The Spectra Post Processor

Welcome to the SPP page. Home of the award winning Spectra Post Processor.

Back around 1996, I’d upgraded my cochlear implant’s MSP speech processor to the new Spectra model and, while it was an improvement, it was still far from perfect. I drove my audiologist nuts with my frequent visits, at which I would make some minor tweak to the processor’s settings, hoping for a big change in word recognition, but no such luck.

I got to wondering, as hackers do, how the devil does this thing really work, anyway? One thing led to another, and I spent pretty much all of 1997 hunched over a DOS machine in my spare bedroom, writing PIC code, wrapping wires, programming eeproms, and building a contraption that would eventually detect the signal from my earpiece, decode and modify it in realtime, reconstruct it and – I remember deciding not to bother updating my Will the evening I first tried it – blasting it right into my brain.

Stupid. Crazy. Dangerous. But doing it was one of the highlights of my life.

Like most of my projects, I learned a lot and moved on. What I took away from it was a conviction that there was, after all, nothing I could do to my processor’s Map that would make a huge difference in my hearing. So it must be something else.

I went to Plan B: I showed up at the hospital, ‘sort of stole’ the x-rays from my surgery and from a followup visit, and compared them in the parking lot. They were different enough that I eventually convinced my audiologist and my surgeon that they should take out my implant and replace it.

Long story short: big improvement.

Meanwhile, the Journal of Embedded Systems (aka Circuit Cellar Ink), was ramping up it’s Design98 competition, and the theme for the year was “Anything Designed Around a PIC Processor.” Well my SPP used 3 of them, so I wrote up the project, entered it in the Contest … and won!
Well, 3rd place, anyway, but the projects that go into this kind of contest are amazing, and a ‘podium finish’ is a serious mark of distinction. You should be proud to know me!

So now, just because I recently stumbled upon a diskette labelled ‘SPP’ when I opened a dusty cardboard box, I’m sharing the writeups I did 15 years ago for the Contest.

The Spectra Post-Processor


Try these links:

  • Abstract A 1-page summary of the SPP required for the Design Contest.
  • Writeup This is the main body of the contest entry. It’s a little dry, but you’ll enjoy the beginning and the end.
  • Interview Questions and answers.


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