Apr 16, 2018
Mike Matthews, Alien Group Voice Box
That voice you just heard in an Alien Group Voice Box II
connected to an Atari 800.
Voice Box was a external speech synthesizer box for the Atari
400 and 800. Voice Box, and its successor Voice Box II, was
marketed by "The Alien Group" starting in July 1982. The device
used the Votrax SC-01A speech synthesizer chip to add speech and
singing to the Atari. Versions were also available for the
Commodore 64 and Apple II computers.
The Alien Group was actually an offshoot of Electro-Harmonix.
was founded by
rhythm and blues keyboard player Mike Matthews in 1968. The company
is still is business today, and is well-regarded for its guitar
pedals and other musicians' gear.
For more background on The Alien Group and Voice Box, I
recommend reading Bill Lange's blog post "Atari
Says Its First Word
This interview with Mike Matthews took place on November 13,
One more thing: I talked with Scott Matthews, Mike's son. He
told me in email:
"My first big software project was for my dad, when I was
about 13. What I wrote was an Atari BASIC function that would take
a number as input, and would output the phonetic equivalent of that
number. The idea was that other people -- who wanted to write
applications that would speak a number -- could use the function to
convert application-generated numbers to a speakable string."
Scott also doesn't remember who, if anyone, won the $5000
contest for best talking software.