Newsletter #7 got a week and a half behind schedule. The post office delayed delivery of the audio edition for another 2 weeks. Raised Dot Computing apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.
If you still have not received issue #7, please write me so I can send a new copy. When you do, please send in the networking information as well. In fact, everyone should write in with the networking information.
Cynthia Peltier has joined Raised Dot Computing as a full time employee. She will be doing a number of important functions to help Raised Dot Computing deal with its large backlog of pending projects. She will be relieving me of much of my phone duties.
If you must make a phone call dealing with difficult, technical issues, please call in the morning or early evening (eastern standard time). If you are making a routine inquiry (a price quote or an inquiry about the availability of a manual, tape, or disk), please call in the afternoon.
Because of the realities of trying to work in the summer and because of the large increase in sales, I have not been able to do much programming. With Cynthia handling all the "routine" paperwork, I hope to be spending more time programming and writing.
I will be traveling to Minneapolis on Sept. 9th. I will be back in Lewisburg on the 20th. Raised Dot Computing will be in business while I am gone. If you have a business question, call during the day. If you have a technical question, call during the early evening. Caryn will refer you to someone that can help you. If you have a question relating to interfacing the Apple to the VersaBraille, call Noel Runyion at TSI in the morning California time. The number is (800) 227-8418. I would prefer that technical calls be delayed until I return. Remember that Caryn is a full time mathematics professor.
I would like to correct a number of errors in Raised Dot Computing literature. Due to a printing error, some recent copies of the print copy of the BRAILLE-EDIT manual (the blue manual) did not contain page 2. Please write me if you have still not received page 2. The audio recording of this same manual contains a few errors. In the list of word processing commands, small "l"s were read as the digit one. The command for changing spacing is "$$l". The left margin command is "$$ml".
There have been some errors in the interface manual (the red manual). The Kurzweil Reading Machine generates one stop bit (not two stop bits). Paul Evans of Texas does not sell modified printer rollers. He has made a few for friends, but is not doing this commercially. Please do not contact him for a roller. He may write an article describing the conversion process.
Noel Runyion and I have decided to give new recommendations on interfacing an Apple to a VersaBraille. We will both be recommending 8 data bits, 2 stop bits, and no parity on the VersaBraille. If you use the Super Serial Card, switch 2-1 should be down for 2 stop bits. The advantage of this arrangement is the same VersaBraille CCPs can be used for both the CCS and the SSC. There is no reason to change your setup if it is working. But do not be confused if you see new literature describing this arrangement.
Finally, there were some errors in the audio edition of newsletter #7. The VersaBraille-Apple connection uses 8 data bits, not 5 data bits. The Cranmer Brailler has a buffer of 4,000 characters.
I know that quite a few people have purchased BRAILLE-EDIT and have not gotten much use out of it yet. They have been putting off using the program until "they really have to". With the start of the new school year and the end of summer vacations, I know most "non-users" will want some help in getting started. It would be very difficult for me to tutor 60 different users on the fine points of BRAILLE-EDIT all at once. I will be writing a number of articles in this newsletter designed to help people get started. I hope that this will not be too boring for those who have not bought BRAILLE-EDIT or those that are experienced users. Another way of putting it is that no one sent me any articles this month. Most of the variety of this newsletter comes from contributed articles. I hope that I get a lot of contributed material real soon. If I have to spend all my time writing newsletter articles, I will never get around to doing any programming.
Raised Dot Computing is now selling more equipment. It is carrying the Apple Super Serial Card, the CCS 7710 card, and the Echo II voice synthesizer. It is also carrying a number of cables and adapters for connecting the Apple to the VersaBraille, the Cranmer Brailler, and the Kurzweil Reading Machine. Write for a price quote if you are interested in any of these items.
Due to some problems with the mailing of the last newsletter, I am going to repeat an important article from issue #7. In case you did not send in your letter yet, please do so now.
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 the various 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 and 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) C14. interest in science and engineering.
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. To put it bluntly, Raised Dot Computing will collapse under the weight of dealing with the technical questions of BRAILLE-EDIT users unless there is a mechanism for users to help in the exchange and distribution of these important applications. If you want the services you have enjoyed in the past to continue (especially this newsletter), you must get involved today.
