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The story behind Stephen Hawking's iconic voice

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 15 March 2018, 15:19 IST
Stephen Hawking (Twitter)


One of the world's most beloved scientists and a prolific author, Hawking left the world with his pioneering work on black holes and relativity, also he gifted the world with his quintessential science books like his bestseller, A Brief History of Time.

From Infotainment shows on Discovery and National Geographic to the stories about the darkest secrets of the Universe, for those who have known Stephen Hawking. He was the mystery-man about whom there were rumours of having an IQ higher than that of Albert Einstein. He was best known for his work on the mechanics of the mechanics of Black Holes. But when it came to the masses, He was the most celebrated physicist of his generation, known for his bestseller seller books and television appearances.

He was bodily disabled by a rare motor-neuron disease but his mental reach knew no limits for He envisioned theories and possibilities that common man cannot comprehend. It was his ability to explain complex theories in simple terms to common people that led to his popularity.

Many things that he was famous for are not easy to comprehend, but one thing that everyone recognized is his iconic voice. Stephen Hawking's computer-generated voice is so iconic that it's trademarked — The filmmakers behind The Theory of Everything had to get Hawking's personal permission to use the voice in his biopic.

There is a whole story behind the magic voice of Stephen Hawking. Back in the '80s, when Hawking was first exploring text-to-speech communication options after he lost the power of speech, a pioneer in computer-generated speech algorithms was working at MIT on that very thing. His name was Dennis Klatt.

As reported by Wired, Dennis Klatt's work was incorporated into one of the first devices that translated speech into text: the DECtalk. The company that made the speech synthesizer for Hawking's very first computer used the voice Klatt had recorded for computer synthesis. The voice was called 'Perfect Paul,' and it was based on recordings of Klatt himself.

Klatt was an American engineer who passed away in 1989, just a year after Hawking insisted on keeping 'Perfect Paul' as his own voice. Klatt was a member of MIT's Speech Communication Group, and He had a special interest in applying his research in computational linguistics to assist people with disabilities.


... With Inputs from The Wired

First published: 15 March 2018, 14:59 IST