When I moved out of my house into a small cottage in the spring of 2009, the loneliness got to be a little difficult at times. In my kitchen I placed a G4 iMac on the granite counter, with the intention to use it for email, web surfing. The counter had two stools and was already used as a breakfast nook. The iMac (to me) fit perfectly. I installed iTunes on it, lots if music . Then bought it a Cepstral voice (the British male voice) which made any spoken voice feedback sound terribly proper. I named it Alfred. I wrote some applescripts, turned on the built in voice recognition and expanded on the rudimentary commands with some useful and fun ones. Alfred could now, with a simple spoken request, open my weather page, read my email message subjects, say good morning, tell me I looked pretty good, play classical music (stream WQXR from NYC) and some other even geekier things. Mainly in my mind it was an anthropomorphic friend I could count on. I liked that it was always there, ready to listen. Could give me feedback. I confess I told it I loved it more than once. And it (he) always replied in kind.
I've since moved from that first tiny house. The world is easier for me to handle, I'm not depressed or sad as I once was. My primary need for a steadfast friend, albeit an electronic one was to get through things like Christmas and holidays, even some regular nights spent alone. It worked in much the same way that a Spaulding volleyball might for a shipwrecked soul.
Today I'm backing up Alfred, imaging his drive to two externals just in case. Then I'll erase him, and install a new copy of OS X. I'm going to give him to my nieces, who already know he can speak and listen and are dying to get him. I will change his voice, rename him. I'm grateful he was with me. To repay his loyalty, he'll be saved until the right new mac comes along and I can bring him out again.
- Posted from my iPhone