There are a number of problems that users have encountered using BRAILLE-EDIT on an Apple IIe. My documentation is biased towards the Apple II plus. I do not spend enough time explaining how things are different on the Apple IIe.
First, you should tell BRAILLE-EDIT that you have an Apple IIe. When you set up a configuration, you will be asked "Does your keyboard have lower case?" Answer "yes" if you have an Apple IIe (or a Franklin). If you answer "no" to this question, then you have to use the upper/lower case scheme that I worked out for the Apple II plus.
Next, you should keep the shift lock button down unless you are in data entry. The menus and the chapter names that you enter should all be in upper case. Please do not create chapter names in lower case. This will cause many problems. Once you are in data entry, get out of the shift lock. You can use the shift key like you would on a typewriter.
If you are using the braille keyboard on the Apple, you should have the shift lock down as well. If not, the braille keyboard will not work at all.
Much has happened since I wrote the last newsletter. I have received a number of orders for Cranmer Braillers. My period of panic is over. I would like to apologize to Maryland Computer Services (especially to their sales personnel) concerning what I said in the last newsletter. I indicated that there was a long waiting period for the Cranmer Brailler from MCS. Right now, production at MCS has really geared up. MCS can deliver a unit in two days (in an emergency) with worst case being 60 days. The average waiting time is 30-40 days.
I am now quoting a 30 day waiting period for a Cranmer Brailler. The upshot of all this is that one should not order a unit from me to get faster delivery. If you have a real emergency, you are much better off going directly to MCS.
Occasionally, I get a phone call from someone asking me if they should cancel their order with MCS and place an order with me. ABSOLUTELY NOT! If you do, MCS will have my rear end.
Quite frankly, if you buy a device like the Cranmer Brailler, you are entitled to some decent support. I can give excellent support if you are connecting your brailler to an Apple computer. If you are working with other computer systems, you may be much better off by dealing directly with MCS.
Maryland Computer Systems is distributing the Thiel brailler. This is an excellent embosser that can really generate braille. It sells for about $14,000. You can call MCS at (301) 838-8888 for pricing, specifications, and delivery times. This is one of the devices which will make it difficult for anyone to market the totally obsolete LED-120. While an LED dies if you run it at 1200 baud for any length of time, the Thiel (and the RESUS RS14) can work effortlessly at 9600 baud. The Thiel is small, and fits into a suitcase. It is also virtually indestructible. If you are interested in a heavy-duty braille embosser which really works, I recommend you take a good look at the Thiel.
The Thiel is made in Germany. The Dutch also make quality braille embossers. They have sold the RESUS RS14 for several years now. The RS14 is slightly more expensive than the Thiel (around $17,000). The RS14 will produce a braille page in 6 seconds. I understand it has an excellent service record.
Meanwhile, RESUS is working on their RS212. This will be a little brother for their RS14. The RS212 will be introduced to the press at the end of September. Production will start in early 1984. It will cost between $3,000 and $4,000. This brailler will handle continuous paper. It is rumored to be able to braille 40 characters a second, although this has not been confirmed.
If you are interested in the RESUS RS14 or the RS212, please contact me. I have an informal arrangement with RESUS, and I may end up being the American distributor.
I am now a second level dealer for the VersaBraille for TSI. This means that if I can convince you to buy a VersaBraille, and you have no or little contact with the regular TSI sales representatives, then I get a fee from TSI for being instrumental for the sale. If you are curious about the VersaBraille, and would like to know more about it, feel free to call me or write me a letter. The one drawback for me in this arrangement is that in order for me to make a claim to TSI, I must know if you are buying a VersaBraille and I must know what degree of contact you had with the regular TSI sales force.
Since there are many features of the BRAILLE-EDIT program written with the VersaBraille in mind, I have been doing a great deal of work introducing the VersaBraille to many, many people. Give me a ring if if you have not bought your VersaBraille yet.
Some people (especially TSI salespersons) seem to think that I don't like VersaBrailles. Or at least they have difficulty understanding why I would quote from a letter from Harvey Lauer telling how much his VersaBraille was out to lunch. The some people at TSI would like to forget any time in which a VersaBraille screws up. I cannot. My wife is very heavily dependent on her unit. No one has to tell me that a VersaBraille is incredibly powerful and is incredible useful.
It is the very power and utility of the VersaBraille that makes it such a crisis when one has problems. I am proud of the fact that my programs on the Apple not only extend the power and utility of the VersaBraille, but they also soften the blow when the unit has to be shipped back to California.
