NEWSLETTER #7 -- 08/01/83


This is the first newsletter produced in a new print format. It is printed in booklet form by a Xerox reduction process. It is also edited more carefully for spelling and grammar errors. I am relying on a computer program to alert me to spelling mistakes and on a human to alert me to grammar errors.

I have printed up a collection of articles from the first 6 newsletters in the new format. I will send a free copy to anyone who mails in a request postmarked before Sept. 1, 1983. It will be $5 a copy after Sept. 1. While I am on the subject of publications, I have just updated the interface guide with a lot of new information. The interface guide sells for $10 a copy.


I have mentioned in virtually every newsletter that I am a dealer of the Cranmer Brailler made by Maryland Computer Services. I promised MCS that I would sell 50 units in a year. I have tried very hard to get the word out about the Cranmer brailler. I consider this a very practical device for individuals and for schools. So far, orders have only dribbled in. This is ironic. MCS currently has a 90 day waiting list. If you order from me, I can deliver in under half that time. I am selling the Cranmer Brailler for $2,700. For $3,200 you get a package of the Cranmer Brailler, a Super Serial Card, a cable, and a copy of BRAILLE-EDIT. Included with all Cranmer Braillers sold through Raised Dot Computing is a manual on getting your Cranmer working with your Apple II computer. There are two other articles about the Cranmer Brailler in this newsletter.


During this last month, I have received information, brochures, and gossip about a number of software and hardware products which are competition to the BRAILLE-EDIT program. I do not want to do a rinky-dink "brand-X" comparison with my own work. I would like to present a fuller picture of how the market is developing (from my warped perspective, of course).


Prof. Jerry Neufeld was an early purchaser of BRAILLE-EDIT. He has always told me that his main goal was to get braille out of his VersaBraille and into inkprint as quickly and as effectively as possible. After a while, he stopped pressuring me to make improvements in BRAILLE-EDIT, and he has written his own set of programs for CP/M systems. His program, VERSATEXT, is designed to work only with the VersaBraille. The text editing takes place within the context of an imaginary, enhanced VersaBraille. It is as if your VersaBraille suddenly had a 30,000 character buffer and the number of commands was increased by a factor of 20. The text can be translated from grade two or grade three into regular text. The text can be run through a spell checker, and then through a powerful CP/M page formatter before being printed on a letter-quality printer. The price for the software is $425 Canadian. You can run this software (when it is available) on your Apple if you obtain a Softcard from Microsoft.

It is important to realize that this is not an enhanced BRAILLE-EDIT. There is no voice assisted word-processor. There is no translator into grade two. There is no way to move files into the VersaBraille. It is solely a means to go from VersaBraille to the printed page, going first class all the way. I have been in contact with Prof. Neufeld for over a year now. I have very high regard for his abilities as a linguist and as a programmer. His address is Jerry Neufeld, Dept. of Linguistics, 78 Laurier Avenue East, Ottawa, Ontario Canada K1N 6N5, (613) 231-4975.


Joseph Sullivan of Duxbury Systems has written the best and most widely accepted braille translator. This program has always been marketed to agencies, institutions, and large school systems. In the last year, Mr. Sullivan has adapted the Duxbury translator for CP/M systems, and has lowered the cost of his translation software to $1,000 for individuals ($3,000 to $5,000 for organizations). Apparently the $1,000 price was not low enough, since I recently heard a Triformation representative announce "Triformation is bringing braille translation into the reach of individuals by lowering the cost to under $500 for individuals". I do not doubt that Triformation and Duxbury are lowering their prices. But the business about their making braille translation affordable for the first time is a bunch of horse flop. [Raised Dot Computing has sold over 140 programs at $250 apiece].

To make matters more interesting, I have heard rumors that both Duxbury and ARTS are working on reverse braille translators.


As I have mentioned before, Bill Grimm of Computer Aids is my friendly competition as a programmer on the Apple II. It is quite friendly competition since it is relatively inexpensive for an individual or an institution to buy both DOCUMENTS and BRAILLE-EDIT. They are different programs that have different objectives. Mr. Grimm has written a new program, INFO. INFO is described as a database program with good search and sort capability. This relieves some of the pressure on me to make an accessible database program. I urge those who are interested in a good database program to contact Mr. Grimm.

