Stephen Hawking: Intel Helped Give Him His Voice

Dr. Stephen Hawking, the renowned British physicist who inspired generations through his accessible descriptions of the cosmos and his public battle with a neurological disorder, shared a long history of innovation with Intel over the years. Hawking, the modern successor to Isaac Newton, died early Wednesday at his home in Cambridge, England.

“Working with Stephen was the most meaningful and challenging endeavor of my life. It fed my soul and really hit home how technology can profoundly improve people’s lives. We will continue developing and refining this technology in the open source community in his honor, to reach all people in need. This is something he cared about deeply,” Lama Nachman, Intel Fellow, said Wednesday.

More: Stephen Hawking: Intel Remembers the Famed Physicist

“On a personal note, while the world mourns an amazing scientist who changed our understanding of the universe, I am mourning a dear friend whom I admired dearly and enjoyed deep conversations with about politics, science and technology. I had planned to see him at the end of the month, and test out our latest tech with him. I will miss him dearly.”

Here are stories about projects involving Hawking and Intel:

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Intel engineer Travis Bonifield holds a replica of the custom PC he recently created for Stephen Hawking.

Stephen Hawking’s New PC (Intel Free Press/Newsroom, 1/10/2012): “Intel application engineer Travis Bonifield has been working closely with Stephen Hawking to communicate with the world for a decade. He’s traveled from the United States to England every few years to hand-deliver Hawking a customized PC.

“Bonifield recently talked about the unique project, the technology that powers the customized system and how Intel co-founder Gordon Moore got Hawking to switch from AMD to Intel.”

Stephen Hawking Celebrates with Silicon (Intel Free Press/Newsroom, 1/23/2013): “Prof. Stephen Hawking showed no signs that his hunger for computer performance has slowed during his 71st birthday celebration this week at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology in Cambridge, England. Hawking was honored with a unique silicon wafer etched with nanoscale letters.”

Stephen-Hawking-Birthday-Celebration
At his 71st birthday celebration, Stephen Hawking was presented with a commemorative 300-millimeter silicon wafer by Martin Curley, vice president of Intel Labs Europe.

One for the Road: Stephen Hawking’s New Computer (Intel Free Press/Newsroom, 3/6/2014): “When British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking goes on a trip, there is far more at stake than simply buying a new toothbrush. Hawking is afflicted with advanced Lou Gehrig’s disease and communicates through movements of his cheek muscle. If his computer hardware stops working and cannot be repaired, he can’t communicate with the world, but a new custom-built computer system is making Hawking’s travel easier.

“Intel engineer Travis Bonifield recently returned from Cambridge, U.K., after delivering a new computer system to Hawking. This isn’t the first system that Bonifield, based in Hillsboro, Ore., has brought to the famous physicist — he’s been working with Hawking for more than a decade. The latest custom system, a 2 in 1 based on a Lenovo ThinkPad x230t powered by an Intel Core i7 processer, combines a notebook with a 12? tablet that has a daylight readable display.”

New Intel-Created System Offers Professor Stephen Hawking Ability to Better Communicate with the World (Intel News Release, 12/2/2014): “Today Intel demonstrated for the first time with Professor Stephen Hawking a new Intel-created communications platform to replace his decades-old system, dramatically improving his ability to communicate with the world. The customizable platform will be available to research and technology communities by January of next year.”

How Intel Keeps Stephen Hawking Talking with Assistive Technology (Intel iQ, 12/2/2014): “For two years, Intel has worked to upgrade Stephen Hawking’s computer system, a pioneering assistive technology project that will have far-reaching benefits for the disabled.

“Professor Stephen Hawking is arguably as famous for his computerized voice as he is for his ground-breaking work with general relativity and black holes. Intel has been working with Hawking since 1997, helping to maintain and improve the assistive computer system that enables him to interact with the world.

“As Hawking’s motor neurone disease has advanced, his ability to communicate has slowed to one word per minute.”

Stephen Hawking and Intel: Actor Eddie Redmayne Learns History (Intel iQ, 12/11/2014): “Golden Globe-nominated star of “The Theory of Everything” visits Intel to test Hawking’s communication technology, which has the potential to improve lives of disabled people around the world.

“Eddie Redmayne, a London-based actor who plays renowned physicist Stephen Hawking in the new movie ‘The Theory of Everything,’ took time out of his recent press tour to get smart about technology in Silicon Valley. The movie was complete, but Redmayne hungered for better understanding of essential aspects influencing the physicist’s life.”

How Intel Gave Stephen Hawking a Voice (Wired 1/13/15): “Stephen Hawking first met Gordon Moore, the cofounder of Intel, at a conference in 1997. Moore noticed that Hawking’s computer, which he used to communicate, had an AMD processor and asked him if he preferred instead a “real computer” with an Intel micro-processor. Intel has been providing Hawking with customized PCs and technical support since then, replacing his computer every two years.”

Lama Nachman Keeps Stephen Hawking Talking with Assistive Tech (Intel iQ, 6/19/2017): “Believing anything is possible led Lama Nachman to become a groundbreaking engineer in predictive computing – and yes, she is on physicist Stephen Hawking’s speed dial.

“World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking had fans laughing when he auditioned people to find a replacement for his trademark computer-generated voice. The spoof for Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day last March revealed for many just how iconic Hawking’s voice is and how its sound is imbedded in the way we think about the universe.

“’Stephen’s voice is IP protected,’ said Lama Nachman, a principal engineer at Intel leading the team that helps improve Hawking’s computer interface. ‘He really likes the way that it sounds.'”

Accessing the Mind of a Young Stephen Hawking (Intel iQ, 2/13/2018): “Now digitally accessible to the public through the University of Cambridge, Stephen Hawking’s doctoral thesis laid the foundation for his scientific career.

“Within just a few hours of going live to the public in October 2017, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking’s 1966 doctoral thesis “Properties of Expanding Universes” was accessed 60,000 times, becoming the most viewed document in the University of Cambridge’s Apollo digital repository.

“At times, demand was so great that the site crashed. Since October, the dissertation has been viewed nearly 682,000 times, according to the Cambridge research repository.”

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