If I am going to be a salesman for the VersaBraille, I will do so by telling the truth about it. Every device made by man or woman (except the cinder block) needs servicing now and then. The VersaBraille is no exception.
In my work with BRAILLE-EDIT, I have to tell people how to interface the VersaBraille to the Apple computer. Before long, I have to get around to talking about the configuration control parameters, also known as the CCPs. It is very difficult to explain what a CCP is when the person you are talking to is in a rush to get the two machines communicating.
Most devices which transmit or receive computer data have a lot of switches. These switches control how the device communicates. The VersaBraille is no exception. It has 17 switches to control the communications. What makes the VersaBraille different is that these switches are not physical, but a figment of a computer program.
The user can change any or all of these "switches" from the keyboard. The user types a chord/R E to get into a mode to make changes. To leave this "CCP editor", the user enters a chord/R S. When you start, you are at the first parameter, the baud rate. By hitting the word button, you can change the baud rate. By hitting the forward button, you can turn your attention to the next switch. If you want to, you can just hit the forward bar a number of times just to examine the settings of all the switches. Look at the VersaBraille manual for more explanations of all the abbreviations used. For example, "s 2" means two stop bits, "d 8" means 8 data bits, "p n" means no parity, "t c" means computer braille translator. After a short time, you will be experienced in changing the settings.
Usually, the CCPs are changed for an overlay. An overlay is a special chapter of a VersaBraille tape which contains more instructions for the VersaBraille. The most popular overlay is the terminal overlay. This overlay makes the VersaBraille into a computer terminal. You can save an overlay with your custom setting of the CCPs. This means once you find the right setting of the CCPs for an application, you never have to tinker with them again. You just load the overlay, any you are in business.
Once you get the hang of it, you start to feel sorry for people that have to work with machines that have real switches that have to be changed all the time.
Often I am asked how to make an inkprint printer to print its pages properly. Often the problem is with the top of form. Usually, when you turn the power on a printer, you are telling it (whether you know it or not) that the print-head is at the correct position at the top of a page of paper. If the printer receives a form feed character (also known as a control/L), the printer will advance to an equivalent position on the next page. If the top of form is set incorrectly, the printer will appear to skip at all the wrong spots.
Generally, you should find a way to identify the correct position to power up your printer. This is usually about three quarters of an inch beyond the page perforations. One trick is to have a blank page hanging out of your printer. Have a sighted person tell you when the print head is just a few lines past the page boundary. Hold the end of the blank page against the back of the printer. Check for a landmark. Perhaps the edge lines up with a knob or an edge. In that way you can easily set the top of form yourself, even if you cannot get your fingers in directly to find the print head position.
There are 66 possible lines to a page. Set the form length to 58 or 60. That way when the computer gets to 58 or 60 lines into a page, it will send a form feed character to the printer. This causes the printer to advance to the next top of form. In this way, you should have a nice top and bottom margin on your printout.
You may want to know how to force a page change in BRAILLE-EDIT. Just put a form feed character into the text. Type a control/X L in data entry. When you print out the material, the printer will obey the form feed character and advance to the next page.
BRAILLE-EDIT can be used to make some pretty dramatic changes to the format of your text. This can be very important. You may want to move your text from a VersaBraille to the Apple to a typesetting machine. You may want to take a file from a typesetter, strip off all the format markers, translate it into grade two, and send the material to the VersaBraille. No problem.
Note that there should be no control characters in the core representation. To get from the core representation to a VersaBraille, just run the translator and transfer program. To get a print copy, the print utility should get a good copy. To get a textfile, use the "write textfile" utility.
You may have some difficulty getting your text into the core representation. Often the text has a number of carriage returns in it. The transformation chapter "TXVB" can be used to do most of the work in moving from a textfile type of file into the core representation. You may have to generate your own customized transformation chapters to handle the files you deal with on a regular basis. I welcome articles on this subject. If you don't know where to begin, mail me a disk containing a problem file. I will send back a transformation chapter or advise on handling that kind of file. I will cover transformation chapters in detail in another issue.
There has been a lot of interest in optical scanning. Nobody wants to take the time to enter a lot of text into the computer. One of the ironies is that it may take more time to ungarble the text from bad optical scanning than it would to just enter all the text from scratch.
