This educational toy from Texas Instruments looked like a computer for kids with a colourful plastic keyboard and a dinky fluorescent display above it.
It was designed to let you play a range of simple spelling and word games, the main one being the spelling challenge – it spoke a word and you typed out the correct spelling.
Sometimes the challenge with Speak & Spell wasn’t spelling the word correctly, but understanding what the hell the word was.
You would be asked to spell “Enza” and after pressing the ‘repeat word’ button a dozen times and straining really hard to listen very carefully you’d eventually work out that you were actually being asked to spell “answer”.
Speak & Guess & Spell may have been a more apt name for the machine.
The first Speak & Spell was introduced at the summer Consumer Electronics Show in June 1978 and was the first of a three-part talking educational toy series that also included Speak & Read and Speak & Math.
It was completely recreated in 1982 as the Speak & Spell Compact (a version lacking a visual display), and in 1989 the Super Speak & Spell was released to replace the original vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) with a liquid crystal display (LCD).
Between 1989 and 1992 the Super Speak & Spell would see three redesigns as well. The 1992 Super Speak & Spell would mark the last release of the series.
At the height of its popularity, Speak & Spell wasn’t just helping to educate children – it even enabled a certain alien to phone home in Steven Spielberg’s 1982 film, E.T.