Any one remember the MSX easy speech - Hardware speech synth

By zoltari

Supporter (11)

zoltari's picture

29-07-2008, 17:31

It was a cart based speech synth - I used to own one which I bought from a small ad in teh back of MSX computing - I think it was £25 back in 1986...

To get it to speak, you used something along the lines of a=usr(0)"words to say"

I don't remember 100% to be honest, but it was rather bad speech, even for the time, but I'd love to replace the one I used to have (it got stolen from a box of stuff in teh back of my car years ago).

Anyway, what I want to know is: Are there any other speech synths around for MSX and does anyone remember this one?

Login or register to post comments

By legacy

Hero (570)

legacy's picture

29-07-2008, 19:48

Here you can find some info about Yamaha CX5M with a speech synth.
And a prog called "Parole" works with the Philips Musicmodule, it talks with a french accent and it's freeware, iirc

By zoltari

Supporter (11)

zoltari's picture

29-07-2008, 21:08

Nice one. Thanks for that!

By k0ga

Expert (77)

k0ga's picture

30-07-2008, 07:57

There was other cart by Spectravideo called Charlie. it's a funny hardware/software

By mohai

Paladin (918)

mohai's picture

07-08-2008, 16:10

I once heard that "Charlie" cart and remembered me to "Cobra's arc" game.
This game has a very interesting speech software and sounded very similar to that one.
Someday i will find the main route in this game... Cool

By Sylvester

Hero (518)

Sylvester's picture

05-05-2020, 17:18

While cleaning some stuff on my harddrive I found the ROM of Easi-Speech by R.Amy in 1987. But no clue how it works, with most rom types it hangs on the msx intro screen and with some it gets into basic. Also checked the ROM with a hex file editor, but only see the title and copyright text.

By zoltari

Supporter (11)

zoltari's picture

25-03-2021, 14:36

Hi Sylvester!
I’ve been waiting for 17 years for someone to find that ROM!

I used to own the EasiSpeech cart - I bought for my Sony HitBit HB75-B back in 1984. I kept the damn thing right up until 2000, along with all my original Konami carts, my NEOS mouse and cheese software, my graphic tablet and loss of MSX computing magazines, books and other (now) extremely difficult to find stuff. Annoyingly when I was moving house, I left the box containing them all in the boot of my Renault 5, which was stolen from the drive overnight. I never missed that crappy car, but I could cry even now over my MSX stuff: years or saved pocket money, paper round, christmas and birthday money was invested in that collection. As a kid buying a new Konami game was a bi-monthly even for me a it took me 6-7 weeks to save the £30 necessary to buy Salamander, Nemesis, Boxing, Ye Ar Kung Fu, etc. I had nearly every Konami game they released in UK. The only one I still have is salamander and sadly I lost the beautiful box it came in because that too was in my boot; the cart was in my MSX which was in the house so at least one thing survived.

Being an 11 year old child in the UK when MSX launched and getting an MSX rather than a C64 or Spectrum was a curse at the time. I had no one to swap games with so I had to buy everything myself; shops didn’t stock MSX games so I had to buy from magazines and from Tavistock HiFi mail order (they had a fantastic range of MSX software for some reason and they delivered really fast). It was only when Mega ROMs became a thing that MSX came into its own for games but by then the Amiga wasn’t far off and MSX had died in the UK.

Anyway, I bought the Easi-Speech direct from R. Amy via an advert in MSX Computing. It took weeks to arrive and when it did, it was very... clunky. I opened the cart once to see what was inside (as you do when you’re a kid).

I happen to have a very good memory for strange things (I can never find my keys for example and I can rarely put a name to a face, but I can remember every line of dialogue from every movie I watched to the age of 16 and I can tell you what colour someone was wearing ten years ago at my birthday party - that kind of ridiculous memory - great for exams and learning from books but crap for real life).

So, back to the point: Inside the Easi-Speech case there was surprisingly little.
I recall very clearly:
- one large EPROM with a circular glass window on it
- A speech chip (SP0256-AL2)
- another ROM chip along with some resistors and whatnot.

When you plugged the cart in and powered on the machine, it would announce:

“Aaahhhheeeiiuuu... M. S. X. Easi Speech” as the text from
Your screen cap shows. Why it did the weird “ahhhhiioo I don’t know. It was almost like a test of the vowel sounds. Maybe my rom was quirky because I opened it and exposed the EPROM. Who knows?

Then you were presented with the bog standard MSX screen and text and nothing else happened.

To get the speech to work you had to type a convoluted command aomething like:

A=USR((0)”Hello World”) - now for the life of me I can’t remember the exact syntax of this command, probably because I was 11 years old and I’m now 48, and I haven’t used an Easi Speech since 1995. I can tell you with 100% certainty though that if I had it in from the of me now, I’d have it speaking in under 5 mins. It’s like muscle memory that command - I never could remember for until I sat and typed it.

So to answer your question: The reason it crashes is because you need the hardware to make
It talk.

That hardware is not very complex at all, BUT this speech chips aren’t easy to find these days and you need the Alaphone ROM for the phonetics and the Speech processor as a pair I believe.

I bet that if we found someone with some hardware skills this would be a (relatively) simple thug to create.

As regards speech quality. - it was about the same as the Spectrum and C64 versions, but because of the MSX’s superior audio output shielding the speech was loud and very clear (it sounded wobbly, like someone riding a bike over a cobble street while speaking). To validate my statement about superior shielding: the spectrum had a beeeper and Currah speech let you output that “noise” to the TV but always has a high background noise level, it’s pretty awful. The C64 on the other hand had way better audio than a standard MSX, no argument there, BUT the speech chip always had the “thud thus thus thus” in the background of the C64 electronics interfering with the speech audio.
Perhaps because the MSX took the SP256 audio out from the cart port and output it internally via shielded paths it sounded cleaner? I’ve no idea I’m just speculating. It was absolutely 100% cleaner and better on the MSX though and I know because I played with Various versions these past 20 years.

If anyone out there has an Easi Speech please do let me know. I have the address of the guy who made them somewhere. It was a street address - so it was a home business or a small enterprise.

I do remember that the circuit board was an opaque type, so an odd-white colour that was semi transparent and the tracks were thick and silver, and it looked very nicely produced. Someone put some thought and effort into it.

I’d LOVE to replace my EasiSpeech - it was pointless but it was cool and with two cart slots you could probably have accessed it from games (al la Salamander).

If anyone wasn’t to build a new version, I’d buy none!

By MsxKun

Paladin (971)

MsxKun's picture

25-03-2021, 15:19

I have a Soundgin chip (based on Babblebot). It can do speech. It's on a development board, so you control it using serial.
I borrowed one RS232 cartridge and using fossil driver I got the chip to make sound Tongue It has also a synthesizer.
Still, it's not a handy way to use it. And I return things that I borrow Crying

It's surely possible to use the chip using TTL, so inside an MSX cartridge. Happens that they're not available from long ago. Still, some Arduino could do, cause the chip was mostly that, some kind of AVR... or PIC.