Back in the '80s, when Hawking was first exploring text-to-speech communication options after he lost the power of speech, a pioneer in computer-generated speech algorithms was working at MIT on that very thing. His name was Dennis Klatt.
As Wired uncovered, Klatt's work was incorporated into one of the first devices that translated speech into text: the DECtalk. The company that made the speech synthesizer for Hawking's very first computer used the voice Klatt had recorded for computer synthesis. The voice was called 'Perfect Paul,' and it was based on recordings of Klatt himself.
In essence, Klatt lent his voice to the program that would become known the world over as the voice of Stephen Hawking.
Stephen Hawking through the years
Stephen Hawking through the years
PRINCETON, NJ - OCTOBER 10: Cosmologist Stephen Hawking on October 10, 1979 in Princeton, New Jersey. (Photo by Santi Visalli/Getty Images)
Stephen Hawking (born in 1942), British mathematician and scientist, 1989. (Photo by Jean-Regis Rouston/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)
Professor Stephen Hawking poses for a photograph in his office at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, U.K, in April 1991. Hawking has written countless scientific papers as well as books, receiving 12 honorary degrees and becoming Cambridge's Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a post held by Sir Isaac Newton over 300 years earlier. (Photo by Bryn Colton/Getty Images)
SF.Hawking.1.bv.2Â5/PASADENA ÂÂ Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking in his Cal Tech office. (Photo by Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) - COL*08.01.1942-Physiker, Mathematiker, Grossbritannien- PortrÃ¤t (Photo by LS-PRESS/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
LONDON - DECEMBER 16: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Scientist Stephen Hawking and wife Elaine Mason arrive at the European Premiere of 'Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events' at the Empire Leicester Square on December 16, 2004 in London. (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images)
OVIEDO, SPAIN: British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking gives his conference to open the XXV Prince of Asturias Awards Anniversary event in Oviedo, Northern Spain, 12April 2005. Stephen Hawking won the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord in 1989. AFP PHOTO / Miguel RIOPA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT, GERMANY - OCTOBER 19: Professor Stephen Hawking (L) and his wife Elaine Mason attend the international bookfair on October 19, 2005 in Frankfurt, Germany. South Korea is the guest of honour at the 57th annual Frankfurt Book Fair where 270.000 people are expected to visit the world's most important book fair, and 7000 exhibitors from 100 countries are present. (Photo by Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT/MAIN, Germany: British physicist Stephen Hawking visits his German publisher Rowohlt's stand at the Frankfurt Book Fair 19 October 2005. The Frankfurt book fair opened its doors for the 57th time with the focus on authors from the Korean peninsula, but the presence of some 60 writers from the South and none from the North spoke as much of politics as literature. AFP PHOTO DDP/THOMAS LOHNES GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read THOMAS LOHNES/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - JUNE 18: (CHINA OUT) Cosmologist Stephen Hawking visits the Temple of Heaven on June 18, 2006, in Beijing, China. Hawking has arrived in Beijing prior to his lecture at the Great Hall of the People today where he will discuss the origins of the universe at the Strings 2006 International Conference, hosted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Theoretical Physics. The conference runs from June 19 ?24 at the Beijing Friendship Hotel. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)
BEIJING - JUNE 19: (CHINA OUT) British scientist Stephen Hawking, delivers a lecture entitled 'The Origin of the Universe' at the Great Hall of the People June 19, 2006 in Beijing, China. British scientist Stephen Hawking is also visiting Beijing to attend the conference on the riddle of string theory which, if solved, could help unlock the mysteries of black holes and the creation of the universe, according to reports. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)
