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This modules discusses how the idea for the Speak N Spell was created by Paul Breedlove. It ends with finally gaining funding to produce the first demonstration of the product idea.


Paul Breedlove had the idea to create a product that would help children to spell, just as the Little Professor™ Learning aid (1) had done for math. Figure 1 shows a Little Professor, TI's first attempt at moving away from the classical concept of a calculator to a product that would help students learn the concepts of math. Unlike spelling, a math problem can be stated using written words. Or, in the case of the Little Professor, present the math problem minus the solution. The user could then enter the solution to the problem, with three tries at answering, before the correct answer was displayed moving on to the next formula. Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division in four different levels of difficulty were taught. It is worth noting here that several years later we created a talking math product called Speak N Math™(2), see Figure 2.

For the Little Professor the problems and responses were presented using an LED display. In the case of spelling an LED display wouldn't work, the product would need to speak the word to be spelled and then allow the child to enter the spelling of the word. If the spelling was correct the next word would be introduced, if incorrect, the child would be told that it was wrong and allowed to try again. If the response was still incorrect a third time the word would be spelled correctly before moving on to the next word.

The Little Professor learning aid from Texas instruments circa 1976.
The Speak n Math learning aid from Texas Instruments, circa 1980.

There was another interesting concept being developed at TI called “Bubble Memories”. The idea was to store data using magnetic technology to create magnetic bubbles. Bubbles were created and then moved around a designated path using a magnetic field. As they came around the track, they could be read, destroyed or created. The benefit of magnetic bubbles was that they remained stable when the magnetic field was turned off. It was a new concept of a non-volatile memory. Other that the technical difficulties, there was one major issue – what could be done with these memories that couldn’t already be done? That is, what was the killer application that would drive the development. It was a technology looking for a problem to solve.

With this as a background, here is how the idea for the Speak N Spell evolved.

Evolving the idea

When it became apparent that the Little Professor math learning aid was going to be a success, a brainstorming session was called among many people in the corporation, including Jim Moore leader of the consumer calculator design team. Among the possibilities was a spelling learning aid. Other people in the session were looking for killer application(s) for another interesting concept being developed at TI called “Bubble Memories”. They thought it could be a good technology for the non-volatile memory needed to store the spelling lists in such a learning aid. As they continued to brainstorm about the spelling learning aid they came upon a stumbling block; how should the word to be spelled be presented? Several possibilities were discussed, but a suitable solution was not identified.

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, The speak n spell. OpenStax CNX. Jan 31, 2014 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11501/1.5
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