However, it is only a matter of time before I write one as well. I see the need for a program which will work well with braille devices. I also spent three years writing and maintaining medical database programs for a clinical cancer center on a minicomputer. I am anxious to try out some of the concepts used on the WISAR system on the Apple.


AVOS Systems of St. Paul sells a talking Osborne computer system. They have just announced a talking word processor. From reports that I have received from Harvey Lauer, it is well designed. In some ways, I feel indirectly responsible for some of the improvements in their program. Mr. Lauer had been urging John Hlivjak to look at how the text editor in BRAILLE-EDIT worked. Mr. Hlivjak wrote a new word processing program from scratch to meet the needs of blind individuals. The new program has many, many features which BRAILLE-EDIT lacks as a voice-assisted word processor. It is a pity that none of the AVOS software has anything to do with braille.


Databraille is a product in the planning stages. It is the first second generation paperless brailler. It will have an 80 character 8 dot braille display. It will use 3 inch sealed media diskettes. It will have a 16K buffer for editing (compared to 1K on the VersaBraille and 4K on the Microbrailler). It will have an optional built-in modem (all you do is plug it in to a modular phone plug). It will have a miniature CRT display so sighted persons can operate the machine as well. It may even contain two braille translators. I think that it will be a very interesting device. It will also cost about as much as a VersaBraille and a Microbrailler combined. It will be sold by Michael Huckaby under the name Specialized Computers, Inc., 240 West 98th Street #4G, New York, NY 10025, (212) 866-1939.

The reason I am listing this device as part of "the competition" is simple. If you have a Databraille, you will have no need for an Apple computer to do translation, reformatting, or rearranging. I am very glad that Mike Huckaby is working on this. He asked himself "Why do all the sensory aids manufacturers build all these parts when they can now be bought off-the-shelf?" It is a good question. He plans to have a prototype built this fall. With any luck, it should be on the market early next year. This product will certainly satisfy those who want all their eggs in one basket, provided they have enough bread.


Raised Dot Computing exhibited at the convention of the American Council of the Blind held in Phoenix, Arizona in the beginning of July. It was a hectic week. I met a lot of people. I have a hazy memory of what happened that week. That means either I did most of the talking or I did most of the drinking. It was gratifying to meet many of my customers face to face. I feel that I made enough contacts to make the whole trip worthwhile.

The most unusual contact I had was with Senator Orin Hatch of Utah. He gave a lunch speech to the ACB. Scott Marshall wanted to show him some examples of technology that helps the disabled get jobs (to bolster the case for a tax credit for these aids). Unfortunately, Senator Hatch arrived on a day when the exhibits were closed. Fortunately, I was displaying my Apple and Harvey Lauer's VersaBraille in my hotel room that day. Scott arranged for a quick seven minute demonstration for the Senator and some of his aides. It was the first time that a United States Senator ever came to my hotel room. I think the demonstration was well received. One of the things I sent him was an article by Robert Sweetman about how he uses the Apple in his law office.

COMPUSERVE -- Paul Migliorelli

On the subject of using databases over the telephone, with the VersaBraille, I would like to relate some experiences as a user of the Compuserve Information Service.

This type of service is excellent for visually impaired users, as there is even more information available for immediate access than a regional library could possibly provide on short notice. It's quite fascinating to get a daily newspaper in a readable form while the news stories are still current.

I was taking a money management course where we were required to bring issues of the WALL STREET JOURNAL to class every day. I would simply connect to Dow Jones News Retrieval the night before the class and have articles scrolled on to VersaBraille cassettes.

For a BASIC programming course, I would prepare my programs off-line, upload to Compuserve's BASIC compiler, and finally order hard-copy print copies to hand in to the instructor.

There is a special interest group where a number of VersaBraille users can be found regularly. It's interesting to observe the sighted users' reaction when we start sending Grade II to each other. This type of conference allows users to type between terminals of all types in many different locations. This kind of service enables users to have a live, interactive discussions on such topics as technology, and any other issues that come to mind.

I feel that the basic connect charge of $5 per hour is a bargain. There are many things to do in an hour. Now that I just received my Apple IIe computer, I'm sure I'll find many ways to implement and utilize all the features of this equipment.

If anyone is interested, please feel free to contact me for more information. Or, if anyone is already on the system, and would like to send electronic mail, my ppn is 71715,1703.