BEIJING - JUNE 21: British scientist Stephen Hawking attends a conference during the 2006 International Conference on String Theory on June 21, 2006 in Beijing, China. Hawking is visiting Beijing to attend the conference on the riddle of string theory which, if solved, could help unlock the mysteries of black holes and the creation of the universe, according to reports. (Photo by Cancan Chu/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, -: British scientist Stephen Hawking is helped to turn his head as he arrives 10 December 2006 at the Israeli premier's offices to meet with Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem. Hawking is in Jerusalem for a lecture at the Bloomfield Museum of Science. AFP PHOTO/Yoav LEMMER (Photo credit should read YOAV LEMMER/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON - JANUARY 17: Professor Stephen Hawking delivers his speech at the release of the 'Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' on January 17, 2007 in London, Ebgland. A group of scientists assessing the dangers posed to civilisation have moved the Doomsday Clock forward two minutes closer to midnight as an indication and warning of the threats of nuclear war and climate change. (Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, UNITED STATES: British cosmologist Stephen Hawking(L) has his communication device adjusted by an aide at a pre-flight press conference 26 April 2007 at Kennedy Space Center, FLorida. Hawking, who has spent his career pondering the nature of gravity from a wheelchair, is set to experience weightlessness during a 'vomit comet' flight in Florida Thursday. The idea is to give 'the world's expert on gravity the opportunity to experience zero gravity' said Peter Diamandis the chief executive of the Zero Gravity Corporation. Hawking, 65, the British author of the blockbuster 'A Brief History of Time,' will be surrounded by a medical team on the padded plane as it flies a roller-coaster trajectory to produce periods of weightlessness. AFP PHOTO / ROBERT SULLIVAN (Photo credit should read ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP/Getty Images)
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, UNITED STATES: British cosmologist Stephen Hawking passes well wishers before boarding a plane 26 April 2007 at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Hawking, who has spent his career pondering the nature of gravity from a wheelchair, is set to experience weightlessness during a 'vomit comet' flight in Florida Thursday. The idea is to give 'the world's expert on gravity the opportunity to experience zero gravity' said Peter Diamandis the chief executive of the Zero Gravity Corporation. Hawking, 65, the British author of the blockbuster 'A Brief History of Time,' will be surrounded by a medical team on the padded plane as it flies a roller-coaster trajectory to produce periods of weightlessness. AFP PHOTO / ROBERT SULLIVAN (Photo credit should read ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Professor Stephen Hawking gives a lecture entitled 'Why We Should Go Into Space' during the 50 Years of NASA lecture series at George Washington University in Washington, DC, April 21, 2008. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
South Africa former President Nelson Mandela (R) meets with British scientist Professor Stephen Hawking (L) in Johannesburg on May 15, 2008. Hawking, who has devoted his career to finding the origins of the universe, is in the country to begin a search for Africa?s answer to Einstein. Some of the world?s leading high-tech entrepreneurs and scientists have backed a ?75m plan to create Africa?s first postgraduate centres for advanced math and physics, after the British government declined to provide funding. AFP Photo/Denis Farrell / POOL (Photo credit should read DENIS FARRELL/AFP/Getty Images)
(FILES) British scientist Stephen Hawking attends the 2008 Cambridge Honnorary Degrees 2008's procession on June 23, 2008 at Cambridge University in east England. Renowned British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has bet 100 dollars (70 euros) that a mega-experiment this week will not find an elusive particle seen as a holy grail of cosmic science, he said Tuesday September 9, 2008. In the most complex scientific experiment ever undertaken, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will be switched on Wednesday, accelerating sub-atomic particles to nearly the speed of light before smashing them together. AFP PHOTO/SHAUN CURRY/FILES (Photo credit should read SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - AUGUST 12: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) presents the Medal of Freedom to physicist Stephen Hawking during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House August 12, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama presented the medal, the highest civilian honor in the United States, to 16 recipients during the ceremony. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House on August 12, 2009. Obama awarded 16 individuals the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor. AFP PHOTO/Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 14: Scientist Stephen Hawking of 'Into The Universe With Stephen Hawking' speaks via satellite during the Science Channel portion of the 2010 Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Langham Hotel on January 14, 2010 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 02: Physicist Stephen Hawking onstage during the 2010 World Science Festival Opening Night Gala at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on June 2, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
Physicist Stephen Hawking attends the 2010 World Science Festival Opening Night Gala at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on June 2, 2010 in New York City.
