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Glimpse of Stephen Hawking's Computer

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the long-live-dectalk dept.

Digital 146

kenekaplan writes "Intel application engineer Travis Bonifield has been working closely with Hawking to communicate with the world for a decade. He's traveled from the United States to England every few years to hand-deliver Hawking a customized PC. Bonifield talks about the technology that powers the customized system." Hawking's latest machine is a Thinkpad x220. Lately he's been trouble speaking due to weakened cheek muscles (down to one word per minute). New Scientist has a brief interview with Hawking's outgoing technician on the challenges he faced. It turns out Hawking is still using a DECtalk (despite some reports suggesting otherwise).

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146 comments

DECtalk (5, Funny)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38648966)

With a cat for scale. That's it, Wikipedia, we're through.

Re:DECtalk (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38649010)

You'd rather the cat be in a box?

Re:DECtalk (0)

chilvence (1210312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649054)

He'd rather the world be bereft of humour

Re:DECtalk (4, Funny)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649128)

Nice try, Schrodinger.

Re:DECtalk (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649262)

Please, there are kids reading this site!
There's no "cat" in a "box", it's a thinkpad! (*)

(*) keyboard may contain a nipple.

Re:DECtalk (3, Funny)

Rumagent (86695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649620)

Neither dead nor alive! it is undead I tell you! UNDEAD cats roam the land!!!

Re:DECtalk (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649088)

See I saw that and I thought you know from now on any time I need to show scale in a photo I think I'll use my cat

Re:DECtalk (1)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649136)

I wonder if DECTalk used Cat 1 [wikipedia.org] cable?

Re:DECtalk (2, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649184)

Humor. You don't have it.

Re:DECtalk (2)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649200)

According to the image description on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] it was a "convenient cat". Maybe the photographer forgot the ruler or whatever he originally meant to use for scale.

Re:DECtalk (5, Funny)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649226)

Without knowing whether it's an imperial or metric cat it's completely useless, though.

The real question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650532)

how many cats per library of congress?

Re:DECtalk (3, Funny)

slashmojo (818930) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651550)

Cats rule so it would have to be imperial.

Re:DECtalk (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649230)

Maybe the photographer forgot the ruler or whatever he originally meant to use for scale.

...or maybe he just thought it would be fun [wikipedia.org] .

Re:DECtalk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38649274)

Temperature scale that is - comfy for a cat to want to sit on.

Re:DECtalk (1)

Golddess (1361003) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650648)

I don't know.. that cat has a sort of "I'm only on here because someone off camera is in my way" look to it.

Re:DECtalk (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651290)

Actually, my experience tells me that he has claimed dibs. I also have a cat that will claim anything you place on the floor for catdom.

Re:DECtalk (1)

neokushan (932374) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649682)

Have you noticed that the cat in the picture has a penis on its face?

Re:DECtalk (2)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650546)

And a bunny on his back. Or India, depending on how you look at it.

Re:DECtalk (1)

willworkforbeer (924558) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649820)

It was supposed to be a Klatt for scale.

Re:DECtalk (4, Funny)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650040)

No, he's right- a cat makes a terrible scale. It only tells you if you're heavy enough to squish a cat.

Re:DECtalk (5, Funny)

nomoreunusednickname (1471615) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651740)

It only tells you if you're heavy enough to squish a cat.

I find it useful to determine if a room is large enough to swing a cat.

Re:DECtalk (2)

Peter Simpson (112887) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650286)

Nice to see a vestige of DEC still doing something useful. Perfect Paul is probably the only DEC employee who still has a job :-)

He identifies with the voice now (4, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#38648980)

So why the surprise that he still uses the DECTalk?

In this case if it is broke then someone probably will fix it.

Re:He identifies with the voice now (4, Insightful)

Nick Fel (1320709) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649026)

But I've never understood why the DECTalk voice can't be replicated in software. There must be someone capable and willing to do it for the publicity.

Re:He identifies with the voice now (4, Informative)

HyperDrive (985043) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649096)

MESS [mess.org] has preliminary support for emulating the DECTalk.

Re:He identifies with the voice now (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649178)

I read an article where he said he takes the robotic voice very personally, he regards it as his voice.

He's a geek so wants the real thing, not some stupid software emulation. What's the fun of a wheelchair if you can't strap loads of wires and circuit boards to it?