Much interest has focused on the Kurzweil Reading Machine. Many purchasers of BRAILLE-EDIT have access to a Kurzweil Reading Machine (KRM). They have been plugging their KRM to their Apple and have siphoned off onto Apple disk whatever the KRM is reading. This course is not without its special difficulties. Optical scanning is a very tricky business. One expert was quoted as saying "Give me just three type styles, and I can scan a third generation Xerox with coffee stains. Give me every type style, and your copy had better be pretty sharp". The KRM tries to read most typefaces. There were a number of compromises made in order to do this. Quite frankly, you need good, clean copy with the KRM.
There are many ironies with the KRM. Harvey Lauer has given me a number of insights into understanding the development of the current Kurzweil Reading Machine. Harvey Lauer works as an evaluator of sensory aids. He asked for a number of features in the Kurzweil which were never implemented. He wanted a full ASCII keyboard, word processing capabilities, a larger memory buffer, and easy access to the communications parameter switches. Kurzweil did try to accommodate blind users by trying to build a hand scanning tablet and by trying to implement automatic contrast setting. Both efforts failed.
Kurzweil believed that blind persons could not use a full ASCII keyboard and would not have use for word processing. Kurzweil also had major misgivings about implementing too many sophisticated features in the KRM. Kurzweil Computer Products makes most of its money selling sophisticated optical scanners to industry. They did not want someone to use the "low cost" KRM (which only costs $30,000) in place of one of their industrial machines. One outcome is that the KRM is crippled in its ability to do good optical scanning. The KRM does not have proper handshaking on its lines. The KRM does not indicate the start of a new paragraph or give any formatting information at all (except put in carriage returns).
There are amazing ironies here. There are a number of blind persons who are turning to machines like the DEST to do their optical scanning. The DEST is a commercial scanner which costs $7,000 for the basic model that can scan three type styles. You can add more modules for more styles and capabilities until the unit costs $15,000. The machine does not read aloud. It just sends the text down an RS-232 port to a receiving computer or VersaBraille.
Instead of preventing industrial users from using the expensive version of the Kurzweil, the policies of Kurzweil Computer Products are driving blind users away from the KRM.
This is not to say that the KRM is useless as an optical scanner. It is real nice if you have one in your institution. If a Kurzweil Reading Machine is available, you can use it as an integral part of your word processing and braille translation center.
As a footnote, there have been rumors circulating that the Viewscan (a device which might be described as the partially sighted persons' Optacon) does optical scanning. This is not true. The engineers are evaluating this to see what would be required. The present Viewscan DOES NOT go from print to RS-232 signal.
Some BRAILLE-EDIT users have reported problems with the "print to screen" in the Print Utility. If you indicate that you have a carriage width of 40, a form length of 18, and outputing to slot zero, then you can get a nice display on the screen or out the Echo II. The BRAILLE-EDIT program has real problems if you indicate a carriage width greater than 40. In fact, the program bombs just after the printing is finished. If you restrict the width to 40 when you print to slot zero, the program should work just fine. I may get around to fixing this in the next version. Speaking of version of software, I have gotten a number of inquiries about what the file "JUNE 11 1983" does. It is just a marker which gives the date of last modifications. There is no truth to the rumor that it is an expiration date for your disk.
Some users get confused when they get into the "Edit Menu" after leaving data entry. By entering an "E" you can go back into data entry. In fact you can use the "C" command to change chapters, then use the "E" command to go into data entry with the second chapter.
I keep hearing rumors about a wonderful new computer product coming soon from SFB. They are highly secretive about what it is they are working on. Apparently, they are working on a means of using a Franklin ACE computer (an Apple copycat computer) with an Echo II to get access to protected computer programs. At least, that is one rumor. Another one indicates that they are focusing on CP/M.
I have real problems trying to evaluate their project. Nobody in-house at SFB seems very knowledgeable about computers. They seem to want people to buy their computers before they finish the software. I would be very wary of such an arrangement. I have seen too many similar projects fail to buy equipment on faith. I welcome submissions that would clarify this situation.
I have been asked how to connect a VersaBraille to a Cranmer Brailler. You could get hard copy of your paperless braille without going through the Apple.
I have a wiring diagram supplied by Maryland Computer Services. If you are interested in trying this, please call me. I will publish a complete description once I am sure it works perfectly.
