#97 Text To Speech

Sam never claimed that she was the most ‘girlish’ of girls. If prompted, she could act extremely feminine, however her natural state was more tempered, less stereotypical. One area where she seemed similar and different to her peers came in her use of a cell phone. While most 20-year-olds are glued to their phones, Sam didn’t enjoy texting so much as she enjoyed pushing her smartphone to do things most people her age had no interest in.

“But isn’t this cool?!?”, was her frequent cry, after showing some new trick she’d learned, or some tweak she’d implemented. Her friends would shrug and say “Yea…”, and then turn the subject to something they felt a bit more comfortable with.

Sam enjoyed listening to music on her phone, and was understandably intrigued by a new app promising to read her emails and text messages to her, pausing her music as needed. She quickly paid her $2 to download the app, and set it up.

The first time it sounded, Sam was shocked at the efficiency of the robotic voice that read her an incoming text. Over time, the robotic voice of her phone became more personable to her, and even earned a name, Martin.

With a busy schedule, there were days Martin spoke to Sam more than the rest of the world combined. Through workouts and trips, walks and unwinding after a long day, Martin would periodically interrupt to report on what was new in Sam’s life.

Then one day, Sam realized that Martin had been silent for a bit too long. A quick glance at her phone revealed her worst nightmare: The software update she’d applied earlier in the day had broken poor Martin, and no update for his software was yet available. Martin was gone, and Sam was inconsolable. Each morning she checked the manufacturer’s website, eagerly signing up for early beta access to a new version, and promising to test it fully if admitted.

Then one afternoon, about a week after Martin’s demise, it hit Sam. She had actually formed a sort of friendship with the robotic voice of her phone. It didn’t mind if she was geeky at heart, and it certainly didn’t talk unless it had something genuinely interesting to say. A man of few words, Sam was able to imagine a back story to Martin, not a stretch after she’d already personified it with a name. Martin’s departure felt almost as if a friend was missing.

It was then that Sam realized that perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to follow her own usual path of moderation. She took her phone, navigated away from Martin’s manufacturer’s web forums, and called a friend she hadn’t talked to in a few months. As they caught up, she realized that perhaps a bit of Martin withdrawal wasn’t a bad thing.


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