Don't Ask Computer Software's Software Automatic Mouth
Make Your Apple II or Atari Speak
When you search for Don’t Ask Computer Software, you don’t find a very much information about the history of the company. The company does have an entry on MobyGames, but that only lists three games published by the company. According to opencorporates, the company was incorporated in September of 1982. The company was founded by Randy Simon and Rachel Cullen. As of today, the company no longer exists.
Software Activated Mouth (or SAM) first appeared in the October 1982 issue of Antic magazine. SAM was a software based speech synthesizer for ATARI and Apple II systems. The ATARI version cost $59.95 and the Apple II version was $124.95, which much cheaper than other options that cost hundreds. According to a review in the November 1982 issue of Compute!, “Both are capable of startlingly human-like speech.” (Though I would disagree.)
The review states further that:
S.A.M. speaks with a definite accent, although the nationality is hard to place. To some it sounds somewhat Scandinavian, perhaps Swedish. Then again, it might be East European. At any rate, S.A.M. speaks English as if it were a second language. This is not intended as criticism; on the contrary, S.A.M. talks very brightly, enunciating words and syllables with a sense for inflection and accent that is quite amusing. Some syllables sound sort of thick or fuzzy (especially a "th"), as S.A.M. struggles to do with silicon chips what a person does with a tongue and palate.
You could use SAM to read text, but you could also use it to add sound to programs you wrote in BASIC. This what Compute! magazine had to say:
S.A.M. "boots" (automatically loads) from a copy-protected diskette. It is simpler to interface with your BASIC program, requiring only one setup statement, and two statements to "call" S.A.M. Remember, however, that you must always load the actual S.A.M. synthesizer from the special disk. The text-to-speech Reciter program is just as simple to use, but must be accessed from a separate disk you prepare.
Interestingly, the ATARI version of SAM blanked the screen when the voice was working because it gave it 15% more processing power. You could turn that off, but the sound quality would suffer.
Don't Ask Computer Software used SAM’s voice capabilities in a couple other programs including PokerSAM and Chatterbee. PokerSAM is fairly self-explanatory, but Chatterbee was an educational program that used the voice synthesizer to teach kids to spell and read.
If you are interested in learning more about SAM, check out this fascinating interview with the creator, Mark Barton. (Barton would go on to write Macintalk for the Macintosh.) Amazingly, someone reverse-engineered SAM in C for modern systems. You can also find a manual for the ATARI version here.
What computer ads would you like to see in the future? Please comment below. If you enjoyed, please share with your friends and relatives. Thank you.