Re:He identifies with the voice now (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649602)

I read an article where he said he takes the robotic voice very personally, he regards it as his voice.

He's a geek so wants the real thing, not some stupid software emulation.

The first thing that instantly struck me is its rather like women and their rack. Some fraction love the idea of an upgrade, some hate the idea of an upgrade, but the feature that makes it most like the female chest situation is that Everybody Seems to Have A Strong Opinion about what upgrade strategy, if any, is best, and all the women I've talked to about that topic pretty much want all the folks with opinions one way or another to F off and when they want an opinion they'll darn well ask for it first.

The other interesting thing Ive not considered is the legal / financial / employment minefield of whoever is the "new voice of Hawking" is absolutely going to advertise that, and he might not be cool with getting into that whole scene. So on one hand he should get money, on the other hand he doesn't need money, on the other hand the money would be coming from his fellow sufferers so that would make him a jerk, on the other hand he could donate his endorsement money to a charity, but what if the device he signs the contract for sucks and he wants to switch back, but if he doesn't sign an endorsement contract he's basically pulling money out of a charity, I can see a guy just saying F-it forget about the whole topic now back to black hole thermodynamics.

The final part is /. and IT in general are populated by noobs who think nothing of upgrading because they've only been in the game 2 years so whats one upgrade during an entire lifetime? But he's pretty much in it for life, and I know from personal experience that when you can skip upgrade cycles, you're best off doing so if at all possible. Sometimes not possible. At work I do not scrap the old gear and spec out an entirely new amplifier line solely because one corporation released one new microwave RF transistor today (and someone will release another next week, repeat into the indefinite future). I can totally see the guy saying there is no point in upgrading every time something new is released and therefore living life as a perma-noob, especially if the performance gain is minor. I'm sure the world would rather have him thinking about physics than endlessly re-learning this months new synth release.

Re:He identifies with the voice now (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38649768)

Are women really that personal about their racks?

I just care if mine can handle my all the pieces of my computer and won't melt them while operating.

Re:He identifies with the voice now (0)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649808)

I can see a guy just saying F-it forget about the whole topic now back to black hole thermodynamics.

Why does everything have to go back to GOATSE with you people?

Re:He identifies with the voice now (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649658)

What's the fun of a wheelchair if you can't strap loads of wires and circuit boards to it?

Bashing in to people, then waiting for them to apologise. That must be a giggle.

Re:He identifies with the voice now (3, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649696)

Actually, that statement says nothing about whether he's a geek or not. It only states he does not want the voice changed; i.e. the audio coming out of some speaker. He says nothing about what hardware of software that should be used.
Judging from his attitude towards switching control mechanisms, I'd say he's anything but a nerd; he seems to prefer stability/reliability above all else. Logical, considering without controls, he's effectively a vegetable.

Re:He identifies with the voice now (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650626)

Yes it *could* be replaced with software. Probably sound exactly the same. However think about this.

You buy a bit of kit for say 4500 in 1980ish. It works does exactly what you want (it talks). You know exactly how to use it. It integrates into your system. It may have bugs but you know how to work around them. It is a sunk cost with both time and money.

Now lets upgrade.

You buy another bit of kit for say 500.. It works does exactly what you want (it talks). You need to relearn how to use it (probably). It may/may not integrate into your system (another dollar/time cost). It may have bugs to work out and you need to spend time working around the probably existing ones and any new ones (time cost). You end up with the exact same functionality at the end but at a higher time cost.

If it were me I would probably buy a couple of spares. Then just send them out to get fixed somewhere if they broke and do a swap if they do break.

Remember this is a person how types about 5-7 characters a minute in effect. So he is not going to want to be able to play the latest fps on his wheel chair. He is too busy typing! And if he wanted that he could get a laptop that does it, and still retain the existing functionality he has in an interface he understands perfectly. To this man time is his commodity. Not smaller/faster/cheaper. He is living as if he has 6 months to live. Also at nearly 70 he probably doesnt have much time left and doesnt want to spend that time farting around with some new computer. He doesnt care about the latest gizmos (like many people in their 70s, not saying all but many)... If he wanted a new computer he would have had it by now. He is being eminently practicable about the matter.