A Versatile New Machine -- Sandra Ruconich

It's a cross between a braille writer and a computer terminal. It can record braille information on a cassette. What is it? It's the Cranmer Modified Perkins Brailler (CMPB). It was developed by Dr. T. V. Cranmer, designer of the Cranmer abacus, and the staff of the Technical Services Unit, Kentucky Department for the Blind. The CMPB can function as a braille writer, a computer terminal, a text editor, a braille printer, and a graphics printer. (A graphics printer makes raised drawings.) Information can also be stored on cassette tape so that some or all of it can be brailled later.

The CMPB actually begins its life as a conventional Perkins Brailler. When a sophisticated microprocessor and electronic circuitry are added beneath the brailler, it becomes a CMPB. As a braille writer, the CMPB functions very much as a conventional Perkins Brailler does. Paper must still be inserted, and braille is still written using six keys and a space bar. However, the keys and levers which control such functions as returning the carriage, backspacing, and setting and clearing margins are nowhere to be found! These and other operations are performed using chords (one or more keys and the space bar pressed simultaneously). Many readers will recognize these chords, similar in concept to musical chords, as being the means of giving commands to some cassette braille devices. For example, pressing dots 4-6 and the space bar at the same time causes the CMPB page to advance to a new line and the carriage to return to the left margin. Backspacing is accomplished by simultaneously depressing dot 2 and the space bar as many times as desired. If dots 4-5-6 and the space bar are pressed at any time, the page rolls out automatically!

When connected to a computer, the CMPB sends all information brailled on its keyboard to the computer. Information the computer sends back is brailled on the page inserted into the CMPB. As with some other modern terminals, the user selects from its keyboard the commands called control parameters to meet the requirements of the computer being used. Entire texts and program listings can be sent from a computer to the CMPB's buffer. A buffer is a place where texts can be temporarily stored, modified and then permanently stored on tape. Programs stored in the CMPB's buffer can also be transferred to a computer.

Braille-oriented computer programmers will recognize the desirability of having immediate access to a full page of information, and those who work with statistics and other material in columns will appreciate the CMPB's accurate, easy-to-read reproduction of print columnar information.

The CMPB incorporates several helpful text editing features. In addition to being able to write or insert text, the user can also find, print, or delete text. A specific line, a specified number of lines, or the entire text can be printed or deleted.

As a braille printer, the CMPB operates at approximately 10 characters per second. This means that its embossing speed is much slower than that of, say, the VersaBraille, which embosses at approximately 100 characters per second. In addition, each page must be inserted and removed by hand, since fan-fold paper is not currently usable. Yet as Dr. Cranmer is quick to emphasize, the CMPB was never designed to be a high-speed braille printer used to produce large quantities of braille. The printing capability was included to allow for the embossing of short documents, computer programs, and graphic displays--primarily for personal use.

One of the CMPB's most exciting features is its ability to display graphics (drawings). The CMPB can draw and label maps, graphs, diagrams, and other graphic information. A CMPB-produced outline map of Kentucky has been well received by audiences at several recent conferences. The fact that a computer can also send graphics to the CMPB for display should increase the number and variety of programs available to braille reading computer users. Since a graphics capability has not been available on braille computer terminals until now, many of the CMPB's most intriguing graphics possibilities will be discovered by innovative users!

Because braille paper is such a bulky storage medium, the CMPB's ability to store and retrieve information using cassette tapes is particularly advantageous. Any tape recorder connected to the CMPB can record material from the CMPB's buffer for storage or play material back into the CMPB's buffer for embossing. Taped material is stored in 4000-character blocks, the approximate equivalent of four braille pages, and about 100 CMPB pages can be stored on a 60-minute cassette. Audio announcements of content, recorded just before each block of 4000 characters, make information relatively easy to find. CMPB tapes require no formatting, and tapes of moderate quality can be used.

A good engineer can build a CMPB using the detailed technical manual available for $10 from the Technical Services Unit, Box 758, Kentucky Department for the Blind, Frankfort, KY 40602. Costs include $225 for printed circuit boards available from Maryland Computer Services (MCS), approximately $600 for parts, the price of a conventional manual Perkins Brailler, and the engineer's labor. Schools and institutions may not purchase the circuit boards, and only one set per individual will be sold. Technical newsletters and other similar information sources sometimes tell of private entrepreneurs who are marketing wire-wrapped versions of the CMPB (these units have no printed circuit boards, so each wire is individually connected). The reliability and performance of a wire-wrapped board depend on the skill and care with which the work was done.

