Texas Instruments Speak & Spell

Date of introduction:  June 11, 1978 Display technology:  Fluorescent
New price:  $50 Display size:  8 alphanumeric
Size:  10.0" x 7.0" x  1.3" 
 254 x 177 x 34 mm3
Weight:  18.5 ounces, 526 grams Serial No:  2161433
Batteries:  4*C cells Date of manufacture:  wk 08 year 1979 (MTA)
AC-Adapter:  AC9199 Origin of manufacture:  USA
Precision:   Integrated circuits:  TMC0271, TMC0281, TMC0351, TMC0352
Program steps:   Courtesy of:  Joerg Woerner
    Download manual: (Word List 1978-1981)   (US: 2.6M Bytes)

Shortly after the invention of the synthesizer technology to reproduce human speech with tuned voices stored in ROMs (Read-only Memories - Integrated Circuits) this novel product named Speak & Spell was introduced. If you compare this educational toy with the Spelling B you understand the differences: The Spelling B created a random number and the child looked up in an additional booklet the numbered pictures. The idea was to spell the name of that picture correct. The Speak & Spell used a different approach: The spoken word was generated by the built in loudspeaker and you had to type it correct.

An alphanumeric display was used as feedback during typing words.

The same technology of this Speak & Spell was used in other toys like Speak & Read or Speak & Math and three rare professional products:

Language Teacher
Language Translator
Language Tutor 

If you stay in the toy-section, don't miss the rare Magic Wand Speaking Reader. This product came out shortly before Texas Instruments discontinued its Consumer Products Division in 1983.

This first version of the Speak & Spell could easily be recognized at the 40 button keys, it was available in United Kingdom and Japan, too. Don't miss the Speak & Spell (British Voice) and the rare Japanese Edition of the Speak & Spell.

This original Speak & Spell was later replaced by Version 2 which adopted the membrane keyboard used in the other Speak & Products.

Developed for children, the Speak & Spell found – like the later Speak & Music – its way into the Detroit area electronic music. Artist MAS 2008 (René Kirchner & Ive Müller) provided a sample of their music - Thank you!

Learn more about “Circuit Bending”.


Press the Play button and listen Speak & Spell tunes.
Find more sound samples in the DOWNLOAD section.
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The Speak & Spell project was started in the year 1976 and created with the TMC0280 the first one-chip LPC speech synthesizer. Later refinements to the Speak & Spell chips resulted in the TMS5100, 5200 and 5220 Voice Synthesis Processors (VSP) for use in commercial products needing synthetic speech voice output from digitally-stored words and phrases. Speech data was stored in in up to sixteen 128K ROM based Voice Synthesis Memory (VSM) chips named TMS6100. Plug-in modules increased vocabulary and provided for versions in French, German, Spanish and British English.

In 1984 we knew a total of 10 different plug-in modules for the Speak & Spell, a comprehensive overview including the wordlists could be found here

Dismantling a Speak & Spell manufactured in July 1980 by Texas Instruments in the United States reveals a printed circuit board (PCB) with an interesting technology mix. The Integrated Circuits (ICs) of this Speak & Spell use 0.4” wide 28-pin SPDIP (Shrink Plastic Dual In-line Package with a 0.07” / 1.778 mm lead pitch) and a 0.6” wide 40-pin SPDIP encapsulations for two ICs and 0.6" wide 28-pin DIP 0.1” / 2.54 mm lead pitch. Please notice the option to install a TMC0271 with a 0.6" wide 40-pin DIP, too.

The clean design of the Speak & Spell Version 3 is centered around four Integrated Circuits:

TMC0271: 4-bit microcontroller with 2k*9 Bits ROM and 9*64 Bits RAM
TMC0281: TMS5100 VSP (Voice Synthesis Processor)
TMC0351, TMC0352: TMS6100 VSM (Voice Synthesis Memory) with 128k Bits, each

Production of the Speak & Spell started 1978 in Midland, Texas but later in 1980 even "Made in Philippines" products appeared to fulfill the tremendous demand for the Holiday Season business.

An inside view of some dismantled Speak & Spell products could be found here.

Find here parts of the original press release dated June 11, 1978:

TI Talking Learning Aid Sets Pace for Innovative CES Introductions

DALLAS, June 11, 1978

Innovative learning aids for children, including one that talks, compact powerful calculators for home and office, and multi-function digital timepieces with long life batteries for men and women were among a dozen products introduced by Texas Instruments Incorporated at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show, June 11-14. 

The talking learning aid is called Speak & Spell™. An outgrowth of TI's basic research in synthetic speech, the product is designed to help children seven and up learn how to spell and pronounce more than 200 commonly misspelled words. Solid State Speech™ is an entirely new concept which stores words in a solid-state memory much like a calculator stores numbers. 

Also introduced in TI's new Learning Center™ product group were Spelling B™, a silent mate to Speak & Spell that helps children six and up learn spelling, and First Watch™, which teaches five to seven-year-olds to read any timepiece, whether digital or analog (with hands).

Speak & Spell 

Speak & Spell employs an entirely new concept in speech reproduction. Unlike tape recorders and pull-string phonograph records used in recent years in many "speaking" toys, TI' Solid State Speech circuitry has no moving parts. When it is told to say something, it draws a word from memory, processes it through an integrated circuit model of a human vocal tract and then speaks electronically. In its main mode of operation, Speak & Spell randomly selects a word and pronounces it in standard American English. A child presses the unit's alphabetic keys to spell the word, which appears, letter by letter, on an eight-character display screen. Right answers earn verbal and visual praise; wrong  answers receive patient encouragement to try again. A number of games are offered to intrigue children of all ages. 

Speak & Spell, available next month, has a suggested retail price of $50.

The complete press release could be found here.

Speak & Spell Tunes

I'm A Rhythm Machine

Composer: MAS 2008
Contact info: Twilight 76 Records
Permission by: Rick Sadlowski

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© Joerg Woerner, December 5, 2001. No reprints without written permission.