Profile: T.V. Raman; September 1996; Scientific American Magazine; by Gibbs; 2 Page(s)
T. V. Raman wants to show me what he has been building on the nights and weekends when he is not working as a senior computer scientist at Adobe Systems. So I have come down to his apartment in Mountain View, Calif., to watch him play. As we sit in his spartan living room, decorated only with a NordicTrack, a partially solved five-by-five Rubik¿s Cube (adorned with Braille stickers) and a single framed poster of wolves, Raman powers up his laptop. The device comes to life with what sounds to my ears to be a string of alien gibberish, like a compact disc on fast forward. Raman smiles: to the blind engineer, that is the sweet sound of connection. "I¿ve gotten used to the thing talking very, very fast. It keeps me efficient," he chuckles, before slowing the speech rate down by about half so that I can follow along. Gibberish turns to stilted, robotic English--a voice familiar to me as that of Stephen W. Hawking, the renowned physicist, who uses the same type of synthesizer.
Feeling around the cushions of his couch for a telephone cord, Raman plugs in his modem and dials up his workstation at Adobe. As his hands fly over the keys, the movements of this 31-year-old immigrant from Pune, India, remind me of a virtuoso pianist. Each stroke elicits a distinct sound as his synthesizer intones a cacophony of letters, words, chords. Cowbells jangle when the computer has a question or a suggestion for him. As his World Wide Web browser loads, Bach¿s toccata and fugue plays. Within a minute or two, Raman is scanning the latest headlines from CNN and checking out hot stocks at the Wall Street Journal. His expression betrays a giddy adoration for this technology.