The Smithsonian Speech Synthesis History Project, conducted by H. David Maxey from 1986 through 2002, created a collection of archival materials documenting the history and development of speech synthesis technology. Maxey collaborated with Dr. Bernard Finn, Elliot Sivowitch and Harold Wallace of the National Museum of American History's Division of Information, Technology, and Society.
Smithsonian Speech Synthesis History Project Original Website:
Smithsonian Speech Synthesis History Project website
This website was created by Dave Maxey in 2002 to document the history of the project and to provide extensive information about the collection materials.
Scope and Contents:
The collection documents a project done by H. David Maxey in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution. The collection consists of administrative files containing correspondence, project reports, and other infomation about the Smithsonian Speech Synthesis History Project. The project files, arranged geographically and alphabetically contains information about specific speech synthesis projects and inventions. The reprints series consists of reprints of articles which Maxey collected and organized separately. This series is organized both numerically and alphabetically. The audiovisual materials contain the recordings of talks, meetings, and samples of speech synthesis described in the projects outlined in the project files.
The original SSSHP numbers assigned by Dave Maxey are included in portions of the Container List. They are the basis for the organization of Maxey's original index to and description of the collection. Maxey assigned the numbers sequentially in the order he received each numbered item.
The collection is arranged into four series.
Series 1, Administrative Files,1986-2002
Series 2, Project Files, 1939-1999
Series 3, Reprints, 1939-1999
Series 4: Audiovisual Materials,1939-1999
Subseries 1, ¼" Open Reel Audiotape
Subseries 2, Audiocassettes
Subseries 3, Miscellaneous
Subseries 4, Reference and Protection Audiotapes and CDs
Biographical / Historical:
The Smithsonian Speech Synthesis History Project, conducted by H. David Maxey from 1986 through 2002, created a collection of archival materials including sound recordings documenting the history and development of speech synthesis technology. Maxey collaborated with Dr. Bernard Finn of the National Museum of American History's Division of Information, Technology, and Society. Elliot Sivowitch and Harold Wallace of the same division served as Smithsonian liaisons with the project.
"Speech synthesis technology" refers to the results of a long, evolutionary process in which researchers learned to create artificial sounds that people would interpret as speech. As early as the eighteenth century scientists were inventing mechanical machines to create sounds similar to human speech. Later electronics led to additional developments, The Voder was one of the earliest examples which was demonstrated to wide acclaim at the 1939 New York World's Fair. However, it was the widespread use of computers that led to the greatest progress in the field of speech synthesis.
Speech synthesis is the process by which a computer speaks. By contrast, speech recognition is when a computer can interpret spoken language. The application of both of these capabilities has been important for creating assistive computer technology for the visually impaired (speech recognition) and for individuals unable to speak (speech synthesis).
Among the leading researchers and organizations involved with the development of speech synthesis technologies are the Anerican Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), Bell Telephone Laboratories, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dennis H. Klatt, and Ray Kurzweil.
Today speech synthesis is a common feature of daily life from the cultured voice on the GPS saying exactly which road to take to making a train reservation on the telephone. However, many speech synthesis developers continue to explore and design methods to make the speech sound less mechanical, with the ultimate challenge being natural sounding speech that shows emotion.
Dave Maxey's dedication to the project, with support from members of the staff of the National Museum of American History, has ensured the preservation of materials documenting the early history of electronic and computer engineered synthetic speech.
Artifacts related to this collection are in the Division of Work & Industry, Electricity Collections.
The collection was created for the Smithsonian Institution from 1986-2002 by Dave Maxey in collaboration with Dr. Bernard Finn of the National Museum of American History's Division of Information, Technology, and Society, assisted by Elliot Sivowitch and Harold Wallace of the same division.
Collection is open for research. Only reference copies of audiovisual materials may be used.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
The records of Safko International, Inc., document an assistive computer technology company created by Lon S. Safko to produce and sell the environmental control systems he invented for the physically disabled, specifically quadriplegics. Through the use of a computer and alternative input devices, the physically disabled were able to overcome physical barriers which inhibited them from attaining an autonomous lifestyle.
