It started out with bad news in an email.
Dan C. is one of my best friends. He had to go into the hospital to remove a large growth from his leg. We went to lunch before hand, and I reassured him everything would be fine. I expected him to contact me, time went by, no contact from Dan . . . then I got an email from his girlfriend saying, "Dan is not doing well".
I found out from her that he had been moved from Oakland to a hospital facility in Vallejo, CA. I drove to visit him, and when I entered the hospital room, Dan recognized me, but was unable to speak. He had suffered a pulmonary embolism, while walking across the lawn to leave the hospital. A blood clot broke loose, traveled to his lungs, and his heart stopped, he collapsed on the grass. They worked on him continuously, and were able to revive him.
Considering what happened, Dan was lucky to be alive. His frustration and mine were both obvious, we couldn't communicate and had never had much trouble talking before, in fact the opposite, being not able to shut-up was our problem! I found a laminated conversation board in the hospital room with the alphabet on it, and the words yes, and no.
He tediously began to spell out his answers in our conversation pointing his finger to each letter. Dan was having trouble with his manual dexterity, he was still very weak. I realized quickly, that this way of communicating wasn't going to do! I started thinking, Dan and I had always shared a big interest in computers, networking, IT, etc. In fact we both worked as programmers at DMV together in Sacramento, where I met him and he later got me my first job interview in San Francisco. I helped him name his first small business, LANTEC, and we designed his website together.
The Apple iPad had just been released a few months earlier, and I was trying hard to think of an app to write for it. Then, I thought about Stephen Hawking, and how he had a computer voice which could talk for him, it was part of his wheelchair. I thought the iPad might be powerful enough and just be able to do it. So I got really busy; I would write an app that talked for my friend Dan!