Mic WrightReporter, TNW
Mic Wright is a journalist specialising in technology, music and popular culture. He lives in Dublin. He is on Twitter at @brokenbottleboy. Mic Wright is a journalist specialising in technology, music and popular culture. He lives in Dublin. He is on Twitter at @brokenbottleboy.
You’ll recognise the voice, it’s Stephen Hawking, right? Well, not quite.
The narrator of the Zoolander 2 trailer is credited by name in the end card – DECtalk by Dennis is a 31-year-old synthesizer, born in the same year as me – 1984.
It’s true that the DECtalk has become inextricably linked with Professor Hawking. He’s used a version of the speech synth since 1988, because it’s the voice he identifies most with and likes best.
But, the DECtalk has had almost as exciting a life as Derek Zoolander. It was born out of research by Dennis Klatt at MIT and was first commercialized in 1984 when standalone units were produced.
DECtalk has also done time as the automated voice of telephone systems, the interface for email systems, providing radio station idents and serving as the virtual voice of the United States Weather Service.
If you want to learn more about DECtalk and its creator, check out this documentary by Professor Hawking’s daughter Lucy:
It’s about time this tech veteran got another starring role. Kudos, Ben Stiller, kudos.
➤ Zoolander [Paramount Pictures]
Read next: The secrets of Professor Stephen Hawking’s speech system
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