Roger Ebert Home

Paul Lynde


Rabbit Test (1978)

Blog Posts

Roger Ebert

Finding my own voice

Computers can do just about everything these days, from running airplanes to carrying out labyrinthine mathematical calculations. It would seem to be such a simple thing I am asking. I would like a computer to provide me with my own voice. Many people have suggested this: "Why don't you get someone to take tapes of your speaking voice and create a voice you can use with your computer?" They make it sound so simple. They look like they've had a brilliant idea. But it is not so simple.

Two years ago, I was told by helpful computer wizards at the National Center for Supercomputer Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana that such a thing was possible. There is even a company in Urbana that creates computer voices. But it appears it might cost me a small fortune to have one custom-created for me. Wouldn't you think the same technology could be applied to create many voices? Apparently that's not so easy.

Soon after my second surgery, when it became apparent I wouldn't be able to speak, I of course started writing notes. This got the message across, but was too time-consuming for communications of any length. And notes were unbearably frustrating for a facile speaker like me, accustomed to dancing with the flow of the conversation. There is a point when a zinger is perfectly timed, and a point when it is pointless.