For the last month, Telesensory Systems has been producing the model D VersaBraille. The model D contains some features designed to make the VersaBraille easier to use overseas. I think the model D will become popular domestically as well. Especially among BRAILLE-EDIT users. The model D does not have any grade one translator. It does have a variety of computer translators. The user has a choice of American, British, French, German, and Scandinavian computer braille systems. American users will probably not have any interest in the foreign computer braille systems. However, the regular American computer braille has a new feature. Capital letters and control letters show up as blinking braille characters. This means you can read computer braille and easily distinguish upper and lower case. Since there is a one to one correspondence between print symbols and braille characters, it will be easier to use the VersaBraille to check print formats.
Users of an Apple/VersaBraille system usually have no need for grade one (A frequent question is "how do I convert grade one files into grade two?"). The loss of grade one is insignificant compared to the new convenience of quickly telling upper case from lower case in computer braille.
Over the last year, I have helped dozens of individuals and schools get set up with computer and braille devices. I have found that blind individuals have few problems plowing through my material and getting set up quickly. Schools present more of a challenge. When the administrators sign a purchase order, often little thought is given to who is going to learn how to operate the equipment. When it arrives, someone is pressed into service. That individual is usually fully scheduled with other activities.
To deal with this problem, I would like to make a series of video tapes on the VersaBraille, the Apple, BRAILLE-EDIT, the Cranmer Brailler, and related items. I would like to produce them at the local intermediate unit, with them donating the production time in exchange for the full rights to sell the tapes to recover the costs (that way I will not have to inventory the tapes). If you would be interested in having your organization buy a series of video tapes to shorten the set-up time, please write me. The more letters that I get, the easier it will be to deal with the intermediate unit. If you write me, you are not making any commitments. You are just expressing interest in this project.
I just received a phone call from Graham Stoodley. He is a blind lawyer from Canada. He has had difficulty convincing local transcribers about the accuracy of the BRAILLE-EDIT grade two translator. He has "spent his last vacation" improving the grade two translator. He reports that he has been able to make many, many improvements (this does not surprise me at all). After I get a copy of his disk and do a few tests, I will be distributing his translator on BRAILLE-EDIT disks. If you are concerned about the accuracy of the braille translator, then write me so I can announce the release of this important update.
The National Braille Press is producing a braille book on computers. It is called "Feeling Your Way Around Computers, A Beginners Guide to Personal Computers for the Visually Impaired". I have been asked to write the section on the Apple computer. I am enclosing a copy of my first draft for your comment. If you have any corrections or additions, please write me or Diane Croft at NBP.
[This article has been written for a book being produced by the National Braille Press].
The Apple Computer has a very colorful history. Many people have heard the story of how two Silicon Valley boys, Stephen Jobs and Stephen Wozniak, made the first Apple computer in their garage in 1976 when they were both 20 years old. It is true that they sold a Volkswagen Micro Bus for $1,300 to raise the money necessary to start production of the Apple I computer. What made the difference between a good design and a multinational corporation was a third partner who joined Jobs and Wozniak very early. Mr. Markkula put in $250,000 of his own money and arranged for the best support services available in Silicon Valley. In other words, just about everything went right from the very beginning.
Only 200 Apple I computers were ever made. It was redesigned to make the Apple II. Because of the amazing pace of development in the microcomputer field, it is hard to recall that the Apple II embodied quite a number of innovations. The Apple II had high resolution color graphics, a built-in speaker, a small electronic power supply (so the machine could be light), built in BASIC, a case containing the keyboard, a willingness to do in software what every one else did in hardware, and the expansion slots. I have reviewed old advertisements and articles and I have noticed that the expansion slots were not highlighted as a "major feature" (like the color graphics).
What Wozniak did was design a system so that a lot of the electronics needed for expansion cards (extra circuit cards that add extra functions) were built into the main circuit board. This meant that the extra circuit cards were stripped to their bare essentials. Apple held seminars up and down the California coast to tell people how to build circuit cards for the Apple II. From the beginning, there has been a lively industry in these added circuit cards. In turn, software was written to support these cards. The interaction between Apple software and Apple circuit cards has kept the Apple II a lively competitor even though the basic machine is no longer the cutting edge of technology.
