cues for the position of the mouse on the screen.

    This isn't a hobbyist project.


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