He probably thinks of it more as a wrench. You dont need a new wrench all the time. You only swap it out if you broke your previous one. Then you go buy one exactly like it as the last one lasted 30+ years... You just do not get that reliability out of newer stuff.

One word a minute (4, Insightful)

EponymousCustard (1442693) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649012)

And twitter users think they have problems with 140 characters.

At one word a minute, you get to really think about what you are gonna say.

Re:One word a minute (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649126)

It seems odd that there aren't some brain-computer interfaces that would allow better performance than that.

Re:One word a minute (5, Informative)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649154)

There are, but if you read the article, his problem is learning curve and the fact that if he's disconnected from the working machine and something is wrong, he can't call for help.

I really suggest reading the articles linked. They are far more interesting then average stuff you get on slashdot and it answers a lot of questions as to "why is he still using this dated stuff". Especially the part that notes that when someone pitching a new system is in the room, Hawking's talking speed goes up because of his competitiveness and stubbornness.

Re:One word a minute (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38649370)

"his problem is learning curve"

Far be it from me to judge the one word per minute arguments against it sir, but I am afraid I have to dispute. A brilliant theoretical physicist cannot learn a new (arguably easier) technology over a ten year period, yet alone flourish? I guess with all the new science discovered there was barely time enough for the old.

This whole piece smacks of Intel PR - to quote 'Gordon noted that Stephen was using an AMD machine. Gordon asked Stephen, "Would you like to use an Intel computer moving forward? We'd be happy to build that for you and support it." Stephen said yes, and we've been building these custom PCs for him ever since.'

A very smart guy whom could average a few words a minute jumped at the concept of switching architectures on the suggestion of an industry shill at a conference?

Icing on the cake: 'We found out that when you turn on the computer, it's supposed to basically come up with all his applications and programs and his Words+ speech synthesizer software right from the get-go. But what we were finding out is that it would start all those applications so fast that it didn't have time to initialize the hardware devices yet.

So his voice application would be started, but the security key for the voice application wouldn't be initialized yet. We actually had to put some startup delays in and make it wait 5 seconds so that the hardware devices could finish being initialized by the time the CPU started running all those applications.'

So the fidelity of one word per minute was affected by a (presumably rare) boot time of n+5s - all while said guy was knowingly aware not to utter anything of immutable import because of the number o technicians standing around him plugging in wires? I'm sorry /., but at least try and disguise the industry PR articles under something thicker than the thinnest layer of bullshit.

Re:One word a minute (5, Funny)

Noughmad (1044096) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650018)

A brilliant theoretical physicist cannot learn a new (arguably easier) technology over a ten year period, yet alone flourish?

Have you ever seen a professor trying to turn on a projector?

Re:One word a minute (5, Informative)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650660)

Funny my ass dear mods. That's about as informative as it will ever get on slashdot!

Re:One word a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651148)

If it makes you feel any better, you got my last 'informative' mod :)

Re:One word a minute (4, Insightful)

ajo_arctus (1215290) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651412)

A very smart guy whom could average a few words a minute jumped at the concept of switching architectures on the suggestion of an industry shill at a conference?

What? You appear to have read the article but completely missed some really important pieces of the puzzle. Here,

Stephen and Gordon met at a conference around 1997. Gordon noted that Stephen was using an AMD machine. Gordon asked Stephen, "Would you like to use an Intel computer moving forward? We'd be happy to build that for you and support it."

The article makes it very clear that the Gordon in that sentence is Gordon Moore. You know, of Moore's law fame. One of the guys who started Intel the first place. Calling Moore an industry Shill is like saying Gates shilled for Microsoft or Jobs shilled for Apple.

The article is just some guy's anecdote. Don't get so worked up.

Re:One word a minute (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651776)

the concept of switching architectures

AMD and intel have the same instruction set architectures. Yeah the internal microarchitecture is different but then that is also true of different generations from the same vendor and it doesm't really matter for the user.

jumped at the concept of switching architectures on the suggestion of an industry shill at a conference?

It sounds like intel offered to give him a new* and better computer do the work of upgrading him to said better computer (which is probablly quite considerable given the system built for him arround it) and then support that computer afterwards for free. I'm not surprised he took the offer.

