Computer chip maker Intel said on the occasion of Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday that they were going to try to help him regain the power of speech.
Physicist Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known as Lou Gehrig‘s Disease — when he was in his early 20s. He wasn’t expected to live very long, but he just celebrated his 70th birthday on 8 January 2012. That is, he didn’t celebrate his birthday, because he wasn’t quite healthy enough.
But others celebrated it, and that’s when it was revealed that Intel was working on “a research project” to see if they can help Hawking with his speech. You see, Hawking got pneumonia in 1985, and that resulted in a trachaeotomy and the loss of his speech. Already confined to a wheelchair, he’s been able to speak only with the assistance of a computerized voice machine.
Intel provided him the software he uses (and they also provided his internet link from his wheelchair). As Hawking’s body has deteriorated, his speech, which is driven by the movements of facial muscles, has slowed to about “a word a minute.”
Good luck, Intel, and happy birthday, Dr. Hawking. I still have your book A Brief History of Time, and, like everyone else who bought it, never finished it. But don’t tell anyone!
You can read the Who2 biography of Stephen Hawking here.