The manufactured model of the CMPB, priced at $2750, is available from Maryland Computer Services, 2010 Rock Spring Road, Forest Hill, MD 21050. [Note from the Newsletter Editor: You can buy the unit from Raised Dot Computing. Raised Dot Computing is a distributor of the completed Cranmer brailler from MCS.] MCS has reduced the noise level of the original CMPB by roughly 50%, has increased embossing speed to about 15 characters per second, and has made other commendable changes. However, the printed circuit boards MCS sells to CMPB builders are those for the original CMPB and do not include these changes. A maintenance agreement can also be purchased for the MCS model.

As is true of any device, the CMPB will not do all things for all people. It will not meet the needs of those in search of a relatively inexpensive high-speed braille printer, for example. However, others, like Dr. Emerson Foulke of the University of Louisville's Perceptual Alternatives Laboratory, are constantly on the lookout for technology which narrows the gap between what a visually impaired consumer pays for a computer and what he or she pays for the equipment to make it accessible. Such people will find the Cranmer Modified Perkins Brailler a welcome addition to the braille computer terminal market.


[Note: this article is taken from a letter written to Carl Foley dated March 10, 1983. It is heavily edited for length]

My preferred way to edit when perfection is wanted is to use the cursor controls in the BRAILLE-EDIT program with the Echo speech. My left hand handles those controls, and my right hand is on braille. The braille can be hardcopy from the Diablo printer or the VersaBraille or in the future with the IBM brailler driven by the Electronic Typing Fingers which we have requested. I now get respectable draft-quality braille from our Diablo 1620 with the Dipner method in Holladay's program. I use the rubber bed sheeting suggested by Randy Dipner on the roller. A soft roller is now obtainable which is better, and the Diablo 1650 makes good dots even on thick braille paper. It needs a hammer extension available from a Paul Evans. [Editor's Note: A fuller discussion of the Dipner Dot and ETF braille is found in the BRAILLE-EDIT Interface Manual].

My editing with the speech gets the spelling typos, and the braille gets the misplaced caps and punctuation and spacing errors as well as any Grade II errors I may want to remove if a finished Grade II braille copy is wanted. Of course, I translate the text into Grade II before sending the braille version to the braille device from the Apple. Without that translation, I would not get the capitals in computer braille. I call this my one-two punch for knocking out errors.

I have bought Data Capture for the Super Serial and Mountain Cards, and it works great with them and with the Echo. It will run at 1200 baud as will HyperBits. You have to turn off the speech when receiving batches of data, but it saves textfiles beautifully. Then I convert them to BRAILLE-EDIT files. For conversing or just terminal work, Street's talking terminal program is great for dialoguing with a main frame as a terminal because it gives screen review and other good features except for not saving to disk. Data coming in goes into a huge buffer from which it can be read to the screen and speech as wanted.

I also bought the HyperBits program from Software Sorcery. It is super fast at saving files and simple to use, though it has not all the options of Data Capture and will not work with the Super Serial or Mountain Cards. It works fine with the Echo for reading its menus. There are a few little tricks to using each of the terminal programs which should be written and shared. We really need a manual for using all the commonly-recommended peripherals and software with the Apple. Such a manual would also help people decide what to get.

I have my Intex Talker going with the parallel output on the Mountain Multifunction CPS card. The new EPROMs which I bought are a big improvement, and I can recommend the Intex as a second speech device, though a couple of bugs remain. The Echo GP would be the first choice because of its higher speed, but the Intex is a little clearer for novices and does provide variety. Now my serial ports are free for other things. I have three serial ports, the two mentioned and the California card.

The VersaBraille is broken for the third time in a row. I am getting a little discouraged with it and am glad I don't have to depend on it. It is hard to inspire people to learn it and put their data into it. My Apple is working fine now.

I am now using Holladay's new word processing commands, and they certainly make documents look neat. He talks about them in the newsletter he has started up. The first two issues are out. The first one is good, but the second one is dynamite. We almost need two versions, one three times as long but with explanations for beginners.

I am hot rodding my Echo II now. I turn up the clock pot on the board and lower the pitch to 6 or 8. That way it is not too elfine, though it has the hint of an elf with a whiskey voice. It goes like hell at the "compressed" speed. I put it in slot 7, so I can get at the pot to turn it down for students to listen to.

