Raised Dot Computing is proud to announce a new breakthrough in tactile graphics. I have written a program which will take any hi-res (high resolution) image on the Apple screen and put it on the Cranmer Modified Perkins Brailler. Since there are dozens of commercial programs that help an Apple user create hi-res images, this means that it is simple to create tactile charts, maps, and diagrams.
The full hi-res image is 280 dots across and 192 dots down. The brailler can only produce 102 dots across and 111 dots down. The graphics program uses 6 sheets of paper, 3 across and 2 down to produce the entire hi-res image. These individual sheets can be glued together to produce a large tactile image. Of course, you can prepare an image that only makes up one or two sheets.
The program is called the "Super Cranmer Graphics Package". It costs $200. The disk comes with a number of hi-res images, including a world map and a graph of a trig function. You need an Apple (or Franklin) computer and a Cranmer Brailler. The only drawback that I foresee is that it suddenly creates a need for a voice output graphics package so a blind user can independently create the source image.
To promote this capability, I am offering a special service just for the month for December, 1983. If you send me a disk containing a high resolution image (it should be a 34 sector binary file designed to be directly loaded into the high resolution area of memory), I will send back 6 sheets of braille paper with the tactile image. Limit of one per customer. I get to keep the disk.
I have worked out the interface between the VersaBraille and Cranmer Brailler. You need an adapter plug which swaps wires 2 and 3, and swaps wires 6 and 20. Short wires 5 and 6 together on each side (so wires 5 and 6 on one side are tied together and are connected to wire 20 on the other side). Wire 7 is straight through. This cable adapter is being sold by Raised Dot Computing for $30. Be sure to specify whether you have a model B or model C VersaBraille (so the gender is correct).
Use the hard copy overlay to dump from the VersaBraille to the Cranmer. A complete set of instructions is available for free from Raised Dot Computing. Also available at no charge are instructions on interfacing the VersaBraille to the Apple and interfacing the Cranmer to the Apple.
Frequently, I get phone calls from desperate people needing interfacing instructions. They get up against a deadline and then do not have the time to get something in the mail. I have no sympathy. I have written good interfacing instructions. They are free of charge to anyone who calls or writes. Write me today, before you absolutely need them. Thank you for your understanding.
Recently, Ginny Eachus bought a lot of equipment. She bought an Apple, two disk drives, a printer, an Echo II, a Cranmer Brailler, and a copy of BRAILLE-EDIT. She decided that one of the first things she wanted to learn was how to use the Cranmer Brailler as a self contained word processor. To make a long story short, she had a great deal of difficulty. At first Ginny thought that her problems were caused by lack of experience with computers. Many phone calls later, it turned out that her problems were caused by errors in the Cranmer Brailler manual distributed by MCS. For example, if you follow the manual, moving the cursor down by 3 lines will actually delete 3 lines. All the cursor movement commands need to be preceded by an "M" in the Edit Mode. To move to the top of the page, do "M T chord/Q". To move to the bottom, do a "M B chord/Q". To move down three lines, do "M D 3 chord/Q". To move up 7 lines, do "M U 7 chord/Q". To print, you need to be in the edit mode. Enter "P chord/Q" to print the current line. Enter "P 254 chord/Q" to print the entire buffer. The manual is also misleading about the input mode. You just hit an "I" without a carriage return to get into the input mode. If you hit a carriage return, that will go into the text.
There is a chart at the end of the print manual which is substantially correct. This chart is used by sighted persons (including your fearless editor) using the Cranmer. Blind users rely on the actual text, which does have some errors. The sooner these errors are corrected, the better. Raised Dot Computing will write its own manual on the Cranmer Brailler when time permits. Just to be sure that no one misunderstands the situation, the brailler itself is OK. It is just that some non-trivial parts of the manual need to be re-written by a human being.
There is a special board for the IBM personal computer which makes it think it is an Apple computer. This board is called a Quadlink (made by Quadram Corporation). When you have this board installed in your IBM PC, BRAILLE-EDIT works just fine. Of course, you cannot use the Echo II on such a system. But you can use a number of serial text-to-speech synthesizers. My thanks to Wayne Thompson of the Kentucky Bureau for the Blind for this information. Wayne was one of the main technicians who developed the Cranmer Brailler.
As mentioned in a previous newsletter, Bill Grimm has arranged for the TRANSEND communications package to work with the Echo II. Now you can use your Apple as a powerful voice terminal. You can save your terminal sessions on disk for latter use or review. You can save an enormous amount of on-line charges by going through the material from the computer off-line. The program costs $175. It is available from COMPUTER AIDS, PO BOX 5502, Fort Wayne, IN 46895.
