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However, the nerve that allowed him to move his thumbs kept degrading.

By 2008, Hawking's hand was too weak to use the clicker.

This system was then adapted by David Mason, the engineer husband of one of Hawking's nurses, to a portable system that could be mounted on one of the arms of a wheelchair.

With this new system, Hawking was able to communicate at a rate of 15 words per minute.

Nevertheless, his ability to communicate continued to decline.

By 2011, he managed only about one or two words per minute, so he sent a letter to Moore, saying: "My speech input is very, very slow these days. "Moore asked Justin Rattner, then Intel's CTO, to look into the problem.

"Initially we fed him a lot of these wild ideas and tried a lot of off-the-shelf technologies." Those attempts, more often than not, failed.

We hope that this team has a breakthrough and identifies a technique that allows him to communicate at levels he had a few years ago."Hawking had been too ill to attend his own birthday party, so he met the Intel experts some weeks later at his office in the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge.Woltosz had created an earlier version of Equalizer to help his mother-in-law, who also suffered from ALS and had lost her ability to speak and write."I asked if it was Stephen Hawking, but he couldn't give me a name without permission," says Woltosz. I said I would donate whatever was needed."Equalizer first ran on an Apple II computer linked to a speech synthesizer made by a company called Speech Plus.Before the Intel project, Hawking had tested EEG caps that could read his brainwaves and potentially transmit commands to his computer.Somehow, they couldn't get a strong enough brain signal.

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