Butler In A Box

Before there was Alexa or Google Voice, there was the Butler In a Box. It was invented in the early 1980s by Gus Searcy, a professional magician, with help from Franz Kavan, a computer programmer. In response to voice commands it could control connected household devices. So, it could operate the lights, turn on the heat, make a phone call, etc.

About 9000 of them were reportedly sold. But at around $1500, the gadget was too expensive. Plus, the voice recognition was somewhat buggy. By the early 1990s they were off the market, but there's still some of them for sale on eBay.

More info: Popular Science (Mar 1987), vcfed.org

Austin American-Statesman - Aug 6, 1989

     Posted By: Alex - Fri Jan 29, 2021
     Category: Technology | Computers | 1980s

Apple, at about the same time, had the Newton, a forerunner of a handheld computer which, once paired with the portable telephone, morphed into todays smartphone. The Newton had potential, but the idea was ahead of its time and never caught on. It worked, but the bugs in the operating system and the limited hardware were never satisfactorily developed for real world use.
Posted by KDP on 01/29/21 at 11:37 AM
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