Scope and Contents:
Spanning 1984 to 1998, the Safko International, Inc. Records are divided into seven series and consist of approximately 12.6 cubic feet. Collectively these series document the routine affairs of Safko International, Inc., a company created for the production and distribution of the assistive technology inventions of Lon S. Safko from its formation in 1986 to its dissolution in 1995. During the lifespan of this company there was a growing awareness of and sensitivity towards disability issues within American society. Two significant events associated with this change in American society, were the American with Disabilities Act, 1993, and Christopher Reeve's riding accident in 1995, documented within this collection. In addition to documenting the intersection of American society with the assistive technology field, this collection documents how one man's vision of society and that of his company, in conjunction with perseverance and sacrifices, can transform the lives of individuals such as Franklin Halwood and Liz Jimenez. Lastly, this collection documents the evolution of assistive technology devices to provide for the specific needs of the physically and cognitively disabled.
Executive Records, 1986-1998, is approximately 3.6 cubic feet of documents, the majority of which are correspondence and reports. Other documents include: business cards, faxes, form letters, printed emails, brochures, check stubs, invoices, photocopied newspaper and magazine clippings, blank applications, memoranda, license agreements, scrap paper notes, promotional materials, private placement memoranda, annual reports of other corporations, resumes, receipts, deposit slips, meeting notes, directories, press releases, stock listings, maps, non-disclosure covenants, organizational charts, airline ticket stubs, by-laws, stock certificates, and stock warrants. This series is subdivided into eight subseries, each documenting the operational affairs of Safko International, Inc.
Files within the first subseries, Corporate history and formation, provide background information on the incorporation of Safko International, Inc. and its reformation as Synosure, Inc. in 1996. Other files contain documents listing employees and their positions, biographical sketches, facts about the company and products produced, corporate structuring, and Safko International, Inc.'s by-laws. Files found within the second subseries, Administration, contain operational records, the majority of which deal with the company's relationship with its employees. The third subseries, Correspondence, also deals with operational issues, such as recycling and preparing for conferences. Note that correspondence is found throughout the collection, not just in this subseries. Safko filed most correspondence by names and topics, but correspondence found within this subseries was labeled general correspondence and arranged by year. The next subseries, Business plans, are of drafts and final copies of reports that were revised every two years providing information about officers, legal and financial advisors, descriptions of the SenSei system and its market potential, its business and marketing strategies, foreign business relations, cash flow, distribution, sales history, restructuring strategy, its reseller status of other computer products, and pilot projects. The fifth subseries, Minutes, is comprehensive in coverage except for the period between 1990 and 1992. The most information about company decisions and discussions made at these meetings can be found in the minutes spanning 1992 to 1995.
The next two subseries, Board of Directors and Personnel, are not comprehensive in coverage and contain very few documents. Also, files for some of the employees and Board of Directors are not found within these subseries. Employee files include: Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer (Safko), SenSei Program Director (Martindale), Marketing Assistant (Montgomery), Computer programmer (Hirota), Chief Executive Officer and President after Safko resigned (Schembs), Vice President of Sales and Marketing (Zinn), Vice President of Sales and Marketing (Bowman), and Director of Sales (Owen). Within the two files about Safko is correspondence of a personal nature, his biographical sketch, and curriculum vitae. The final subseries, Business relationships, contains files about individuals and companies whose relationship to Safko International, Inc. was unclear or who had a relationship with the company that covered many areas of business. For instance, although Westinghouse Investment Management Company invested in other businesses, it had a "non-financial" interest in Safko International, Inc. Another example is the Apple Corporation, which provided technical support for Apple Computers that Safko International, Inc. resold, but it also marketed Safko's SenSei System in its Aisle 17 publication.