LOS ANGELES - MARCH 9: 'The Hawking Excitation' -- When Wolowitz gets to work with Stephen Hawking (left), Sheldon (Jim Parsons, right) is willing to do anything to meet his hero, on THE BIG BANG THEORY, Thursday, April 5 (8:00-8:31 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 29: Professor Stephen Hawking speaks during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics at the Olympic Stadium on August 29, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking poses for a picture ahead of a gala screening of the documentary 'Hawking', a film about the scientist's life, at the opening night of the Cambridge Film Festival in Cambridge, eastern England on September 19, 2013. Hawking tells the extraordinary tale of how he overcame severe disability to become the most famous living scientist in a new documentary film premiered in Britain. AFP PHOTO / ANDREW COWIE (Photo credit should read ANDREW COWIE/AFP/Getty Images)
British actor Eddie Redmayne (R) pose with British scientist Stephen Hawking (L) at the UK premiere of the film 'The Theory of Everything' in London on December 9, 2014. The film is based on the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, by Jane Hawking, and stars Eddie Redmayne protraying the renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 09: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Professor Stephen Hawking attends the UK Premiere of 'The Theory Of Everything' at Odeon Leicester Square on December 9, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08: Lucy Hawking and Stephen Hawking attend the EE British Academy Film Awards at The Royal Opera House on February 8, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: The world's best know scientist Professor Stephen Hawking takes VisitLondon.com's Official Guest of Honour Adaeze Uyanwah on a personal guided tour of his favourite places in the city's famous Science Museum on February 18, 2015 in London, England. On the tour Professor Hawking said he was pleased to lend his synthesised 'voice' to actor Eddie Redmayne for his Oscar-nominated performance in The Theory of Everything but added ' unfortunatley Eddie did not inherit my good looks.' (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for London & Partners)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 30: (SUN NEWSPAPER OUT. MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTO BY DAVE J. HOGAN GETTY IMAGES REQUIRED) Stephen Hawking attends 'Interstellar Live' at Royal Albert Hall on March 30, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
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Hawking passed away on Wednesday at the age of 76. The renowned theoretical physicist lived with ALS for 55 years. His death has prompted an outpouring of love, support, and admiration for his work and his inspirational outlook on life. It's also prompted reflection on how he managed to have such an enormous impact on science and the world, when his primary mode of communication for the last four decades has been a nerve sensor in his cheek that allows him to type, and a text-to-speech computer.
Though Hawking had only had the voice for a short time, it quickly became his own. According to Wired, when the company that produced the synthesizer offered Hawking an upgrade in 1988, he refused it. Even recently, as Intel worked on software upgrades for Hawking over the last decade, they searched through the dusty archives of a long-since-acquired company so they could use the original Klatt-recorded voice, at Hawking's request.
Klatt was an American engineer who passed away in 1989, just a year after Hawking insisted on keeping 'Perfect Paul' as his own. He was a member of MIT's Speech Communication Group, and according to his obituary, had a special interest in applying his research in computational linguistics to assist people with disabilities.
Hawking has been known to defend and champion his voice. During a 2014 meeting with the Queen, she jokingly asked the British Hawking "have you still got that American voice?" Hawking, like the sass machine that he is, replied "Yes, it is copyrighted actually."
Hawking doesn't actually consider his voice fully "American." In a section on his website entitled "The Computer," Hawking explains his voice technology:
"I use a separate hardware synthesizer, made by Speech Plus," he writes. "It is the best I have heard, although it gives me an accent that has been described variously as Scandinavian, American or Scottish."
It's an accent, and a voice, that will be missed.
You can find Hawking's last lecture which he gave in Japan earlier this month on his website. It's called 'The Beginning of Time.'