We can’t leave our Sinclair ZX Spectrum alone. Not only can it do awesome drums (see SpecDrum 2000) and print rude messages about your mates on shiny thermal paper, it can also do RO-BOT VOI-CES! That’s right, we got ourselves a Currah MicroSpeech attachment for the Speccie. This little black plastic box of tricks did for voice synthesis what the SpecDrum did for drum sampling: that is, slotted it right into the back of your home computer. Once the MicroSpeech was installed, every key press you made on the Spectrum’s boingy rubber keys was announced through your TV speaker in glorious, robotic monotone. RUN. EN-TER. SPACE. BREAK. B-B-B-B-BREAK. Being in charge of a talking Spectrum is the next best thing to piloting the Starship Enterprise. Probably.
SpecTalk gives you weird glitchy sounds, st-st-st-stuttering v-v-vocals, 8-bit nastiness and – most importantly of all – the ability to roll your own vocal phrases using its library of phonetic components. These are mapped out over the lower spread of the keyboard: there’s a handy chart of what note corresponds to what sound on the second pane of the SpecTalk. To make your very own talking computer, circa 1985, just slot these bits of sound together in your DAW’s pattern editor, nudging them up close to each other so that they form complete words. There you go – an endless selection of personalised ad-libs, shout-outs, vocal riffs and doom-laden robotic warnings of impending core breach, right at your fingertips, and all in the utterly unique 1980s tone of the Currah. As we say in SpecTalk world, “its (ee)z(ee) wuns y(ou) ge(tt) (dth)u ha(ng) ov it”. There are two velocity layers for the phonemes, so you can program unstressed sounds or stressed sounds (which are slightly higher in pitch). Combining the two will make your phrases a little less robotic. (But not much. Otherwise what would be the point?!)