Category : Music and Digitized Voice
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Filename : SYNINFO.DOC

 
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This is a brief description of the speech synthesizers supported by
Tinytalk along with manufacturer contact information. This is not intended
to be an evaluation and no endorsements are implied by these descriptions.
Prices aren't listed because they can change rapidly; contact the
appropriate manufacturer for pricing.

Synthesizers can be internal or external and "smart" or "dumb." Internal
synthesizers plug directly into the computer's slots; some are designed for
standard slots such as those on desktop or high-end laptop computers, while
others are designed for specific laptops. External synthesizers use either
serial or parallel ports to connect to the computer.

All synthesizers speak using a two-step process: they translate text into
phonetics and then pronounce the phonetics. "Smart" synthesizers contain
circuits that do both, whereas "dumb" synthesizers use the computer itself
to do the text-to-phonetics translation with a software driver. External
synthesizers are always smart; internals can be either smart or dumb.
Smart synthesizers usually cost more because they need to contain a small
computer of their own; dumb synthesizers usually require more memory to
hold the software driver and slow the computer down a bit (this isn't a
problem except when the computer is running multiple programs or receiving
fast-paced data).

Some synthesizers support "indexing" which means that the speech program
can find out how much of the text sent to the synthesizer has been spoken.
This information is needed in order for the speech program to let the user
pick up where he/she left off during continuous reading functions, or to
highlight text as it's spoken.

ACCENT
Aicom Corporation
1590 Oakland Rd., Suite B112
San Jose, CA 95131
(408)453-8251

This line of synthesizers includes the Accent SA (external), Accent PC
(internal, standard slot, smart), Accent Mini (internal, standard slot,
dumb) and several laptop-specific internal dumb boards. All of them are
based on the SSI263 chip and support indexing.

ASP
Automated Functions, Inc.
6424 N. 28th Street
Arlington, VA 22207
(703)536-7741

This is a dumb internal board for Toshiba laptops. It uses the SSI263
chip and does not support indexing.

AUDAPTER
Personal Data Systems, Inc.
100 West Rincon Ave., Suite 103
P.O. Box 1008
Campbell, CA 95009
(408)866-1126

This is an external unit based on a proprietary digital signal
processor. A battery-operated version is available. It supports indexing.

BG MICRO COMPUTALKER
BG Micro
P.O. Box 280298
Dallas, TX 75228
(214)271-5546

This unit is an internal smart card, but uses its slot for power only; it
needs to be connected to a serial port (an external power supply is
available from the manufacturer, which avoids the need for a slot; however,
you then have a bare board with no case). It speaks at a rather slow fixed
rate, has no settable parameters and does not support indexing. It uses
the General Instruments chip set (CTS256 and SP0256). It costs
significantly less than the other synthesizers described here.

BRAILLE 'N' SPEAK
Blazie Engineering
109 E. Jarrettsville Rd.
Forest Hill, MD 21050
(410)893-9333

This is a dedicated-function battery-operated portable computer which can
be used as an external synthesizer. It can emulate the Echo PC, though the
speech sounds different since it uses the SSI263 chip. Newer models have a
native emulation mode which provides more speed control and better
handshaking. It has some indexing features (not currently supported by
Tinytalk).

DECTALK
Digital Equipment Corporation
146 Main Street
Maynard, MA 01754
(800)832-6277

The original Dectalk, now discontinued, was an external unit based on a
proprietary digital signal processor. It generated very human-sounding
speech, but was slow to shut up and did not support indexing.

A new smart standard-slot internal Dectalk board is now available from
Digital. It is not currently supported by Tinytalk.

DOUBLETALK PC
RC Systems, Inc.
121 W. Winesap Rd.
Bothell, WA 98012
(206)672-6909

This is an internal standard-slot smart board using a proprietary
architecture. Newer models support indexing.

DOUBLETALK LT
RC Systems, Inc.

This is an external version of the Doubletalk PC. It supports indexing and
can be operated on batteries.

