The Speak N Spell learning aid functioned much like a parent preparing a student for a spelling quiz. It would say the word, allow the pressing of keys labeled with the alphabet to spell out the word, then report on the result of the effort.
An outgrowth of Texas Instrument’s basic research in synthetic speech, the product was designed to help children seven and up learn how to spell and pronounce more than 200 commonly misspelled words. Solid State Speech™ was an entirely new concept which stored words in a solid-state memory much like a calculator stores numbers.
Speak N Spell employed an entirely new concept in speech reproduction. Unlike tape recorders and pull-string phonograph records used then in many “speaking” toys, the Solid State Speech circuitry had no moving parts. When it was told to say something, it drew a word from memory, processed it through an integrated circuit model of a human vocal tract and then spoke electronically. In its main mode of operation, Speak N Spell randomly selected a word and pronounced it in standard American English. A child pressed the unit’s alphabetic keys to spell the word, which appeared, letter by letter, on an eight-character display screen. Right answers earned verbal and visual praise; wrong answers received patient encouragement to try again. A number of games were offered to intrigue children of all ages.