Financial Records 1987-1998, is approximately 1.3 cubic feet of documents, the majority of which are spreadsheets and reports about the company's financial status and correspondence with companies and individuals about investment opportunities. Other documents include: form letters, faxes, financial charts, resumes, memoranda, confidential summary memoranda, executive summaries, photocopied checks, photocopied newspaper clippings, handwritten notes, financial spreadsheets, stock warrants, agendas, private offering memoranda, confidential summary memoranda, drafts and final copies of financial statements, deposit slips, and business cards. This series is subdivided into four subseries, each documenting the fiscal difficulties that Safko International, Inc. encountered and its strategy for overcoming these difficulties.
The first subseries, Bookkeeping, includes records of liabilities, assets, expenses, inventories, payroll, stock transaction history, plans for preventing bankruptcy, and auditing procedures. The other three subseries deal specifically with the pursuit of Safko International, Inc. for financial assistance. The distinction between the third and fourth subseries is significant. The third subseries, Investors, documents individuals and companies that invested in Safko International, Inc. through loans or purchases of stock. The fourth subseries, includes files of individuals and companies from whom Safko requested financial assistance, but either rejected Safko's plea outright or never responded. It may be that some of these files are of companies and individuals that did in fact invest in Safko International, Inc., but there is no documentation within the files themselves to identify these individuals and companies as investors.
Legal Records, 1986-1997, is approximately 1.5 cubic feet of documents, the bulk of which is correspondence. Other documents in this series include: reports, licenses, payment vouchers, receipts, court summons, memoranda, photocopied newspaper clippings and magazine articles, newsletters, business proposals, faxes, promotional flyers for other products, brochures, meeting minutes, agreements, business cards, thirteen 5.25" computer diskettes, fourteen 3.5" computer disks, and phone messages. This series is divided into five subseries, each documenting the attempts of Safko International, Inc. to protect itself and its product.
The first subseries, Poor mans' patents, are packets of certified mail that Lon S. Safko sent to himself from 1986 to 1994 to provide proof of his status as the inventor of SoftVoice and other assistive technology devices. The second subseries, Legal documents, provide background information about the SenSei trademark and copyright application process. It also includes proof for the status of Safko International, Inc. as a legitimate and registered company having been granted the authority to conduct business. The third subseries, Legal representation and counsel, are files of documents created in the course of business between Safko International, Inc. and its various legal representatives pertaining to specific issues including: advice about copyrights and compliance with the American with Disabilities Act, capitalization, liability insurance program, loan and stock agreements, personal service agreements, pledge agreements, a prospective business venture with the Saudi Amoudi Group, articles of incorporation, and dissolutions. Most of the issues discussed within this subseries are administrative or financial.
The fourth subseries, Disputes, deals with legal battles that do not appear to have reached litigation. Documentation can be found about the contractual relationship with the Austin McDaniel Corporation and its subsequent dissolution, a challenge to the intellectual property copyright to "SenSei," Safko International, Inc.'s payment in arrears to other businesses, and the attempt of a board member to seek financial compensation from the company. The final subseries, Research file, is background research into the legal ramifications of the American with Disabilities Act, possible copyright infringements by other companies, copyright status of companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Motorola and their relationship to Safko International, Inc., information on how to deal with software licenses, and incoming and outgoing correspondence with software creators asking for their permission to incorporate their inventions as a part of the SenSei system.
Research Development, and Production Records, 1984-1996, is approximately one cubic foot of documents. It includes: correspondence, promotional materials, catalogs, drawings, photocopied newspaper clippings and magazine articles, manuals, circuit board diagrams, receipts, newsletter, brochures, six 3.5" computer disks, seventeen 5.25" computer floppy diskettes, invoices, faxes, business cards, agreements, photographs, fact sheets, and labels. This series is divided into five subseries, each documenting the revisions and adaptations of SoftVoice and the SenSei System for marketability purposes.
