Would E.T. Be Better Off With Zoom?


In the iconic movie E.T (1982), a memorable scene shows the alien rigging up a child's toy (Speak & Spell) with an umbrella, a record player and other paraphernalia to make a makeshift intergalactic communicator, while uttering the unforgettable line "E.T. phone home."

This moment demonstrates Spielberg’s genius, yet for the nerds among us, it also highlights a significant contribution to the evolution of modern speech synthesis technology. On June 11th, 1978 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a pretty neat piece of technology made its grand debut — the “Speak & Spell”, an educational toy capable of articulating words. It sparked a revolution in speech synthesis, reshaping the interface between technology and language learning.

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