*Afaict laptops that are carted arround all the time have a finite lifetime so in an application like this you probablly do want to replace the laptop every so often.

Re:One word a minute (1)

XrayJunkie (2437814) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649758)

lol, rofl, omg, ...

Re:One word a minute (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651062)

You, sir, just wasted three minutes of my life!

Re:One word a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38649870)

Imagine making a mistake or being misunderstood. Backtracking must be a nightmare. "That's not what I meant!" is 5 minutes gone just there.

Re:One word a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650164)

He does have a library of pre-programmed sentences he can select from. While "that's not what I meant" may not be the most referenced of said list, it'd still be just a minute for the most common of phrases.

DecTalk is a warhorse (5, Insightful)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649024)

Why the Dectalk hate? It served the world well for many many years and will for a lot longer than most people think.

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (2)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649076)

What hate? I don't see any hate. Nobody has posted anything negative about DECTalk. I don't think asking why someone uses a 30 year old electronic device when newer and therefore likely more capable options exist is hate. Actually I'd be really interested to hear some reasons. Are the technical considerations as well as peference here? Does DECTalk posses some unique quality that is not easily replicated?

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (5, Insightful)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649120)

Maybe he want to keep using it as it is now *his* voice. Beyond any technical issue, that bit of kit is synonymous with him and he doesn't want it replaced upgraded or changed.

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649122)

He regards it as HIS voice.

Would you want somebody to replace your voice with 'something a bit more more modern'?

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (5, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649304)

I could totally see Hawking with the voice of HAL 9000.

Student: What if I integrate this term on the left here?

Hawking: I'm afraid you can't do that, Dave.

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649344)

He regards it as HIS voice.

Would you want somebody to replace your voice with 'something a bit more more modern'?

If it allows me to communicate at a significantly higher speed than earlier, then maybe.

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649550)

Oh hell yes,

I want http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zapp_Brannigan [wikipedia.org] as my voice.

Or to sound like the movie phone guy all the time.

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651806)

Or Don LaFontaine. Although you'd have to preface everything with, "In a world..."

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649840)

There are three parts to the system, the controller (which has changed several times as his ALS has progressed), the interface which he is used to and can operate easily, and does much more than speech (it controls the chair, his home, Voip phone etc...) and the speech synthesiser which seems to be in two parts (software which is up to date, and the voice generator which is still the old hardware)

Updating the speech synth is impossible without changing the voice

the interface software is old, but he is used to it and it is fast enough ...

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650414)

Would you want somebody to replace your voice with 'something a bit more more modern'?

Yes, please.

Wrong question (5, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649134)

"asking why someone uses a 30 year old electronic device when newer and therefore likely more capable options exist"

You should be asking - why someone WOULDN'T use a 30 year old device when it does everything they need it to do. Not everyone thinks upgrading for the sake of it is a worthwhile pursuit especially if its as critical as your only means to communicate.

Re:Wrong question (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649552)

From my experience.. the 30 year old device is built better, higher quality and will continue to operate for another 50 years. Unlike the utter crap that is available today that you will be lucky to keep working for 5 years.

Re:Wrong question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650516)

let's compare your sony walkman to my ipod flash. we'll both throw them up in the air and have them hit the concrete and see which still works? keep your stupid ill thought generalizations to yourself please.

Re:Wrong question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650884)

Sounds like a plan. your cracked screen = broken.

the walkman WILL continue to work.

Keep your low IQ to yourself please.

Re:Wrong question (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651856)

Maybe that's because the utterly crap devices from thirty years ago haven't survived.

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38649146)

I just heard a podcast the other day, NPR's "Fresh Air", with author Kitty Ferguson about her new Stephen Hawking biography, "An Unfettered Mind". She supposedly spent a lot of personal time with him writing this book and says that it's mainly him being resistant to change, and insisting on not being helped during conversation, for example. One word per minute seems awful limiting, as does having to have someone push you everywhere in your wheelchair, which he had to do after being reduced to the one cheek muscle... It seems he would be a lot better off with some new type of interface, gaze tracking perhaps? But, she says he is totally resistant to even attempting anything new.

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (2)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649856)

You know I think we are forgetting that the guy is 70! What guy that age is happy about anything new.

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650770)

Duh, the recently divorced who want some arm candy, that's who.