The first subseries, SoftVoice, consists of seventeen 5.25" computer floppy diskettes and some documents. The only documents found within this subseries are in two files, the majority of which are in the SoftVoice telephone file. In contrast, the second subseries, SenSei, consists mostly of documents and only one 3.5" computer disk. Among this subseries are files providing information on other complimentary products that Safko resold as a part of the SenSei System, instructions for installers and users of the system, adaptations of the system to meet particular needs, and information on suppliers, unit costs and suggested retail prices. As a part of the third subseries are five 3.5" computer disks. The strength of this subseries is its documentation of the Siptroller. The fourth subseries, Proprietary relationships, documents the pursuit of and/or actual relationship between Safko International, Inc. and other companies involved in selling, manufacturing, and/or distributing assistive technology devices. Depending on the individual needs of the client, Safko International, Inc. offered and sometimes sold these hardware devices and software programs as a part of the SenSei System. Ways in which the system was or could have been adapted through proprietary relationships include: establishing fire alarm and medical alert systems, programming languages, graphics, European modifications, word prediction software, iconic keyboards, and alternative input devices. The final subseries, Research concerning product development, is like the aforementioned subseries, but there is no documentation to prove that the companies contained within this subseries ever had a proprietary relationship with Safko International, Inc. In fact, within this subseries are files about companies that competed with Safko International, Inc. in the field of voice recognition and imitation. A third aspect of this subseries is that it contains research on technologies, like virtual reality, which were ways in which the SenSei system could be enhanced. This subseries contains documentation of Safko International, Inc.'s involvement in pilot studies to assess how assistive technology devices and systems like SenSei can make a difference in the work field.
Marketing, Publicity, and Sales Records, 1986-1996, is approximately 3.1 cubic feet of documents, including: correspondence, faxes, memoranda, drafts and final copies of agreements, reports, press releases, advertisements, fact sheets, agendas, photocopied newspaper clippings and magazine articles, transcripts, photographs, award applications, diagrams, annual reports, business cards, presentation outlines, notes, delivery slips, invoices, inventory lists, and diagrams. This series is divided into twelve subseries, each documenting an important part Safko International, Inc's. efforts to sell and create public awareness of their products. Also documented is that Safko International, Inc's. marketing to hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and consultants, nursing homes, insurance companies, government agencies, and individuals through mailings, advertisements, telephone calls, and personal relationships.
The first subseries, Product and company information, contains documents that are similar to those in the first subseries of Executive Records. The main difference is that these files are not the master copies. Also, very few files of this subseries actually focus on company history; the majority are documents created to assist individuals, other businesses, and company employees in providing background information about the product, finding funding to purchase a system, and understanding how the SenSei System works. The second subseries, Sales records, provides information on sales transactions. Some of the delivery slips and invoices within this subseries are also located in client files. The third subseries, Marketing agencies and agents, documents the relationship Safko International, Inc. had with public relations agencies. Of all the subseries, this is the one with the majority of information. It reveals the techniques the company and its public relations agents used in trying to initiate contact with other individuals and companies. For instance, there is detailed information about the construction of promotional materials along with timelines and progress reports assessing the work of the marketing agents in meeting the needs of Safko International, Inc. The fourth subseries, Promotional materials, contain documents whose purpose was to sell the Sensei system and other assistive technology inventions created by Lon S. Safko. Unlike the first subseries, Product and company information, the purpose of these documents was to persuade prospective customers. The fifth subseries, Advertisements and publicity, records publicity garnered through magazines, newspapers, video, television, and radio. The sixth subseries, Awards, documents publicity of a different sort. It documents the recognition Lon S. Safko and his inventions received for benefiting society. Within this subseries, one of the files documents the creation of a museum display at the Arizona Science Center. In addition to creating public awareness of the SenSei System, this series documents the training of sales representatives, sales transactions, and distribution.
