Flashback Friday: Speak & Spell

A long, long time ago in a blog post far, far away, I once told you about my very first computer. It was a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A console on which I first learned to type, to program, to Hunt the Wumpus.

No, that’s not a euphemism.

However, it was a different Texas Instrument that taught me how to spell:

This might possibly win the prize for sexiest use of primary-colored plastic (plus orange) known to man. Everything about the Speak & Spell was awesome: educational, fun, portable, relatively low-key, and not all that obnoxious…the perfect toy for an introverted only child with parents who liked to take long drives all along the East Coast. I’d settle in to the squeaky, sticky pleather of our Chevette’s back seat and wile away the hours and the miles, tapping out words on the alphabetically arranged raised buttons (this damned toy screwed me up for the longest time when I finally started trying to type…QWERTY? WTF is QWERTY?). Is it any wonder that I ended up always being in the annual spelling competitions during elementary school? Just think, if I’d gone to a public school, I might have made it all the way to the national spelling bee. I coulda been a contender!

Later iterations of the Speak & Spell came with pressure-sensitive flat panels rather than the raised buttons. I never liked those versions. I also never liked the Speak & Read or the Speak & Math. Speak & Math? More like Cruel & Unusual. Although perhaps if my parents had given me a Speak & Math rather than a Speak & Spell, I’d be a CSI now rather than a word nerd. Who knew that a toy could have such power over my destiny.

Yeah. And maybe if they’d given me Barbie instead of my talking K.I.T.T., I’d be Miss Freakin’ Congeniality right now. Thank the prophets for K.I.T.T. and Speak & Spell…that’s all I’m saying.

You know I still have my Speak & Spell, right? And it still works, still speaks in its groovy male computer voice. Still rewards me for correctly spelled words with its happy little digitized tune…still chastises failed spelling attempts with, “No! Try again.” Strangely enough, I don’t ever remember typing in naughty words when I was little. Weird, huh? That didn’t start until I got my hands on Dr. SBAITSO. But that’s for a completely different Flashback Friday…