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (5, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649162)

Does DECTalk posses some unique quality that is not easily replicated?

It is Hawkings voice.

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (1)

semi-extrinsic (1997002) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649186)

According to the Wikipedia article linked, he identifies with its "voice", having used it for over 20 years. I can understand that, I would certainly be uncomfortable with an "upgrade" changing my voice to someone else's. Of course you could replicate the voice in a new machine, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it, I guess.

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (5, Interesting)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649206)

Someone found recordings of his original voice and offered to build a voice around this, but Hawking said that he did not even recognise it as his own voice anymore ...

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (3, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649242)

There's a company in Edinburgh that's doing the same thing with Roger Ebert, drawing on the large body of recordings of his voice. Wonder if it's the same one.

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650452)

It isn't a new thing. People have been using voice samples for speech synthesis for years now. It sounds more natural. The only new-ish thing here is getting those samples from recordings of normal speech rather than a dedicated session in a sound booth.

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (2)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651130)

The novelty in this case is that they're offering Ebert's voice to Ebert as a prosthesis.

Same for everyone with recordings of their voice (4, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649326)

None of us really recognise our recorded voice as our own even though we know it is so I guess thats not much of a surprise especially given that 30 years has passed in his case too. I'd be interested to know what Hawkings internal voice in his head sounds like - is it his original voice or is it his speech synthesizer?

Re:DecTalk is a warhorse (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649542)

the DEC talk is easily replicated. AT&T 's voice project has a version that sounds identical to a DEC talk.

It's called, when you have a genius that wants what he wants, you give him what he wants.

Typo in summary (4, Funny)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649264)

Lately he's been trouble speaking due to weakened cheek muscles (down to one word per minute).

I see Slashdot's come up with a simple solution that just involves skipping words that don't seem necessary :)

Re:Typo in summary (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649350)

Slashdot's ultimate goal is to have every summary be one word. It's a tribute to Hawking.

Re:Typo in summary (2)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650466)

Tommorows headlines:
Politics
Microsoft
iPad
China
Nuclear
Cat

Arguments in comment threads will continue much as they have, since few people read even the summary before wading into the flamewars. The only complaint they'll have tomorrow is not knowing whether to argue about nuclear power, or nuclear weapons, in the "Nuclear" story.

Re:Typo in summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38649842)

I see Slashdot's come up with a simple solution that just involves skipping words that don't seem necessary :)

Since I'm in Canada, and have to deal with the stupid-ass data caps, I appreciate the effort of Slashdot to save on my monthly bit allowance.

Re:Typo in summary (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651490)

They accidentally the verb.

Hawking's New Customized PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38649354)

Oh, look, it's just a clunky Lenovo laptop. Big whoop.

The most profound mystery in the Universe is ... (5, Interesting)

Framboise (521772) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649380)

From the Telegraph link, we happily learn:

In an interview with the New Scientist magazine to mark his 70th birthday on Sunday, January 8, he was asked: "What do you think most about during the day?" to which he replied: "Women. They are a complete mystery."

Re:The most profound mystery in the Universe is .. (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649702)

This opens up a million (bad) quantum mechanics Heisenberg Uncertainty principle jokes.
Women, either you're drunk, or they don't make any sense, never both at the same time (which is closer to a pauli exclusionary principle joke I guess)
or
something to do with their emotional state being an unknown quantity until the wavefunction collapses?

In Hawkings honor, any black hole thermodynamics jokes? I'm thinking something along the lines of every time a male makes a mistake that information never escapes past the female event horizon, or make something weird (even for me) involving sex, virtual particle emission, and childbirth?

As a closely related issue, everyone is aware that there exists "nerdy hiphop rap". But does anyone know of "nerdy stand up comedy"? Clearly this post shows I'm not cut out to blaze a trail thru that new genre, but the non-internet equivalent of /. +1 funny mod must exist for some sorta technical stand up comedian? I just want to hear someone say the F word 6 times per minute while saying something funny about microsoft, to laughing drunks, or something like that. The closest I can think of is some podcasts like "the phone show" by the PLA, but thats not quite it.

Re:The most profound mystery in the Universe is .. (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650386)

The only nerd comedian I can think of at the moment is Dan Telfer, but I'm sure there are more.

