Speech! (Superior) Review | Commodore User - Everygamegoing

Commodore User

By Superior
Commodore 64

Published in Commodore User #36


It's not news that you can get your C64 to talk to you. But most of the speech synthesisers around are cartridge-based and expensive. Speech! from Superior Software is different. It's an all software speech synthesizer package. It costs a mere tenner and it has to be heard to be believed.

All the sounds used to simulate human speech are generated by carefully manipulating the C64's SID chip, no extra hardware obviously means it's cheaper, hence the non-fatal price tag.

As well as the actual speech program, there are three other programs included in the package: Demo, Spell and Sayfile.

Demo is just that, a very simple demonstration of what Speech! is capable of. Spell is a spelling tutor obviously designed with the tiny tots (and our editor) in mind, while Sayfile is a utility that will speak any intelligible text from a file. The latter was badly written in Basic, and couldn't cope with capital letters!

Once loaded, Speech! is a joy to use. Four new commands are added to the Basic language: SAY, SPEAK, PITCH and LIGHT. All you need to do is type in *SAY "HELLO, HOW ARE YOU?".

The interpreter will obviously have trouble with some words. ('FRIDAY' would be pronounced 'Freeday') so you can use the *SPEAK command to enter words phonetically. The phonetic language is made up of 49 different sounds (called phonemes), each represented by one, two or three characters. For example: 'Commodore' would be spelt 'Komahdoa'. To add realism, you can add emphasis to each phoneme by placing a number from zero to nine after it, altering its pitch.

The *PITCH command can be used to shift the pitch of all the sounds. *PITCH "A" will give the highest pitch (a sort of Mickey Mouse sound), while *PITCH "Z" produces a deep baritone.

Normally, while Speech! is actually talking, the screen is blanked to the border colour, but you can override this using the *LIGHT command. The screen remains visible, but the quality of the speech suffers considerably. Using *OFF will cause the screen to be blanked again while the program is talking.

To use Speech! in your own programs, you will first have to transfe r the program onto your own media. This is straight-forward enough as the software is unprotected. Once that is out of the way, all you need to do is use the *SAY command like a PRINT statement, using direct text or variables. The following simple example will ask for your name and say 'hello' to you:



Fred Reid

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