The seventh subseries, Sales representatives' materials consist of documents used to assist in training the representatives. The eighth subseries, Sales representatives, is of files organized according to the name of the representative. Besides invoices for sales transactions, these files also contain agreements outlining responsibilities, a listing of who to go to for answers to legal questions, information on conventions, and definitions of pertinent medical terms necessary for a sales representative to know. Note that not all files are comprehensive or provide the same kinds of information. The ninth subseries, Conferences and demonstrations, are of presentations given by Safko International, Inc. to inform others about their products and to build relationships with other companies. Representatives of Safko International, Inc. attended to learn from other companies. One such conference was an Innovative Thinking Conference, in which the attendees were involved in brainstorming new marketing ideas.
The tenth subseries, Distribution, documents the expansion of the SenSei System into domestic and foreign markets. Included is background information about various companies and markets, agreements made with other companies, and the process for buying back equipment that distributors were unable to sell. The eleventh subseries, Prospective clients and business contacts, are files for which there is no definitive relationship built with Safko International, Inc. Within these files are letters to prospective clients asking to give them a demonstration, or letters of appreciation for a demonstration given, but no evidence of a follow-up.
Some of the files are of contacts initiated with marketing agencies or distributors that do not appear to have developed into an actual relationship. The last subseries, clients, is composed mostly of invoices and correspondence pertaining to the purchase or lease of SenSei Systems by school districts, individuals, churches, hospitals, and rehabilitation facilities. Information about: who the product was shipped to, the cost, representatives or distribution companies responsible for the sale, notes of adaptations to the system for individual needs, assessments by consultants, brief history of some of the individuals who purchased the systems, installation notes, and problems they encountered are found here. Like other files found elsewhere, this subseries is not comprehensive. Many files only include the invoices, but others include more information.
Photographs and Scrapbooks, 1987-1995, is approximately 0.9 cubic feet. Contained are: photographs, negatives, pins, thank you notes, photocopied newspaper clippings, agendas, programs, calendars, memoranda, correspondence, mailers, exhibitor ribbons, stickers, and newsletters. This series is divided into two subseries, each documenting the routine affairs of Safko International, Inc. and the individuals involved.
The first subseries, Photographs and negatives, is mostly promotional photographs of the products or individuals using the products. The second subseries, Scrapbooks, are mostly photographs, but includes other types of documents, and some artifacts. Most photographs found in the scrapbooks are not found elsewhere, but there is some overlap with the first subseries. Photographs in this subseries document board meetings, employees at work, assembling the mass mailings, wall hangings, inside and outside of Safko International, Inc.'s offices, Austin McDaniel Corporation offices, attorney's offices, meetings with TeleNova and InfoLogics, an investment reception, products Safko International, Inc. sold, system modifications, computer screens, the packaged product, setup for taking promotional photographs, setup for presentations, demonstration in a hospital setting, conferences, television interviews, Franklin Halwood, and unidentified individuals. In both subseries, very few of the photographs are captioned.
The seventh series, Audiovisual Materials, 1986-1996, is approximately one cubic foot of materials, encompassing twenty-nine 1⁄2" VHS tapes and four standard audio cassette tapes. Accordingly this series is divided into two subseries, Audio cassettes and Audio visual tapes, both documenting the marketing of the SenSei System. Additionally the second subseries also documents presentations given by Safko International, Inc. representatives and instruction manuals showing how to use the SoftVoice and SenSei systems.
This collection is divided into seven series.
