by Emerson Foulke

Text pulled from the internet.

[Editor's Note: Dr. Foulke is a member of the Department of Psychology and the Director of the Perceptual Alternatives Laboratory at the University of Louisville, Kentucky.]

The ARTS System (Audio Response Time-Sharing), developed by Dr. Kenneth Ingham at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, consists of a time-sharing computer, programmed to perform a wide variety of services for blind users, and an audio response unit that transduces the computer output to spoken language. The system is connected through sixteen telephone lines to the telephone system. The users' terminal, which connects to ordinary telephone lines, includes two inputs, a standard typewriter keyboard and a keyboard resembling the keyboard on a ten key calculator, and an output consisting of a loudspeaker over which the listener hears the computer's response as spoken language. The user gains access to the computer by diahng the computer's telephone number. When he has established a connection to the computer, he types a code on his keyboard that identifies him to the computer, and he is ready to request and receive the services the computer is programmed to provide. Since the ARTS System's time-sharing computer is connected to sixteen telephone lines, it can serve sixteen operators simultaneously, and it is estimated that it can provide services for 300 operators on a daily basis.

At its present stage of development, the ARTS System can provide the assistance needed by bhnd students and blind practitioners in a wide variety of professions and occupations in order to compete on equal terms with their sighted peers. Here are some examples of services now available.

It can serve as a dictionary. The operator types the word he wants defined on his standard typewriter keyboard. If he has spelled it correctly, he hears, over his loudspeaker, the full dictionary text relating to the word. If he has spelled it incorrectly, he first hears it correctly spelled, followed by the full dictionary text.

It can provide the blind businessman with a full bookkeeping and accounting service. He types his bookkeeping entries on the appropriate keyboard and they are recorded and filed in the appropriate categories by the computer. He can request the computer to perform accounting operations in order to develop the information he needs to make business decisions. All of the information he has filed in the computer, is, of course, available to him instantly on demand.

The computer will perform for the operator the full range of functions available on the modem calculator. He can program, from his keyboard, the sequence of operations required in complex analyses.

The ARTS System can serve as a personal secretary. As the blind operator types a letter or other composition, each typed character may be pronounced, if he wishes. If he is interrupted momentarily, he may ask to hear the last word or sentence he has typed. When he has typed the entire composition, he may hear it in its entirety in order to proofread and correct it. Once corrected, an execute command will cause it to be typed, in proper format. The typed copy is available to the operator, and the composition may also be filed in the computer for later recall.

The ARTS System can receive information from other computers, operate on this information, store it, retrieve it, and transduce it to spoken language, thus enabling the blind operator to work as a computer programmer. Many blind persons are now employed as computer programmers, but arranging for sensible computer output is a continuing problem for them. The ARTS System solves this problem.

The ARTS System can provide programmed instruction in Braille for the newly blinded adult. In this application, the student receives his instruction orally. His efforts to produce Braille characters on a Braille printer, which can easily be connected at his terminal, are evaluated by the computer. This printer can also be actuated by the computer in order to produce instructional materials for his examination.

In a further extension of its instructional potential, the ARTS System can provide to its users a wide range of computer assisted instruction. Possibilities include academic subjects, such as mathematics and foreign languages, prevocational subjects, such as basic arithmetic operations and English grammar, and vocational subjects, such as electronics and computer programming.

The ARTS System will make possible a greatly increased supply of Braille reading matter for use by blind students. Any person who is an accurate typist can type on the standard typewriter keyboard at an ARTS terminal. The input thus generated is processed by the computer, which then actuates a Braille printer, producing properly contracted Grade Two Braille. Thus, it is no longer necessary for the person who wishes to transcribe printed matter into Braille to prepare himself for this task by mastering an esoteric skill. Transcription can be accomplished by anyone who knows how. to type.

The computer can store large quantities of general information, hkely to be of interest to its clients, and produce it on demand. It could, for instance, provide a reading service which might include daily news summaries, a calendar of events, best-selling books, weather information, etc.

The examples just given constitute only a few of the services the ARTS System can now provide. The inclusion of additional services is limited only by the imagination of the programmers who create the system's software.

Dr. Ingham hopes to deploy the ARTS System throughout the United States. He has recently received backing from the Protestant Guild for the Blind in order to pursue this objective. He is currently arranging for the delivery of

ARTS services to clients in the greater Boston area. On a recent visit to Dr. Ingliam's laboratory, I was acquainted with the capabilities of the ARTS System and, upon my return to Kentucky, I proposed to Mr. T. V. Cranmer that these services also be made available to the bhnd citizens of Kentucky. After studying the materials I made available to him, Mr. Cranmer appointed a steering committee to evaluate the feasibility of the ARTS System in Kentucky, and to work toward its realization if it seemed feasible. The members of this committee visited Dr. Ingham's laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where they had the opportunity to observe a prototype of the ARTS System in operation, and to question Dr. Ingham concerning its problems and capabilities. They returned from their visit convinced of the economic feasibihty of the system, and of its enormous potential as a rehabilitation tool. Accordingly, the committee formulated and is taking all necessary steps to implement the plan; a description of which follows.

A public corporation, to be known as Computer Services for the Blind (CSB), is to be formed. This corporation will be governed by a board of persons qualified by interest, ability, and experience to render such service. A bill has been prepared and submitted to the Kentucky State Legislature for consideration during its current legislative session. This bill will provide the money needed to purchase computing machinery and other necessary equipment, and to cover operating expense for the first two years of CSB's life. We expect that by the end of the second year of operation, CSB will be serving 300 blind clients in the state of Kentucky, and will be earning enough income to cover its operating expenses. The CSB client will purchase the service he receives from CSB. The exact cost of this service has not yet been determined, but it will be kept as low as possible so that CSB services can be made available to all blind persons who want them. The ARTS facility operated by CSB will be located in Louisville, since the Louisville community has the highest concentration of potential clients who could gain access to the system through local telephone service. If the facility were located elsewhere, these clients would have to gain access over long distance telephone lines, and the operating expense would be greatly increased. Clients living elsewhere in the state will have to gain access over long distance lines, but the cost of long distance telephone service will be charged to CSB, and not to the user.

The University of Louisville has made available, without charge, the space needed for the computing machinery and for the staff who will operate the ARTS facility. The staff will include a director and a technical programming assistant.

There is little doubt that the ARTS System will prove to be economically feasible. The services it can provide to blind clients throughout the state would be much more expensive if they were made available in conventional ways. Beyond this, its role as an educational and rehabilitative tool challenges the imagination. BHnd students and blind practitioners of occupations and professions will be able to obtain from the ARTS System the services that are ordinarily provided by sighted assistance. Thus, they will be on an equal footing with their sighted peers in the classroom and in many occupational settings.