How to Use
- Turn on audio in the upper-left. Otherwise, captions will be shown.
- Use keyboard to type a letter A through D to select the difficulty level.
- Click "Go" to start the Spell It game. Spell the word, then press Enter (or click the up-arrow button in the lower right). After ten words your score will be given.
- The "ON" button takes you back to the main screen.
- Keyboard input is not captured if an element is focused. Each time a button is clicked, the element is automatically un-focused to allow keyboard capture again.
- "?" button: Mystery Word game (hangman). Ask for hints with the "_" button.
- Keyhole button: cypher and decypher text.
- "#" button: switch between modules and built-in words.
2020-09-30: Added the "Basic Builders" module! Also, UI to control module slot.
2020-05-15: Added module toggle announcement. Fixed overlap issues with sound toggle button. "Basic Builders" module is almost ready to be added: only missing level "D".
2019-11-1: Added "Say It" button and mode. Added "Letter" button which places a random letter on the screen and places you in "Secret Code" mode. Added images for all buttons.
Creation and Evolution
The image of the Speak & Spell on this page was the original inspiration for the project. I found myself looking at one of the patents hoping for clues which would help me to produce a "circuit bent" version of one of my Texas Instruments toys. I have not only my childhood Speak & Spell, but also a Speak & Math ("you've got my number!") and a Speak & Read. The Speak & Read being my least favorite and therefore most sacrificial, I had opened it up and was systematically connecting each pair of points on the circuit hoping for some cool effects. I have always wished to know more about electronics, and my level of knowledge and equipment did not afford me any more sophisticated techniques. That project never went anywhere, but when I saw the image of the Speak & Spell from the patent application, I knew I had a fun idea for reworking my ugly duckling of a programmer's website. Now, I can say with reasonable confidence that it is the only non-Flash online Speak & Spell, as well as the most faithful to the original!
It was not until I found Furrtek's page about creating a custom module for the Speak & Spell that I realized that the order of the words given in the "Spell It" mode might be deterministic. His mention of the RSCRAM routine sent me off into the code from the patent (the source code is more easily readable there than in the earlier US4189779A) as well as his linked page about the TMS1000 opcodes.
After reading the opcodes in the RSCRAM routine, it was clear that relative to whatever random word was selected as the start of the ten-word sequence, the words were actually used in the following sequence of indexes: 6, 7, 5, 8, 9, 2, 0, 1, 3, 4. To my delight, my Speak and Spell exhibited this behavior experimentally. Therefore, I set out to determine the real underlying word order so that I could produce a more accurate simulation. I started by running through up to ten games of "Spell It" in order to determine the full order of words for a certain level. Later, I was able to strategically select 5-6 games to achieve the same result. In this time-consuming way, I eventually determined the underlying order of the build-in word lists as well as those in the "Noun Endings" module.
Here's a cool party trick which will earn you points with your fellow nerds: enter the first word of your "Spell It" session. If my simulator knows the word, it will output the full sequence of words that will come next (sometimes a word appears in the list twice, so there are two possible sequences). You'll look like a regular Nostradamus.
Simulator or Emulator
That, and it's already been figured out, though the voice synthesis seems a bit off: Speak & Spell emulator in browser on archive.org via MAME compiled to WASM with Emscripten. At least, I think that's how they did it.
My Speak & Spell
My trusty, reliable Speak & Spell is a USA version with membrane keyboard and gold "Texas Instruments" lettering in the lower right of the display, indicating that it is a Type 2 model manufactured some time between 1980 and 1986. It is serial number LTA2884.