The new Echo II has good volume now and plenty of treble. That is great. Of course, I do not use the little four cubic inch speaker it comes with. That is handy for hanging on one's neck for private listening and carrying around but not for regular use especially where novices are involved. I found some Aiwa speakers. They come in a pair and have great treble response. They have little amplifiers which I don't use normally, but the amps will give a boost for demos. The speakers can be connected directly. They come with amps to be a plug-in pair for Walkman-type sets. They are called an Acoustic Suspension Speaker System Power Booster. The pair with cable for Walkman plug-in is $58. That way the Intex has a speaker, too. Or the Apple's own output can have one. That is very good to do for music since the little speaker inside the Apple is a joke.

I love this Videx Enhancer II with its type-ahead buffer. That buffer lets you type as fast as possible in any situation, even with the Echo talking slowly and not miss anything. I didn't know how good it was till I used an Apple without one. I would recommend it for typists. One can also type ahead while the disk is running. I hope someone comes up with a similar thing for the Apple IIe which has lower case but no type-ahead buffer.

I have recommended the Apple for several transcribers now. It can be interfaced with a standard word processing system which has an ASCII communications port. All the data entry and editing can be done in the Apple, and material can be batched back and forth to the other system. It is far from the toy it started out to be just a couple of years ago when blind people started buying Apples.

I have Super File Cabinet to try and may buy it for data bases. I understand that Visifile from Visicorp also works with the Echo II. Nick Dotson of Florida may have a breakthrough in a data base. Until now, I haven't used a file cabinet program much. I am now using Bill Grimm's address filer called DIRECTORIES now that I can print braille. I just couldn't put data into the computer and then hope to get it when needed. This machine is so over used. The other day I was reinstalling the Mountain CPS card and had to turn away a student because it took longer than I thought it would to get the signals straight. I almost took the Apple to the shop because the disk wouldn't run. I got advice from Dr. Bill about phantom slotting and the way that thing can sometimes interfere with the multiplexing for the slots when the card is removed. The point is this system is used for development, teaching, my work, Len's work and occasionally other people's.

Perhaps the greatest timesaver in this utility explosion is the way Len and I can generate papers and reports now. We work with the same files, each composing and editing, not letting the chair get cold. It is a dream come true compared with the cumbersome ways we used to have to use for a sighted and a blind worker to collaborate in writing. Now we are equipped to write the research proposals so much in demand by our bosses, but I haven't even written the explanation for having my personal Apple here. There have been too many other useful things to do.


The Zero Card was mentioned in newsletter #6. I did not mention that it had to be placed in slot 4. It also occupies slot 3 because of the length of its wire wrap pins. It outputs on wire 2. Thus you would need a null modem (to swap pins 2 and 3) to connect it with a VersaBraille or an Echo GP. The price has been raised to $270. It is intended to work with the Cybertalker. That is why there are no handshakes (the Cybertalker is a high-performance voice synthesizer costing $5,000). I submit that $5,270 is a lot to pay to have access to commercial software. I encourage people to experiment with different serial devices. I understand that the Zero Card works with the Intex and the Echo GP voice synthesizers and the VersaBraille works with the Zero Card.

Cyberon Corporation also sells a special version of the Sensible Speller program adapted for the Zero Card and voice synthesis. This is the first spell checking program which has been adapted for blind Apple users. If you have been wishing you had a spell checking program, I recommend you contact the Cyberon Corporation.


In newsletter #2, I mentioned ProntoDOS, a disk produced by Beagle Brothers that speeds up the disk operating system. I reported that it was totally incompatible with the Echo II voice synthesizer. The latest version of ProntoDOS is now compatible with the Echo II. There is no reason why you should not go out and upgrade your BRAILLE-EDIT program disks. It will speed up disk accesses by a factor of 2 or 3. It will load the program modules and text pages in record time. The new version has a 20 page manual instead of a 4 page manual. ProntoDOS costs $29.50. The address of Beagle Brothers is 4315 Sierra Vista, San Diego, Ca 92103.


I have given some bad advice in older versions of my interface manual. I strongly recommend using the Apple Super Serial Card with the Cranmer brailler. Use a straight male-to-male cable to interface the Cranmer brailler to the Super Serial Card. Such a cable is sold by Apple (part 590-0037-B) as an accessory to the Super Serial Card.