ECHO GP/PC
Echo Speech Technology (formerly Street Electronics)
6420 Via Real
Carpinteria, CA 93013
(805)684-4593

There are two models of the Echo PC. The older one (also known as the Echo
GP) is an external unit based on the TMS5220 chip. It has only two speeds,
does not support indexing and squeaks when a program flushes the speech
buffer. It was discontinued in 1990. The newer model (introduced in mid-
1992) has a much greater speed range and better responsiveness, eliminates
the shutup squeak, supports indexing and can be operated on batteries.

ECHO PCII
Echo Speech Technology

This is an internal dumb board based on a more recent TI LPC design. It
provides more parameter control than the original Echo PC, but the speech
quality is not as good. It supports indexing.

LAPTALK
Computersmith
115 N. Keats
Louisville, KY 40206
(502)893-7310

This is an external battery-operated unit based on an OEM speech board from
RC Systems (speech is identical to the Doubletalk PC). This should not be
confused with the Laptalker from Automated Functions, which is a laptop
with a pre-installed ASP board. It is not currently in production.

LITETALK
Microtalk
337 S. Peterson
Louisville, KY 40206
(502)897-2705

This is almost identical to the Laptalk, and is in current production. It
provides both serial and parallel interfaces and has a built-in
rechargeable battery. Newer models support indexing.

PSS
Votrax Inc.
24027 Research Drive
Harmington Hills, MI 48335
(313)442-0900

This is an external unit based on the SC01 chip. It comes in two models, A
and B (B is apparently the current version) which differ primarily in the
available speech rates. It does not support indexing.

SOUNDBLASTER
Creative Labs, Inc.
2050 Duane Ave.
Santa Clara, CA 95054
(408)986-1461

This is an internal multimedia sound card which uses a proprietary digital
signal processor to provide digitized speech playback, multi-voice music
and a MIDI interface for musical instruments. It is supplied with a
version of SmoothTalker, a text-to-speech driver manufactured by First
Byte. SoundBlaster clones exist, but not all of them include SmoothTalker,
which is necessary for speech synthesis. Unless your computer has expanded
(EMS) memory, SmoothTalker will require about 180K of main memory. It may
not run well on slow XT-class machines. SmoothTalker is rather processor-
intensive; it may interfere with telecommunications if you're trying to
listen to the output at the same time. It supports indexing, although use
of indexing may cause pauses between words.

SOUNDINGBOARD
GW Micro
310 Racquet Drive
Fort Wayne, IN 46825
(219)483-3625

This an internal board based on the SSI263 chip. It is available in both
standard and laptop versions. Although a dumb board, it includes onboard
memory to hold its software driver which has a number of unusual features
such as the ability to "fast-forward" or "rewind" through the spoken text.
It does not support indexing.

SPEAKEASY

Chip Orange
3227 Rain Valley Court
Tallahassee, FL 32308
(904)487-2680

This is an external synthesizer based on an Amiga 500 computer. It can
emulate either a Dectalk or a Votrax PSS. Since the translation and
pronunciation software is supplied on disk, the manufacturer can update the
unit without requiring it to be sent in. As far as we know, it does not
support indexing.

SPEECH THING
Covox, Inc.
675 Conger Street
Eugene, OR 97402
(503)342-1271

This is a digital-to-analog converter module that connects to a parallel
port. It is supplied with SmoothTalker, which provides text-to-speech
capability. See the entry for the SoundBlaster for limitations. It
supports indexing.

SYNPHONIX

Artic Technologies
55 Park Street, Suite 2
Troy, MI 48083
(313)588-7370

This is a line of internal dumb boards (both standard and laptop) based on
the SSI263 chip. Earlier models didn't talk well on fast computers. Newer
models don't have this problem, but the Sonix software driver (required for
Tinytalk) which was bundled with the earlier boards is now an extra-cost
item for some models. It does not support indexing.

TYPE & TALK
Votrax Inc. (see above)

This is an external unit based on the SC01 chip. It was one of the first
synthesizers available for personal computers. Its speech settings cannot
be changed under software control, pitch and rate are not independent and
it sometimes mispronounces words after the buffer is flushed. It does not
support indexing.

VOTALKER

Votrax Inc. (see above)

This is an internal standard-slot dumb board based on the SSI263 chip. It
is no longer in production. It uses the Sonix software driver (also used
by the Synphonix boards) and does not support indexing.