SHARPER IMAGE DESIGN TALKING CHESS COMPANION Electronic Chess Computer
Picture taken from Sharper Image Talking Chess Companion computer.
IT’S YOU AGAINST THE COMPUTER! 345 PHRASES TO COACH, TEACH, AMUSE AND ABUSE YOU!
Hegener+Glaser AG M50743 Processing chip.
Picture taken from Sharper Image Talking Chess Companion computer board.
ABOUT SHARPER IMAGE TALKING CHESS COMPANION MODEL SM 470
The chess program was written by Dan and Kathe Spracklen, with modification and enhancements made by Ron Nelson to suit the build of the computer. The Sharper Image Talking Chess Companion speech technology, the software implementation, computer design and build are attributed to Ron Nelson. The same speech technology is also used in all Fidelity Chesster and Kishon computers as well as the Sharper Image Talking Chess Companion and Radio Shack Talking Chess Tutor.
The idea for a new voice computer started in 1989 when as quoted by Ron Nelson “Kathy Spracklen wanted to develop something along the educational lines for computer chess. So she started creating a script of what could be said during a game of chess.” Nelson received her script and he subsequently presented her idea in a Marketing meeting. During this meeting the idea of a “Wisecracker personality” was decided upon.
Nelson explained “All during the discussion, Teri Everett (the first Chess Challenger sales person hired, after the 1976 Consumer Electronics Show, held in Chicago at the Conrad Hilton Hotel), who is a doodler, showed the impish figure she had doodled on her note pad. It was the graphic we used for Chesster.”
For the voice system Nelson further explained that he flew to meet a Dr. Forrest Mozer who he had met many years previously at the University of California, Berkely during the time when he was first developing the voice used in the early Fidelity Challenger computers. At that time Dr. Mozer had used his equipment to create the ROM subsequently used in the first speaking Challenger computers.
Dr. Mozer at the time of this meeting in 1989, had started his own Company named Sensory, Inc, now managed by his son. Instead of using a chip as previously used in the Challenger series, Dr. Mozer now offered a 65C02 software solution.
For the Little Chesster / Talking Chess Companion, Ron Nelson explained that in order to reduce cost the LCD was eliminated and a single chip Micro-controller Unit (MCU) with external Read-Only Memory (ROM) and Random Access Memory (RAM) was used.
As a result of these efforts, Little Chesster / Talking Chess Companion became a three chip solution which allowed the use of a single sided Printed Circuit Board for further cost savings.
Excerpts taken from the SHARPER IMAGE TALKING CHESS COMPANION user manual and box and Ron Nelson reports available at the Hiarcs Forum for further reading and research.