All braillers sold by Raised Dot Computing have the internal DIP switches set for high speed. The settings are: OFF ON OFF OFF OFF OFF ON OFF. This is for 9600 baud, 2 stop bits, 8 data bits, and no parity. Set the Super Serial Card jumper block to "terminal". Set switch bank one to: DOWN DOWN DOWN UP DOWN UP DOWN. Set switch bank two to: DOWN DOWN UP UP UP DOWN DOWN. When you use the brailler, braille a chord/H H and chord/R R (hardware handshakes and remote mode).

When you use BRAILLE-EDIT, set up a configuration using a type "B" printer. If you turn the Super Serial Card's "auto linefeed" switch off, then use a type "P" printer.

You can also use the CCS 7710 serial card. Use a straight through male-to-male cable that shorts wires 4 and 20. Set the CCS switches to: UP UP UP DOWN (9600 baud). Always use a type "P" printer with the CCS card. I hope that was sufficiently confusing to be worth including in this newsletter.


I have recently purchased a hard disk system. I will be modifying BRAILLE-EDIT so it will work on hard disks and on systems with more than 2 floppy drives. This version will be available (hopefully) by Sept. 1, 1983. This will coincide with a price increase for BRAILLE-EDIT. The program will cost $300 with a purchase order, or $275 if payment in full accompanies the order. If you have any questions about use with hard disks or other improvements, contact me real soon.


The American Foundation for the Blind is working on an exciting new braille output device. Under the direction of Douglas Maure, the AFB is building a prototype of a new low cost array of tactile dots. They want to build a device which can easily be interfaced to a variety of microcomputers. They are working on modular "blocks" of 16 by 128 dots. One block could make 4 lines of 40 character braille (or 3 lines of 8 dot cells). Six blocks could display the same text that is on an Apple screen (24 by 40). Twelve blocks could give 24 lines of 80 characters each. Instead of just text, these units could do graphics, showing charts, maps, diagrams, etc. Just to indicate the possibilities, imagine a special applications program for mobility and orientation skills. The computer could show a floor pattern and challenge the student to describe the room or subway station. The potential for graphics for the blind has really not been tapped at all. Often the first time a blind person is confronted with a braille chart is on an intelligence test. Imagine how poorly a sighted person would do on tests if they had never seen a chart, diagram, map, or graph until they had been handed their test paper.

I am straying from the main subject. You are probably wondering "When will this device be on the marketplace?", "How much will it cost?", and "Will it work with my Apple?". It will probably be available in early 1984. It will work with the Apple. I have been hired to write the necessary routines on the Apple. I do not know how much the device will cost, except that it should be much, much cheaper than conventional paperless brailler displays. I suggest you follow this newsletter for developments, rather than call up Doug Maure in New York. It is not my intention to slow the project by causing him to be swamped with more phone calls and letters.


The Camwil Corporation of Hawaii has been in the business of making custom typeballs and printwheels. They are working on a metal printwheel for the Diablo printer (or its equivalent) that should speed up the embossing process. Conventional Dipner Dot brailling uses a single character to print each dot in a braille cell. Including all the spacing that has to be done, the Diablo has to print 9 characters for each braille cell. Thus if your printer can do 55 characters per second, it can braille 6 cells per second. The Camwil printwheel has all the possibilities of a column of three dots. Printing a braille cell is a matter of printing three characters (two "real" characters and a space). This would speed up Dipner Dots by a factor of three.

There are some restrictions. Only top of the line printers accept metal printwheels. Because of the tight geometry of the braille dots, this method may not be very successful. I will soon be mailing a sample printwheel to Harvey Lauer for evaluation. Stay tuned for further developments. Some people may be irritated by my constant mention of projects, publications, and devices that are in the works and are not on the market yet. This is quite deliberate. I know that I am reaching people who may be contemplating similar projects. I hope to prevent duplicated effort.


It has come to my attention that all the submitted articles for the Raised Dot Computing Newsletter have been from blind persons. If this trend continues, sighted persons may start to think that this newsletter is not written for them as well. Since this newsletter is put together by a sighted person, I am at a loss to explain this situation. It may be that blind persons are better than sighted persons when it comes to writing and mailing in short pieces of text. I cannot believe such an explanation. There must be a handful of sighted readers with an idea for an article or two. Well, send them in. Remember, if you send a disk containing an article, you get a program disk in return.


Many BRAILLE-EDIT users have asked how to print up series of individually addressed form letters. Currently there is no easy way to do this with BRAILLE-EDIT. I have just written a program which will do this important job. This program is a separate disk which costs $150.

