I am saddened to learn about the death of Stephen Hawking. He will be remembered for enlightening us about Black Holes, and the Big Bang, and big questions about the universe. His highly recognizable computer synthesized voice brought computer synthesized voices into public awareness.
I will remember him for one afternoon in San Jose when he interrupted his busy schedule, meeting with Silicon Valley VIPs, to speak with students who used assistive technology to communicate. My daughter, Ariela, was one of them. At 10 years of age, she was probably the youngest. He was gracious, personable and funny. He joked that he had lived as long as he had with ALS because of all the beer he drank in his youth. I remember him rolling up to Ariela and listening intently to her question: “When you were in the fifth grade, what was your favorite subject?” They had the briefest of exchanges, but to her it was memorable. It wasn’t what was said as much as how he communicated. Not just with his device, but with his eyes, and mind, and patience, and attentiveness. She may have been among one hundred other students that day, but in that moment, she was the only one in the room.