The first reading machine capable of translated printed material into spoken words was unveiled on this date in 1976 by inventor Raymond Kurzweil and the National Federation of the Blind. Kurzweil, a pioneering scientist in artificial intelligence, appeared on Steve Allen’s I’ve Got a Secret television as a high school student back in 1965, when he had already invented a computer capable of composing music.

Stevie Wonder purchased the first unit of the Kurzweil Reading Machine; their subsequent friendship helped to inspire many of Kurzweil’s innovations in computer-generated music technology. Kurzweil’s books include The Age of Spiritual Machines, When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. Among his numerous awards are seventeen honorary doctorates.

“Biological evolution is too slow for the human species. Over the next few decades, it’s going to be left in the dust.” —Raymond Kurzweil