I'm trying to confirm a vague recollection about the text-to-speech PlainTalk / MacinTalk software shipped with Macintosh computers. If my memory is right, this would have been around 1994, and based on the Wikipedia description I think it would have been MacinTalk Pro on a Quadra-series machine. I remember the "funny" voices like Cellos, Zarvox, etc.

I recall that the text-to-speech would occasionally and unexpectedly speak the words "open-apple hold" when reading. I never knew why or what triggered it. It may have happened when attempting to read garbage text or something else that wasn't really words.

Does anyone remember this behavior and know why it happened? A recording of it would also be interesting, if you have an appropriate machine and can reproduce it.

It's possible that I misheard and that "hold" was really some other word, but I am pretty sure about "open-apple", which was presumably a reference to the open-apple / command key on the keyboard. It's also possible that I am mixing this up with an even earlier version of MacinTalk.

  • I don't recall this, but I admit to not having used it much. I do recall the Bionic Beaver would utter "D H tick" on every startup though. Jun 1, 2019 at 18:33

2 Answers 2


(Not really a satisfying answer, but too long for a comment)

Sounds strange, as "Open-Apple" is Applle II nomenclatura. While it was present on ADB keyboards for use with the IIgs (who had ÂDB before the Mac), The Mac-speak for that key was "Command" and denoted by the "looped square" symbol.

Then again, Command was widely used for application specific shortcuts. I just don't have any Mac manual right now to check up if there was some Macintalk specific shortcut. Or if it was reporting a held Command key as part of some accessibility routine which might have been as well. Apple did early on try to incooperate Macintalk to enable blind Mac users.

Last but not least, there was also the feature of "Talking Alerts" were system messages could be spoken as well.

  • Pre-release versions of Mac OS used the Apple symbol instead of the command symbol. Steve Jobs reportedly didn't want the Apple logo all over the menus and display, and asked for a change at the last minute, which led to the change in symbol and presumably the name. folklore.org/… Given that Macintalk was an early product developed alongside the original Mac itself, perhaps it retained it from earlier development?
    – RETRAC
    Jun 2, 2019 at 16:30
  • 2
    @RETRAC All true, except that would require a hickup in time. The Mac was introduced in 1984, already with Command/Option instead of Open/Closed Apple keys. The ADB keyboard with both markings was introduced in 1988 with the Apple IIgs, and the first Mac to use it was the Mac II in 1987 At that time the naming of Command/Option was quite settled with Mac users - in fact, they never learned different before. Macintalk general availability came with Mac OS 6 in 1988, again.
    – Raffzahn
    Jun 2, 2019 at 19:23
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    Those of us that grew up in the Apple II era still to this day continue to call the now command key "open-apple" due to the Apple II open-apple and closed-apple keys. Early in the Mac era when we were a much larger portion of the user population it was rare to hear "command", and very common to hear "open-apple" despite what the symbol on the keyboard looked like... Jun 5, 2019 at 13:04

I attempted to reproduce this, using a Mac Plus with System 6.0.8, and a Power Macintosh with MacOS 9. I tried the MacinTalk desk accessory, KeyCaps, and TeachText/SimpleText programs. I also looked through all of the Control Panels for a relevant option. Talking alerts were an option in MacOS 9, and were tried as well.

Although I was able to get both computers to speak text after it was typed, neither computer would speak keys as they are typed, much less a modifier key or specifically "open-Apple". Perhaps you are thinking of something for the Apple II.

Raffzahn is correct that "open-Apple" is Apple II terminology, not Macintosh. It's not even a character in the MacOS Roman font, even though the closed-Apple is.

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