Series 1: Executive Records, 1986-1998
Subseries 1.1: Corporate history and formation, 1986-1997
Subseries 1.2: Administration, 1988-1996
Subseries 1.3: Correspondence, 1988-1995
Subseries 1.4: Business plans, 1989-1996
Subseries 1.5: Minutes, 1987-1997
Subseries 1.6: Board of Directors, 1988-1992
Subseries 1.7: Personnel, 1988-1998
Subseries 1.8: Business relationships, 1986-1998
Sub-subseries 1.8.1: Apple Corporation, 1986-1996
Sub-subseries 1.8.2: Consultants, 1989-1994
Sub-subseries 1.8.3: Professional contacts, 1987-1995
Sub-subseries 1.8.4: National, 1987-1996
Sub-subseries 1.8.5: International, 1988-1998
Series 2: Financial Records, 1986-1998
Subseries 2.1: Bookkeeping, 1986-1996
Subseries 2.2: Bookkeeping, 1988-1996
Subseries 2.3: Investors, 1987-1998
Subseries 2.4: Investors, 1987-1998
Series 3: Legal Records, 1986-1997
Subseries 3.1: Poor man's patents, 1986-1994
Subseries 3.2: Legal documents, 1987-1994
Subseries 3.3: Legal representation and counsel, 1988-1995
Subseries 3.4: Disputes, 1987-1997
Subseries 3.5: Research file, 1986-1995
Series 4: Research, Development and Production Records, 1984-1996
Subseries 59: Conferences and demonstrations, 1987-1995
Subseries 5.10: Distribution, 1986-1996
Subseries 5.11: Prospective clients and business contacts, 1987-1996
Subseries 5.12: Clients, 1986-1996
Series 6: Photographs and Scrapbooks, 1987-1995
Subseries 6.1: Photographs and negatives, 1987-1995
Sub-subseries 6.1.1: Administration, circa 1988-1995
Sub-subseries 6.1.2: Promotional, 1987-1995
Sub-subseries 6.1.3: Demonstrations and trade shows, 1988-1995
Sub-subseries 6.1.4: SoftVoice and SenSei System, 1988-1995
Subseries 6.2: Scrapbooks, 1986-1994
Series 7: Audiovisual Materials, 1986-1996
Subseries 7.1: Audio cassettes, 1991-1994
Subseries 7.2: Audio visual tapes, 1986-1996
Biographical / Historical:
Founded by Lon S. Safko in 1987, Safko International, Inc. was formed in response to the encouragement Safko received from demonstrating SoftVoice, his environmental control system. At first, Safko was merely fulfilling a promise to help a quadriplegic, Herb Smith, regain control of his environment. As Safko encountered the many difficulties of adapting existing voice recognition software to communicate with hardware devices, such as lamps, he understood that the only way to fulfill his promise was to invent his own system. Shortly after his first demonstration, on March 3, 1986, he was so inspired at the success of his invention that he decided to continue his work. In October of that year, Safko was contacted to install a system for Leon Mutch, a man who had lost his will to live after being paralyzed from an automobile accident. After installing the system, Safko heard nothing for a few weeks. Then after being telephoned to retrieve the system, he was surprised to find that Mutch had in fact regained some arm mobility, and more importantly, Mutch had regained the hope that he had lost. Less than six months later, on March 6, 1987, Safko International, Inc. was formally incorporated in Kennewick, Washington, to develop, produce, market, sell, and distribute Safko's inventions, primarily SoftVoice and its successor, the SenSei System.
Although Safko International, Inc. was officially incorporated in 1987, the company did not fully develop until its relocation to Chandler, Arizona, in 1989. During 1987 and 1988, Lon Safko continued to work in the computer retail business and as Senior Systems Engineer for the United States Department of Energy, under Westinghouse Electric Company, to produce an Artificial Intelligence computer system. From August to November, 1987, Lon Safko was repeatedly contacted by Debra Purcel, a physical therapist who wanted to purchase the system for one of her patients, a sixteen year old girl with a spinal tumor whose last request was to communicate her thoughts and feelings to others who were suffering from similar circumstances. Safko was reluctant to sell her the system because the girl was using a respirator and therefore would be unable to speak clearly enough for a computer to recognize her voice. Eventually, Safko realized the solution was to modify his system through the use of alternative input devices. He created HeadMouse, an input device modified from an existing model. He named the modified system SoftVoice II. In August, 1987, Safko's environmental control system was renamed the SenSei System. After modifying the system to provide for the needs of the young girl and its successful demonstration, Safko decided to give the system free of charge to her. Unfortunately when he returned to surprise her, he was too late. Her life support systems had been unplugged two days before.
