Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Should we order a pizza?

I've been head-over-heels in love with Macintosh computers since my older brother worked for Apple, back in the late eighties and early nineties. Actually, it was probably before that -- perhaps the Apple ][s in the computer lab in my eighth-grade hallway, or the Mac Classics in the composing room at the university newspaper.

Dwayne was probably living in Atlanta working for Peachtree Software or the Corbis archive when he showed us the Talking Moose. Anyone who had an early Mac remembers it. The Moose sat in a little window on top of your desktop and made snide remarks at odd intervals. Its robotic, yet oddly emotive voice commented if you didn't do anything (my favorite: "You are getting sleeeeepy ... your eyelids are getting heavier and heavier") or if you did something (the oddly wistful "I wish I had a brain").

All those memories came flooding back when I went to see WALL*E a couple of weeks ago. Wall*E's voice is produced by MacInTalk, the speech synthesis engine that Apple included in the earliest Macs, more than 20 years ago. Listening to it, I couldn't help thinking of the Talking Moose -- his mismatched googly eyes, his amateurish outline, his minimal animation.

You can get the Moose for Mac OS X and for Windows XP now. And you can make him say anything you want. But for all the improvements (color, better mouth animation, more choices and settings), I'll always be nostalgic for that crude line drawing and Steven Hawking-esque approximation of human charm that my brother demonstrated with such delight, showing us that the Mac had personality.

1 comment:

dougb0 said...

Thanks for the great memory, Donna!