In January of 1983, Apple introduced the Apple IIe, an upgrade of the Apple II (also known as the Apple II plus). The most important changes have been a full ASCII keyboard, upper and lower case display, and easy 80 column display capability.
The Apple II has been very popular. Over a million have been sold. It is widely distributed in schools, in businesses and in the home.
The Apple II is usually sold in a package (Apple IIe, TV monitor, and a disk drive). Each dealer sets different prices, so giving prices is tricky. The package deal often sells for around $1,700. The Apple IIe has a full keyboard, 64K RAM, 16K ROM, and 7 expansion slots. It uses the 6502 processor chip, and comes with Microsoft BASIC. The disks hold 143K of characters. For voice output, the most popular device is the Echo II ($149 from Street Electronics Corporation). The Echo II is loaded with features (screen review, punctuation, fast speech, compatible with many programs, etc.). Other speech units are more expensive, but lack many of the Echo features, and require a serial card. Most blind users of the Apple computer have an Echo II.
It is hard to make practical use of a computer system without having an inkprint printer. There are many good dot matrix printers for the Apple in the $400 to $600 range. These are fast and quite reliable. Letter quality printers are more expensive, slower, and have more mechanical problems. They start at around $700. For many, many applications, you really need two disk drives.
It is hard to know where the boundaries of a "full-blown" system are with the Apple. It is so easy to interface with other devices that you could fill a warehouse with the devices you can attach to an Apple II. You can replace your floppy disks with a hard disk. You can replace your Echo II with a Cybertalker Speech Unit for a massive speech buffer and for improved control of the speech. You can obtain a good letter quality printer. You can use a VersaBraille and a braille embosser. To finish off your system, I would recommend an optical scanner, such as the DEST. With this system, you could go from inkprint to braille in a manner of minutes. You can go from electronic braille to voice or print with equal ease.
There is an extensive list of languages which have been implemented on the Apple. Some of the more talked about languages are: BASIC (build-in), PASCAL, LOGO, FORTH, FORTRAN, and COBOL. For those so inclined, there is always machine language. I do not have complete knowledge about the access you will have with voice or braille devices to all these language. To make matters more interesting, there is a bewildering variety of circuit cards which will make your Apple look like other computers. You can run CP/M and a number of other "non-Apple" operating systems on the Apple.
There are a number of programmers who have written application programs for blind persons on the Apple computer. The two principle programmers are Bill Grimm of COMPUTER AIDS and David Holladay of Raised Dot Computing. Between them there are word processing programs, database programs, business programs, braille translators, support for virtually every braille and voice device (especially the Echo II, the VersaBraille, and the Cranmer Brailler), a terminal program, braille training programs, an appointment calendar program, and much more. There are also two active newsletters to exchange applications and new developments. There are two word processing programs available on the Apple, the DOCUMENTS program from Bill Grimm and BRAILLE-EDIT from David Holladay. DOCUMENTS is a talking word processor which works with the Echo II. It is inexpensive and easy to learn. The BRAILLE-EDIT program does word processing with the screen or with voice. It also includes a translator into grade two braille and a translator from grade two braille to regular text. It works well with the Echo II, the VersaBraille, and the Cranmer Brailler. Combined sales of DOCUMENTS AND BRAILLE-EDIT hover around 300. As of this writing, Bill Grimm is releasing his INFO program, which should offer good database and form filling out capability. The Apple computer offers a blind person something more than a computer that can talk. It offers some solid applications which are proving themselves in the workplace, in the home, and in the schools.
The real Achilles heel of the Apple for blind users used to be the lack of access to protected software. A new development, the Zero Card from Cyberon Corporation (the makers of the Cybertalker, a high-performance voice synthesizer), promises to sweep aside this limitation. As this article is being written, the whole field is in tremendous flux. There are many ironies in this situation. The two computers which have the best applications for the blind (the Apple II and the Osborne I) are now considered obsolete by the mainstream computer community. Because the blindness field is smaller, and the applications trickier, it takes longer for the best applications software to be developed. Because of the speed of development in the microcomputer field, blind users are faced with using obsolete machines to do the things they were never able to before.
The Apple's strongest area is word processing. Both BRAILLE-EDIT and DOCUMENTS have gained a wide circulation. As the users of these programs get more sophisticated, it is inevitable that new applications will be written for the Apple which will continue to fuel the Apple's reputation among the blind.