Mar 252014

Any time I’m researching synthesizer history, I’m astounded by the connections I find. With this in mind, I’m starting a series of posts inspired by the “Six Degrees of Separation” philosophy. In each installment, I’ll (hopefully) illuminate an interesting and little-known connection to synthesizers. We’ll call it Synth Degrees of Separation!

For this first installment, let’s look at Apple’s intelligent personal assistant, Siri, and her six-degrees connection to the Kurzweil K250:

  1. Siri’s speech recognition is provided by Nuance Communications, a company that resulted from a 205 merger between Nuance Communications and ScanSoft.
  2. Similarly, ScanSoft was the result of the 1999 acquisition of ScanSoft by Visioneer (which was a re-branding of Xerox Imaging Systems, or XIS).
  3. Xerox Imaging Systems was what Xerox re-named Kurzweil Computer Products after purchasing it in 1980.
  4. Kurzweil Computer Products produced the Kurzweil Reading Machine.
  5. After hearing the Kurzweil Reading Machine on The Today Show in 1976, Stevie Wonder purchased one of the first production units, beginning a lifelong friendship with Ray Kurzweil.
  6. Through his friendship with Kurzweil, Stevie Wonder inspired the formation of Kurzweil Music Systems and consulted on the development of the Kurzweil K250.

So there you have it! The Kurzweil K250 is essentially Siri’s distant cousin! And judging from her reply to my question in the screen shot used for this post, I doubt she even knows.


Further interesting reading:

The Man and the Machine: an Interview With Ray Kurzweil” (Access World, September 2004)

Still Scanning After All These Years: A Profile of Kurzweil Educational Systems” (Access World, March 2003)


Leave a Reply