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Ad takes quantum leap: help Hawking speak

Can you help make Stephen Hawking's voice be heard?

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's website said the assistant should be computer literate, ready to travel, and able to repair electronic devices "with no instruction manual or technical support."

Hawking has long struggled against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that left him almost completely paralyzed.

He lost his real voice in a tracheotomy in 1985, but a wheelchair-mounted computer helps synthesize speech by interpreting the twitches of his face.

The synthesizer's robotic monotone has become nearly as famous as Hawking himself, but the computer -- powered by batteries fastened to the back of Hawking's wheelchair -- isn't just for speaking.

It's a complicated, tailor-made system, as the ad makes clear. A photograph of the back of Hawking's wheelchair, loaded with coiled wires and electronic equipment, is pictured under the words: "Could you maintain this?"

The salary? About $38,500 a year.

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