This program works on three files. It needs a letter chapter, a control chapter, and an address textfile. The letter chapter should use special codes to mean the name or the Zip code. For example, L$ would be used instead of the last name and Z$ would be used instead of the Zip code. The program needs a control chapter. This tells the program where to find the L$ or Z$ in a record of your address textfile. Lastly the program needs a textfile containing all the addresses in the format specified by the control chapter.

If you are interested in this program, please write for more details.


I often get phone calls from people who are having difficulties with their equipment. Often it is someone who cannot get their VersaBraille to communicate with their Apple. Let me turn the tables and ask you (the person having problems) a few questions.

Do you have a cable adapter? This has become a problem now that TSI is sending the interface cable with a male end. It is now physically possible to insert the VersaBraille cable into the serial card without a cable adapter. The net result is no communications. You must have a cable adapter.

Is your cable adapter defective? Having a defective cable adapters is a leading cause of communications problems. Sometimes they aren't made to the right wiring diagram. Sometimes they get cold solder joints (they work just fine for a while). If you have one of my adapters and it doesn't work, I will replace it.

Have you loaded the terminal overlay? You should see a message "open new chapter" (model B VersaBraille) or "terminal loaded" (model C VersaBraille).

Do you have the right VersaBraille communications parameters for direct communications with the Apple? Check them over carefully. They should be: 9600 baud (or whatever your serial card is set to); 8 data bits; 1 stop bit; even parity (no parity for the Super Serial Card); computer braille translator; "dtr" handshake; and half duplex. If you are transferring to the VersaBraille, load the terminal overlay, and set the parameters as above, except for two changes: set acknowledge to "yes" and translator to "none". If you are transferring from the VersaBraille, load the duplication overlay and adjust the baud rate and the parity if necessary.

Are the switches set right on the serial card? This is more of a problem with the Super Serial Card. If you do have a Super Serial Card, check the switch settings carefully. It should be set at "terminal" rather than "modem". Are all 14 switches set as outlined in the interfacing instructions?

Are you sure your serial card is in the slot you thought it was in? You may have changed slots at one point and then forgotten about it.

Did you ever insert or remove your serial card when the Apple power was on? If so, you may have fried your serial card. You are not the first one to do this.

Have you been operating the VersaBraille correctly? Turn the VersaBraille on after you have turned on the Apple. Load the terminal overlay as modified for the Apple. Put the VersaBraille in remote and turn on the upper case lock. Go into a new chapter (or at least a fresh page). Make sure the cursor is on. Type a control/reset on your Apple. Then type "PR#2 (return)" (or whatever your slot number is) followed by "CATALOG (return)" on your Apple. If you do not see anything on the VersaBraille, try hitting space bar on the VersaBraille once. That sometimes "wakes up" the VersaBraille.

Have you ever used your VersaBraille for communications? There may be something wrong with the communications part of your VersaBraille. This is quite unlikely, but it has a non-zero probability.

I have structured this list in the order of probability of what is causing your problem. It would be easy for me to say "please work down this list until you are totally desperate, then call me". However, the second item, cable adapter problem, is very hard to diagnose unless you are technically experienced. If you have good reason to believe that you have done everything else right, but are still having problems, call me. I will send out a replacement cable adapter.

FOOL YOUR COMPUTER -- Alan Holst and David Holladay

A year and a half ago, I started using my VersaBraille on line. This was a truly exciting experience for me even though I had to read and write in computer braille. Mainly I logged onto local bulletin board services and I also got a subscription to "THE SOURCE".

I learned very quickly that it would be much cheaper for me to down load material and read it off line. This means that I store material in my VersaBraille while I am on the telephone with the computer and then read it later after logging off and hanging up.

Then came the day that I wanted to send material rather than receive it. I thought that I could use the same process. You know, write materials off line and then upload them. Simple; right? Wrong! I learned that when I tried to send material this way the system wouldn't accept it. Why? Because there weren't carriage returns inserted every so often. This meant that I had to get into the habit of inserting carriage returns. As you might imagine, this is not a natural procedure on the VersaBraille. Recently I found a way to insert carriage returns using BRAILLE-EDIT. The method revolves around plugging your VersaBraille into the Apple and telling BRAILLE-EDIT that the VersaBraille is a printer. Even though this is not documented in the BRAILLE-EDIT manual, it is a useful technique.

