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Stephen Hawking seeks helper to make voice heard

The famed British physicist is seeking an assistant to help develop and maintain the electronic speech system that allows him to communicate his vision of the universe.
Image: Stephen Hawking
British physicist Stephen Hawking, seen here giving a lecture at KU Leuven University in Belgium in October, is looking for an assistant.Bruno Fahy / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Can you help make Stephen Hawking's voice heard?

The famed British physicist is seeking an assistant to help develop and maintain the electronic speech system that allows him to communicate his vision of the universe. An informal job ad posted to Hawking's website said the assistant should be computer literate, ready to travel, and able to repair electronic devices "with no instruction manual or technical support."

Hawking has long struggled against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease which left him almost completely paralyzed.

He lost his real voice in a tracheotomy in 1985, but a wheelchair-mounted computer helps synthesize speech by interpreting the twitches of his face. The synthesizer's robotic monotone has become nearly as famous as Hawking himself, but the computer — powered by batteries fastened to the back of Hawking's wheelchair — isn't just for speaking.

It can connect to the Internet over cell phone networks and a universal infrared remote enables the physicist to switch on the lights, watch television, or open doors either at home or at the office.

It's a complicated, tailor-made system, as the ad makes clear. A photograph of the back of Hawking's wheelchair, loaded with coiled wires and electronic equipment, is pictured under the words: "Could you maintain this?"

"If your answer is 'yes,' we'd like to hear from you!" the website says.

Hawking's website says that the job's salary is expected to be about 25,000 pounds ($38,500) a year.