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Stephen Hawking Looking For Personal Techie 289

Posted by samzenpus
from the polish-up-the-resume dept.
kaptink writes "One of the great grandmasters of space, time and the history of our existence 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 on Stephen'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.' He lost his real voice in a tracheotomy in 1985, but has something based on NeoSpeech's VoiceText speech synthesizer mounted on his wheelchair that 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 can connect to the internet over mobile phone networks and a universal infrared remote enables the physicist to switch on the lights, watch television, or open doors either at home or at the office. 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? If your answer is "yes", we'd like to hear from you!'. Hawking's website says that the job's salary is expected to be about $38,500 a year."
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Stephen Hawking Looking For Personal Techie

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  • also (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:31PM (#38532096)

    also he will steal your girlfriend if you have one.

    • Re:also (Score:5, Funny)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:33PM (#38532126) Journal

      The pay is pretty low, all things considered. I guess Hawking is relying on his rock star status. Would be a helluva thing to put on your resume, though. "Maintained Stephen Hawking's cyborg interface."

      • Re:also (Score:5, Insightful)

        by pclminion (145572) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:57PM (#38532448)
        Is money the only value you could derive from a working relationship with Stephen Hawking?
        • working with SK would be great!

          I'm not so sure I'd accept living (and traveling in/out of) the UK.

          yes, that, itself, is a show-stopper.

          it wasn't always that way with me; I used to travel somewhat regularly (business paid travel) to the UK. but that was before they started studying orwell's 'instructions' a bit too much and using it as a model for their new society.

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          "It's an honor to work for you Mr. Hawking. Now you could please help me go over my high school physics textbook? I still don't know the fucking difference between an Ohm and a Watt. Something about the resistance? Are they talking about Solidarity?

      • Is it really? I don't imagine that the hours would even close to approach a part time job. You are only maintaining a very small amount of electronics.
        Getting paid $40K a year for re-soldering a handful of wires is hardly a small amount.

        • it sounds like you are *always* on-call and if he travels, you travel with him. you're the repair guy and can't be some plane ride away if his shit breaks down.

          at least that's my take on what the job is about. its tech support, high pressure, and you have to be not-to-far-away from where he is at all times. that sounds pretty style-cramping, to me.

        • It's a nice pay for the technical side but you are doing a lot of PA work too and you travel when he wants it and you need to speak to the public for him in some cases and demonstrate systems to others.. It is low pay but it's a job funded through the university. It is going to be acceptable pay but not the sort of pay you would get for doing the same in the private sector (if it were possible to find a similar job elsewhere). So yes you get something that looks cool on your CV but you are technically takin
  • You know... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fluffeh (1273756) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:33PM (#38532118)

    The significant drop in salary could well be worth it. Being able to talk to the man every day, see how he works. What an interesting job indeed!

    • Re:You know... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@h a c k i sh.org> on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:35PM (#38532156)

      You could also probably supplement it later by writing a book or something about being Stephen Hawking's techie. It's a nice attention-grabber to have on your resume, too.

    • by l0ungeb0y (442022)

      You seriously don't think this would be a daily affair do you? $38k for a "johnny on the spot" maintenance and upgrades guy is a pretty good pay scale for P/T work.
      However, this guy's time is valuable and I highly doubt you'll be afforded any private time to converse and pick his brain on the few occasions you do get around him
      Especially since he wont be able to converse while you do your work since his means of talking is what you'll be repairing.

      • Given the system description- a bunch of cobbled together bits with no documentation- I'd be surprised if it could actually make it more than an hour or two without crashing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by cpaalman (696554)
      As if he wants to have hours long conversations with his personal gadget repairman.
    • Having an interesting job doesn't pay the bills.
    • I can't believe Hawking is still around. Someone with his diagnosis usually checks out 10-12 years after the first signs. That he's hung on this long is some testament. I can't see him lingering on for much longer.
  • Downside (Score:5, Funny)

    by discord5 (798235) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:34PM (#38532138)

    If you make a mistake the world will say you broke Stephen Hawking.

  • link to the picture (Score:5, Informative)

    by Andy_R (114137) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:35PM (#38532164) Homepage Journal
    • by f8l_0e (775982)
      It looks like a proton pack. I hope whoever he gets to work on it is licensed to work with particle accelerators.
    • "These pages have been designed to make your access to the information as straight forward as possible."

      Written in a small, fuzzy, white on black font as a gif image *facepalm*

      But then again, I guess a screen-reader is kind of the opposite of Steven Hawking and could theoretically (no pun intended) be considered his nemesis...

  • How much will he pay to just on the hardware costs? If he can't pay a good rate to get a good person much will he pay on the up keep costs?

  • by zAPPzAPP (1207370) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:41PM (#38532254)

    most likely goes like this:
    - some genius put that original backpack computer together
    - he barely made it work, but he was not sure why it worked and he never bothered to write any documentation
    - he left as soon as it was up and running, out of fear that it might break any moment and he had no idea what to do then
    - now it is breaking apart and the genius is gone.
    - it is your job to fix it, good luck

    • by Cus (700562)

      "he barely made it work, but he was not sure why it worked and he never bothered to write any documentation"

      From the site:
      'Maintenance of "black box" systems with no instruction manual or technical support '

      Alarm! Alarm!

