Hawking seeks an assistant


Can you help make Stephen Hawking’s voice heard?

In this June 2, 2010 photo British physicist Stephen Hawking attends the 2010 World Science Festival opening night gala performance at Alice Tully Hall in New York.

APIn this June 2, 2010 photo British physicist Stephen Hawking attends the 2010 World Science Festival opening night gala performance at Alice Tully Hall in New York.

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 the famed physicist’swebsite said the assistant should be computer literate, ready to travel, and able to repair electronic devices “with no instruction manual or technical support.”

Mr. Hawking has long struggled against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease which left him almost completely paralysed. He lost his real voice in a tracheotomy in 1985, but a wheelchair-mounted computer helps synthesise speech by interpreting the twitches of his face. The synthesiser’s robotic monotone has become nearly as famous as Mr. Hawking himself, but the computer powered by batteries fastened to the back of Mr. 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 Mr. 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.

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

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By beatsoftech

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