Shortly thereafter, in March of 1988, Safko returned to Safko International, Inc. with a greater determination to reach those individuals trapped by circumstances beyond their control. Also in 1988, Safko International, Inc. was given office space in which to continue research and development of Safko's assistive computer technology systems through the assistance of Westinghouse Electric Company. As of 1988 Safko was President and Chief Executive Officer of the company, Stan Colson was Vice President and on the Product Development team, Bruce Jorgenson was the Secretary and Treasurer in charge of the Finance and Administration division, Bob Hennig was on the Product Development team, and Keith Fischer served as Director of Engineering. The Marketing and Sales division was composed of Roger McDowell and Melanie Strege.
During 1988, Safko International, Inc. began clinical testing at hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. In addition, the company signed a contract with Boyd Fricke of the Austin McDaniel Corporation granting an exclusive international sales and marketing rights to Safko International, Inc.'s products in exchange for financial assistance. Later, Austin McDaniel Corporation attempted to coerce Safko International, Inc. through financial pressure to give up product rights. In 1990 Safko regained sales and marketing rights of the SenSei System. In May of 1988 there was also an attempt to merge with Datex Inc, but the merger did not succeed.
On June 15, 1989, the company officially moved the corporate headquarters, along with the engineering and manufacturing division, to Chandler, Arizona. Also in 1989 the company signed Value Added Reseller agreements with computer companies such as Apple Computer, Inc. and Computerland/ DataPhaz of Phoenix, Arizona.
In the following year, Safko International, Inc. expanded from domestic to international markets. The company built relationships with TeleNova AB, a subsidiary of the Swedish Telecom Group of the Swedish government and InfoLogics, an artificial intelligence computer division. Through the marketing and distribution efforts of TeleNova and its president Tommy Naslund, Safko International, Inc. was able to install SenSei systems in Sweden. In 1990 Lon Safko traveled to Sweden to help InfoLogics translate the SenSei computer system software into Swedish.
In 1991 Safko International, Inc. acquired contracts to construct interfaces which correspond with hospital beds. In particular, the Borg Warner Electronic Hospital Bed interface was created on the behalf of the Veterans Administration Hospital and the Smith and Davis Electronic Hospital Bed interface on the behalf of the Rusk Institute. Additionally, the Environmental PAL was developed in 1991. In regards to corporate structuring Richard L. Bourke became Vice President and Chief Financial Officer and John B. Zinn was Vice President of Marketing.
On February 24, 1992, Safko International, Inc. became an official Arizona corporation. Also during this year, the portable Safko Server and Power Now System were created.
In May 1993, Allen J. Emsley became Secretary and Treasurer of the company and then became Chief Financial Officer from November 1993 until August 1994. In November of 1993 the research and development office was moved from Chandler to Tempe, Arizona.
In January 1994 Safko International, Inc. was acquired by Safko Industries Inc., of Wyoming and Safko Sales International was formed. By 1994 Safko International, Inc. had sales representatives covering Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Washington, Illinois, California, and New York. Reflected in the company's active marketing campaign and its significant increase of personnel, from 1994 to1995 Safko International, Inc. was at its peak in terms of corporate growth.
In 1995 Safko International, Inc. received Veterans Administration and Medicare approval. In the research and development division the company enhanced the SenSei System to be functional for the visually disabled and blind. As of 1995 Sakfo, Bowman, Emsley, Fischer, Honacker, and Hirota remained at the company. New employees included: Teresa Caldwell, Michael Montgomery (Marketing Assistant), Kahn Beal (contract employee), Jill Lund (Secretary), Carl E. McKowan (Vice President Financial), Marjory Bain (Administrative Assistant). Due to financial difficulties, in October of 1995 the entire staff was laid off and only Safko, Bowman, and Fischer continued to work for the company. Conditions only got worse and in November of 1995 Safko, Bowman, and Fischer were forced to leave their office space and work out of their cars and homes.
