The Purpose of this Archive of Documents

This project is the singular work of David Holladay, a member of the staff of Duxbury Systems. The project started with an effort to update one page in the Duxbury Systems website that relates to the history of the the Duxbury Braille Translator. I wanted a better accounting of the complex story of how the MIT braille project of the 1960's was turned over to MITRE corporation, which through the actions of Joseph Sullivan, and Robert Gildea became Duxbury Systems. This document-gathering project has included many more documents as I discovered additional stories that can be told.

The Early Years

This is a quick review of hundreds of years in the history of the blind, Louis Braille, and the braille system. What is hard to imagine now is how much the general public was intellectually excited by the idea of blind people being able to read and write. Even more unimaginable was the concept of deaf-blind persons getting an education. Intellectuals argued about whether this was legitimate or mimicry. The examples of Laura Bridgeman and Hellen Keller were the moon shots of the era -- events which redefined what it meant to be a human being.

I was fascinated to learn that Louis Braille wrote about how blind persons can do arithmetic (and square roots), But I have been unable to locate a single word from these works except their title. What if the keys to teaching math to the blind are in those books written by Louis Braille. It appears that I need to travel to France to learn more about them.

The date of January 1, 1960, is a good point to start the era of the computer in the life of the blind.

1960's

We switch gears to the first major decade of work on sensory aids with computers. There is no dispute that APH was the first to deploy computer-based braille translation, MIT took the lead since it was more interested in letting others further develop its tools.

Some observations:

1970's

As we start the 1970's, the MIT braille software project is turned over to MITRE Corporation. Under the leadership of Robert Gildea. Soon, Joe Sullivan joined this project at MITRE. I have made every effort to collect every braille-related document issued by MITRE. In the early 1970's, Atlanta's warehouse of braille textbooks burned. Federal money was used to deploy MIT embossers and MITRE DOTSYS software to meet this emergency.

Unfortunately, the Vietnam War caused a cut off of funds to MIT for rehabilitation. The leadership on this work turned over to private vendors. In July 1975, Robert Gildea, Anne Simpson & Joseph Sullivan met at Simpson's home in Duxbury, Massachusetts to form Duxbury Systems. Soon after, Joe and Gen Sullivan bought out their partners as initial sales did not meet expectations.

The book Computerized Braille Production, the proceedings of a meeting in London in 1979, shows the vast amount of work done around the world on applying computers and peripherals to braille production. It is important to recognize how much work occurred outside of the United States.

1980's

The 1980's brought the microcomputer into this field. This was a time of intense turmoil of computers, peripherals, software, and technology. These changes allowed David Holladay and Caryn Navy to enter this field with their work on the popular Apple II computer, which opened new markets for schools and blind individuals.

There were more European conferences on computerized braille production. Unfortunately, I was not able to obtain files except for #1 and #3.

1990's and 2000's

These sections contain papers which are relevant to this collection, which is written at a later date. Fortunately, it should not be difficult to navigate these sections.

Web Links


Some Comments

This collection started as an extension to "Tech Support Heaven," an internal website for Duxbury Systems Staff. It has grown to a size that it appears to be a significant resource for this field. To create this, we raided the considerable data collections of Joe Sullivan and David Holladay. More documents were added via the intensive use of Google, with Google Scholar and the Internet Archive being key resources. A tip of the Hat to the NFB for funding the digitization of so many important documents.

Status of Documents being Sought

These are the documents that would help augment this collection. Any comments about this collection are welcome. [email protected] Duxbury Systems wishes to honor all copyrights. We will include or exclude items from this collection at the request of the copyright holder.

Various Dissertations

Proceedings and Reports

European Conference Series

Between 1973 and 1990, there were 6 European conferences on Computerized Braille Production. The first conference was republished as SIGCAPH Newsletter #15 in March 1975 and is available from the ACM. The third conference was widely published, full scans are available as well. The other proceedings are quite rare.

Old Duxbury Manuals

Other Papers

Books by Louis Braille