    • by ae1294 (1547521)

      most likely goes like this:
      - some genius put that original backpack computer together
      - he barely made it work, but he was not sure why it worked and he never bothered to write any documentation
      - he left as soon as it was up and running, out of fear that it might break any moment and he had no idea what to do then
      - now it is breaking apart and the genius is gone.
      - it is your job to fix it, good luck

      Is this going to be the next Half-life story line?

    • by Hairy1 (180056)

      Sounds like a opportunity to reverse engineer it and make it available more generally for those in a similar situation.

  • Diverse skills (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dan East (318230) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:47PM (#38532348) Homepage Journal

    This entails a lot more than just technical aspects:

    • Managing national and international travel for Prof. Hawking and his care team. Expect to spend around 3 months per year abroad!
    • Preparation of lecture graphics and public speaking
    • Dealing with the media and press
    • Answering inquiries from the public and maintaining the website

    Sounds like a lot of direct PR stuff is involved, including scheduling and logistics, and even graphics design, which are probably not skills the typical techie would be strong in. Also, the pay sounds kind of low considering it's a whole lot more than just maintaining his technology.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      He's pretty much looking for a personal assistant.

    • Re:Diverse skills (Score:4, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday December 30, 2011 @12:00AM (#38535248) Homepage Journal

      Sounds like a lot of direct PR stuff is involved, including scheduling and logistics, and even graphics design, which are probably not skills the typical techie would be strong in. Also, the pay sounds kind of low considering it's a whole lot more than just maintaining his technology.

      I agree, there's a lot of people in this thread saying that complaining about the pay is ridiculous but for all you're expected to do and all you'll have to know to do it it's actually very little money. It's grad student money. It's fucking insulting, is what it is. If you have some serious physics problems he promises to help you with, it might be worth it. We're talking about maybe only one job's worth of work, but it's three careers' worth of skills, and inadequate pay for any of them.

  • Good luck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joh (27088) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:48PM (#38532364)

    Finding someone for that kind of pay who is able to do all of this and do it well won't be easy:

    Managing national and international travel for Prof. Hawking and his care team. Expect to spend around 3 months per year abroad!
    Development and maintenance of Professor Hawking's communication and speech systems
    Procurement and maintenance of his wheelchairs and accessible van
    Preparation of lecture graphics and public speaking
    Dealing with the media and press
    Answering inquiries from the public and maintaining the website
    The post requires a wide range of skills, most importantly:
    Ability to work under pressure
    Maintenance of "black box" systems with no instruction manual or technical support
    Computer literacy
    Electronics knowledge
    Ability to speak to a large audience
    Ability to show others how to use complex systems

    • I suspect if they get someone it'll be for one or two years, after which they'll drop all the technical requirements and hire someone to focus on just the PR stuff, hoping that the rejigged machine outlasts Hawking.

    • by lazycam (1007621)
      It seems to me that this would be an excellent 'internship' opportunity for a young engineer. Internships typically do not pay well (38K seems pretty fair to me) and whoever is hired to work on the system would learn how to reverse-engineer, document, and maintain a complex system. After a year or so of working on the system that individual could walk to any tech company working on high-tech handicap access technology or make a killing. Furthermore, I'm sure there are plenty of young researchers would would
    • by syousef (465911)

      Finding someone for that kind of pay who is able to do all of this and do it well won't be easy:

      Academics have a name for such people. They're called "grad students".

      • by joh (27088)

        Finding someone for that kind of pay who is able to do all of this and do it well won't be easy:

        Academics have a name for such people. They're called "grad students".

        Basically, yes. But then you'll be responsible to keep all that tech not only maintained but also up and running while replacing and updating it, and this with someone who has (probably) only very limited years to live and work. Breaking this old tech and then working half a year on a real new, real good, full-featured modern replacement for it is not really an option.

        Well, I'm not saying he won't find someone. Could be a cool and rewarding job anyway.

  • by RebelWithoutAClue (578771) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:03PM (#38532522) Homepage
    "You don't want more than $38,500." Oh, wait, sorry. :P
  • by lonelytrail (1741524) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:03PM (#38532524)
    Ok, so TFA doesn't say it very clearly but his site [hawking.org.uk] does.
    This is for a graduate assistant to STEPHEN HAWKING.
    My stipend was 1/4 of that at best and, oh yeah, did I mention... This is for a graduate assistant to STEPHEN W. HAWKING.
    I know you guys are all so F'ing incredible that you don't need resume bullets or care about other peoples' ideas, but how's about
    1. 2012-2013 - Personal assistant to STEPHEN W. HAWKING

    Um, if I were eligible I'd be making them KNOW I was their man!