Re:The most profound mystery in the Universe is .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650942)

Hmm... MC Chris, one of the "nerdcore" rappers, does standup lite at his shows. It's been about 4 years since I went to his show, but IIRC maybe a quarter of the whole show was comedy. He's like nerdcore for non-nerds though. Or a different type of nerd than the Slashdot nerd. I recall him going on and on with references to a movie called Goonies, which I have never seen and have barely heard of.

DEC flags (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649388)

Why does this story have the digital flag on it? Yeah, it involves DECTalk, but that's all it takes to make it about DEC? Had the story been DEC centric and about various DEC technologies, such as VAX, OpenVMS, Alpha, DECNET, Clustering or PDP, then I'd agree, and there could be an interesting (depending on one's POV) discussion about it. But since none of that is involved here, except DECTalk, how does that alone make this a story about DEC?

Re:DEC flags (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649644)

your alternative is what, put the Apple flag on it?

Re:DEC flags (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649770)

No, given what the story was, use whatever flags are used for Science, Thinkpad or Hardware. Preferably the first 2. Not Digital or Intel - the technologies that he uses aren't Intel-centric either, such as Paragon or Itanium. Simply using an off the shelf laptop like Thinkpad doesn't by itself make it an Intel story.

What about Dasher with eye control? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38649412)

I have often wondered whether Hawkins has ever tried using dasher.

http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/dasher/

Occurs to me it is ideal for people with very little or no physical mobility

http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/dasher/SpecialNeeds.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0d6yIquOKQ0

Just a thought....

Re:What about Dasher with eye control? (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649814)

As I understand it, Hawking is limited to a single muscle effectively acting as a boolean switch.
Dasher, cool as it may be, requires more interaction than that.
I've tried Dasher years ago; the speed you can achieve is suprisingly high with a very short learning curve. Though I've never seen a practical application of it; it seems more like a proof-of-concept than an actual usable product.

US Customs, TSA (2)

Tokolosh (1256448) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649634)

What does he do when US Customs decides to take his computer for a year of analysis? How the hell does he get by the TSA? Or is he just one of many influential people who avoid traveling to the USA?

Re:US Customs, TSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38649780)

Or he is smart enough to overnight it via UPS.

Re:US Customs, TSA (1)

Flipstylee (1932884) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649858)

What does he do when US Customs decides to take his computer for a year of analysis? How the hell does he get by the TSA? Or is he just one of many influential people who avoid traveling to the USA?

Considering who he is, he could probably go about anywhere provided he is physically able,
and, i seem to remember an article here in the past few days of him floating in a space sim of some sort.

Usually this executive treatment in society sincerely pisses me off, but all things considered, provided
he doesn't go senile in his old age, i can't say i mind it.

My opinion.

Re:US Customs, TSA (2)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 2 years ago | (#38649904)

What does he do when US Customs decides to take his computer for a year of analysis? How the hell does he get by the TSA? Or is he just one of many influential people who avoid traveling to the USA?

They think he is their robotic overlord.

Re:US Customs, TSA (1)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650122)

Isn't it attached to his wheelchair? They would have to take both. I could just see them (stereotypical TSA goons) wheeling him to the curb on a rental luggage cart, then dumping him next to the bus lane for the 25 cent refund. Have they done that to anyone yet?

Re:US Customs, TSA (3, Insightful)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650964)

Simple - don't fly on the mass transit passenger planes.. Private charter planes do not have to go through TSA check points.. So the real rich and government guys never even experience it..

Another grammer adventure... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38649724)

"Lately he's been trouble speaking" yes maybe he should keep his mouth shut.

Speechfx still makes DECtalk RT available (1)

ccandreva (409807) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650358)

The article says the company that made the synth is out of business, yet the wikipedia entry for DECtalk links to the company that owns the rights, and it looks like they still make an RT available for linux:
http://www.speechfxinc.com/dectalk_linux.php [speechfxinc.com]

Three stories... (1)

Vary Krishna (885632) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651016)

...about Stephen Hawking's personal life in two [slashdot.org] weeks [slashdot.org] . Not that he isn't a fascinating man, but with this much coverage I have to wonder if he's hired a new PR guy or something...

Re:Three stories... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651456)

might be because hes turning 70..

go4t (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651734)

The systemv clean woul3 you like to
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