Specifically, here's the procedure: 1. Write your text in grade two braille on your VersaBraille. 2. Transfer the braille to the Apple. 3. Back translate the braille into regular text. 4. Load the terminal overlay on the VersaBraille and set the control parameters. Use computer braille translator and set "carriage return in" to "yes". 5. Use the Print Utility in BRAILLE-EDIT. Print your regular file to your VersaBraille slot. Set the carriage width to the maximum allowed by your database. Set the form length to zero. 6. Every so often, the VersaBraille will beep. Just hit "page" "advance" to write to the next page. When the "printing" is done, hit the eject button on the VersaBraille. 7. You can take the computer braille file on the VersaBraille (containing carriage returns) and transmit it to your database.

You can use the trick of "printing to the VersaBraille" for a number of other applications. It can be a good way to check the format of a document before you put it on paper. If you want to insert carriage returns in a BRAILLE-EDIT chapter, you can use a similar trick. Write a textfile from the chapter. Then read the textfile back into another chapter. The second chapter will be loaded with carriage returns.


The regular list price for the Echo II is $149. You can now buy the Echo II for $99 plus $3 for shipping from Volunteer Services for the Blind in Philadelphia. The address is: Fred Noesner, Volunteer Services for the Blind, 919 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107.


Betty Bender, Media Specialist at the North Dakota School for the Blind, is investigating the possibility of putting the library card catalog on disk using an Apple IIe or Apple II+ equipped with an Echo speech synthesizer and two disk drives. Anyone knowing of the existence of software which could be used for the purpose please contact her at the North Dakota School for the Blind, 500 Stanford Road, Grand Forks, ND 58201 (phone 701-781-4144).


I would like to increase the communications between BRAILLE-EDIT customers. I am going to do this in a very interesting way. I am going to set up a number of special interest groups. Here is how this will work. I will list a lot of categories. Each BRAILLE-EDIT customer is asked to write me and tell me which groups you want to belong to. Each member of each group will get a list of all the other members of the group. You may sign up to more than one group. I will arbitrarily place a limit of ten groups per person. I would like to get a letter from every BRAILLE-EDIT customer. I have been in close contact with a number of customers. I know what equipment they have and what their interests are. I will not put them in any groups. You must write me. I even expect letters from Harvey Lauer, Frank Irzyk, and Nick Dotson.

There are three lists of groups. The first is based on equipment. The second on occupations. The third on interests. I do not care why you sign up for a group. If you would like to know more about a VersaBraille before you buy one, you can sign up for the VersaBraille group so you can get in touch with others who have VersaBrailles. What actually happens in any group is up to the members. It may be an excellent way for persons who have a similar use of BRAILLE-EDIT to get together and press demands on me for new program features or better documentation.

So, is everybody clear on the ground rules? I want a letter from every BRAILLE-EDIT user listing your name, address, and phone number. Having both home and office phone numbers would be preferred. I do not care if you bought BRAILLE-EDIT yourself. All I care is that you use the program. I do not care if you have not used the program at all, as long as you intend to use it.

EQUIPMENT GROUPS A1. Kurzweil Reading Machine A2. ETF-80 Electric Typing Fingers A3. Dipner Dots (print or tactile) A4. VersaBraille (beginner) A5. VersaBraille (advanced) A6. Microbrailler A7. Cranmer Brailler A8. braille embosser A9. voice output only (use no braille devices) A10. Hard disk A11. Zero Card

OCCUPATIONS B1. unemployed B2. writer B3. academics (professor, teacher, or researcher) B4. student B5. braille transcriber B6. vision teacher or teacher of braille B7. lawyer B8. sensory aids specialist B9. office worker or executive B10. counselor B11. transcriptionist B12. business owner B13. self-employed B14. resource person in a school for the blind

INTEREST GROUPS C1. on-line databases or communications C2. low vision applications C3. interest in programming C4. interest in assembly language C5. business applications C6. mathematics and Nemeth braille C7. music an music braille C8. foreign language braille C9. grade three braille C10. form filling applications C11. spouse support (my spouse has the computer bug) C12. DOCUMENTS' user (Bill Grimm's word processing program) C13. hard-core BRAILLE-EDIT user (this means what you want it to mean)

I have tried to come up with enough categories to satisfy just about anybody. If you can think of other categories, I will accept nominations from the floor.

If you want to get in touch with people of similar interests, write me without delay.