On May 28, 1996 Lon S. Safko officially resigned from the company and shortly thereafter the company shut down. Immediately following Safko International, Inc.'s closure, Synosure, Inc. was formed and given all rights, copyrights, and trademarks to the Safko International, Inc. products. One of the significant aspects about the company during this time was its attempt to finalize distribution plans with Great Britain, but the momentum was lost. Synosure, Inc. only lasted a year. On June 23, 1997 it dissolved.
Lawrence "Lon" S. Safko was born on August 1, 1955, in Yonkers, New York. He completed his General Equivalency Diploma (G.E.D.) in 1976 and graduated from Westchester College in 1978 with a three year advanced degree in Civil Engineering. Safko also took courses at Mercy College, Pace University and Hofstra University.
In the spring of 1982, Safko began his entrepreneurial career by forming Civil Consultants, a firm to provide the first ever engineering services using computers. The company specialized in surveying, coordinate geometry, earthworks, highway and transportation design, traffic analysis, and hydrologic computations. In 1985, Safko sold Civil Consultants and relocated to the Pacific Northwest. Wanting to work more closely with computers, he became the general sales manager for two Apple Computer, Inc. retail outlets.
That same year, Safko designed a voice activated environmental control system for the disabled called SoftVoice Computer System. On March 6, 1986, Safko founded Safko International, Inc. and began field testing the SoftVoice Computer System. During 1987, Safko designed an artificial intelligence computer system for the United States Department of Energy and the Westinghouse Electric Company, on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, in Washington State. This system compiled thousands of reports developed by the five uranium and plutonium production companies on the nuclear reservation, analyzed this information, and reported to the operator any signs of potentially hazardous patterns that could result in a nuclear disaster. In 1988, Safko began research and development of a Macintosh-based SenSei Computer System for the Disabled.
Safko holds United States Patent # 7,072,949 for a, "System and method for providing paper models over a wide area computer network," and several copyrights and trademarks. Currently, Safko is a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant for Better Homes Seminar and Innovative Thinking, L.L.C. He also is President and founder of Paper Models, Inc., providing corporate specialty advertising and educational paper models.
Materials at Other Organizations
The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA holds several artifacts related to Lon Safko. Accession Lot # X3342.2006 contains:
First RCA TV Sip Controller
First Hospital Bed Nurse Call
Sip Puff IR Controller
Production Version Sip Puff Controller
Smith & Davis Electric Hospital Bed Controller
Sip Puff Modified Mouse
Computer Controlled Telephone
First SenSei Server (Mac)
Prototype SenSei Server (Mac)
Sip Puff IR Controllers
Sip Puff Accessory Pack
Final SenSei Server Production Model
Final SenSei Server Production Model
SyQuest SenSei Software Back Ups
First CD SenSei Software Back Ups
The Division of Information, Technology, and Society holds 18 artifacts related to this collection as accession number 2005.0291 including:
1 Computer, with detached cord
Apple II cpu/keyboard
External Drive, "Apple Disk II"
External Drive, "Distar"
Magnavox computer monitor 80
4 Diskettes, "SoftVoice"
Super Disk Demo 1
Super Disk Demo 2
1 PC Daughter Board, "Speech Recognition for Apple II"
1 Mouse Emulator, "Head Master," with parts and manual in shipping box made by Prentke Romich Company
1 Trackball, "Kensington TurboMouse"
1 Siptroller Case, Prototype, "Safko International Inc."
1 Puff Stick Base, "Gravis" with a hand piece and a chin piece only
1 Production Sensei Server, "Version 2.0 Safko International Inc."
This collection was donated by Lon S. Safko, 2006.
This collection is open for research use.
Copyright held by the Smithsonian Institution. Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: fees for commercial use.