    • by Obfuscant (592200) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:44PM (#38533002)

      This is for a graduate assistant to STEPHEN HAWKING.

      No, not really. It is for a personal assistant who has some technical skills to maintain the assistive devices he uses.

      A graduate assistant position is a part-time position that is used to fund PhD or MS students while they are studying, and the webpage is quite explicit in saying that this is NOT a position for someone who wants to study physics. This position has nothing to do with a graduate student.

      One thing universities are quite clear on, at least those I've attended and worked at, is that if you aren't a graduate student you aren't eligible for graduate assistantships. In fact, we just had a student graduate who needed a short-term position until her real job started, and she was not allowed to be a GRA, she had to get an appointment as a faculty assistant.

      Not that this job wouldn't be interesting, but it would be more of a caretaker than an academic relationship.

  • It's truly amazing what having to think before you speak can accomplish.

    If I remember correctly he was stuck on some long discontinued TI speech synthesis chip. I remember the initial story when they first did it in particular because I also was playing with a similar part at the time in High School.
    Finding parts and people has to be getting difficult.

    At the same time I can completely understand him not wanting to upgrade his system, from the GUI he's used very successful for 25 years or Voice that has now

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      Worst case it can be done as a series of recordings from the original chip.

      No, worst case would be having Majel Barret record the voice. Or would it be worst? Imagine, one of the most famous scientists of all time speaking in the voice of one of the most famous computer systems of all time?

      Or maybe as Hal? "What's the equation for the sixth string dimension, Stephen?" "I can't do that, Dave".

      I'd offer my FSW Votrax unit, if I knew which box I had it stored in and it still works.

      • by Mononoke (88668) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:58PM (#38533890) Homepage Journal

        No, worst case would be having Majel Barret record the voice. Or would it be worst? Imagine, one of the most famous scientists of all time speaking in the voice of one of the most famous computer systems of all time?

        If he can get Majel to record the voice, then he will have once again turned our understanding of the linearity of time completely upside down.

  • Does he read /.? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:14PM (#38532646)

    Does he read /.?

    That may be important to consider, before you post.

  • Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:15PM (#38532660) Homepage Journal
    So, here we have a golden opportunity to work for one of the most brilliant humans to ever exist, tinkering with an amazing if poorly documented system, jetsetting around the globe, being paid to attend sold-out physics lectures... and all half the /. community can think to do is bitch about the pay grade.

    Seems the Green-Eyed Monster (and this global recession) has ruined a lot of folks. The way I see it, the fact that Hawking is likely footing the bill for the room, board, and travel expenses of whoever gets the gig (as they would be considered a member of his 'care team'), not to mention getting to hang out with Stephen fucking Hawking, $38,000 per annum seems like a pretty damn good deal.

    Now, if only I could get my wife on board... I wonder if he needs an economist, too...
    • by pclminion (145572)

      Sad, isn't it? And if it's not about the money, it's because "I think he's wrong about X." As if agreeing with a guy is a necessary condition for respecting a guy. I'm not putting Hawking on a pedestal -- I'd gladly take $38k to work for any of a number of top scientists.

      I understand that people with families and debts and complicated lives can't just drop everything... But I get the feeling most of the whiners in here are obnoxious 20-somethings. Older people can recognize the value in this, even if there'

      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RebelWithoutAClue (578771) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:39PM (#38532938) Homepage
        You are exactly wrong. It is young people who are willing to work for less pay. Old people on the other hand have a better idea of how much their expertise is worth. Lets face it, slashdot is getting middle-aged.
        • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

          by pclminion (145572) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:46PM (#38533038)

          Old people on the other hand have a better idea of how much their expertise is worth.

          Older people should also have a better understanding of what friends and colleagues are worth.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          But young people won't have the expertise. At this pay rate, we will either get a senior person who is unmarried, noone to support, and is willing to take a pay cut, or someone who wuill need 2 years to get up to speed.

          And after your hero has drooled on you for enough hours, demanding you 24/7 and you had to deal with other 'situation' after a couple of years a new job will be looking pretty nice. For most people.

          Some people can dedicate themselves to this for a fraction of what they could make elsewhere. A

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      thinking he is and actually is are two totally separate things, a lot a below average salary break fix job is going to do anyone when you have to spend 3 weeks in a 200+ dollar a night hotel

  • If only I were about 10 years younger (back when I had my hands into more hardware and with no house payment or wife), I'd take that job, work on improving most of his cobbled together hardware with something a little more modern (and software controlled) and open source it so others can benefit from the same thing.

    Getting paid £25k/year to hang out with Stephen Hawking sounds like the geek chance of a lifetime.

  • Why is he relying on such archaic equipment? There is far better equipment out there than what he is using. Even assuming he doesn't want to undergo some sort of implant, there is eye scanning tech, EEG devices, etc. They are even putting them in toys these days.

    Link the EEG from a Force Trainer into a computer with a eye scanning device and a android tablet in front of him. He could use the EEG device to let the eye scanning computer to know when to start looking at his eye movements, it would track wher

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