So far, I have not heard any reports from purchasers of this program. I look forward to hearing how well it works.
I have spruced up my form letter program. It now works with textfiles produced by conventional database programs. It also works with "homemade textfiles" created with BRAILLE-EDIT. By using this program you can send out form letters to everybody on your mailing list. The price is $150. For more information, contact Raised Dot Computing.
There is a minor bug in some of the latest copies of BRAILLE-EDIT. The program crashes if you give a wrong chapter name in the Utility Menu. To fix the program yourself, hit a "Q" to the Utility Menu prompt. Type "300 GOTO 130 (return)". Then type "SAVE UTILITY (return)". You just fixed up your program disk. Only do this to copies of Version 2.44A. If you have any other version, please ignore this entirely.
If you are afraid to modify your own disk, send two blank disks to Raised Dot Computing for a correct copy of version 2.44A.
The National Braille Press book on computers is ready! They have published a braille book chock full of information on many different computer systems. While you are thinking about it, send a $6 check to: NBP, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston MA 02115. Ask for the "Guide to Computers for the Visually Impaired". You may be interested to know that my section on the Apple is "one of six reviews written by blind users". Good thing I did not have to submit a medical certificate.
The Carroll Center guide to voice output systems is available on audio tape. Just send them a blank C-90 audio tape. Their address is Aids and Appliances Review, 770 Center Street, Newton, MA 02158.
Bill Grimm's users group has 5 utility and game disks. These are available for $7.50 each. Contact Joseph Giovanelli, Audio*tech Laboratories, 1158 Steward Avenue, Bethpage, NY 11714 (518) 433-0171. Mr. Giovanelli also produces and distributes Bill Grimm's audio newsletter.
I have noticed that the Echo II gets confused when you have it speak flashing words. The Echo thinks that flashing letters are punctuation and numbers and other trash. I'm not sure if Street Electronics is aware of the problem. They may be able to fix this in a later release of their software.
It has come to my attention that some people like to get as many things as they can for free. If you use software from Raised Dot Computing without paying for it, you are making a mistake. There is no financial reason to do this. If you are in dire financial straits, call or write me. I'm sure we can work out a deal.
Just about everybody getting special software has a special problem. If you have a "borrowed" copy of the BRAILLE-EDIT program, then you will not have access to the support services that legal customers get automatically. For example, you may not be getting the newsletter regularly. You might not have the most recent manual. You might even have an ancient version of the BRAILLE-EDIT program. None of these are going to help you very much. If you run into problems, you may not feel like calling me and asking for clarification.
When you add it all up, the bargain is no bargain at all. If you do have a "borrowed copy", and want a legitimate copy, give me a call. I have a very simple plan to allow you to have access to all the support services that will not cost an arm and a leg.
If you have any experience with sensory aids equipment, you can be a consultant in your own community. It is my experience that schools, agencies, and institutions are desperate for information about what equipment works and what does not. Do not assume that "everybody knows about this stuff." Just because useful information is available in this newsletter or in other sources does not mean that you cannot make a buck by repeating it. I am constantly getting phone calls from various groups that want me to fly to one place or another. I could only travel to a limited number of groups. It is possible for BRAILLE-EDIT users to make in one day of consulting what the program cost them in the first place.
If you are interested in being a consultant, call me. Then I can refer requests to you. If you are approached by somebody to do a particular interface, contact me. I will try to send you a crib sheet that will help you.
As things stand now, too many BRAILLE-EDIT customers are keeping their expertise to themselves. If there were more consultants in the field, I can get more programming and writing done.
Roger Petersen bought his copy of BRAILLE-EDIT last September. He has helped a number of groups interface specialized braille equipment to their Apple computers. He is willing to travel to help you or your organization. Contact Roger at 1629 Columbia Road #800 NW, Washington DC 20009, (202) 667-2747.
The Nemeth code is the American standard mathematics braille code. The Nemeth code can represent virtually any mathematical equation. There has been a lot of interest in any computer program that can automatically translate material into Nemeth braille code. Unfortunately, no such program exists presently. Joe Sullivan of Duxbury Systems has expressed an interest in writing a Nemeth translator. Raised Dot Computing is also very interested in writing such a translator.
Caryn Navy will be leaving her teaching job at Bucknell University at the end of this academic year. She will be working as part of Raised Dot Computing starting in the summer. Caryn has expressed a strong interest in writing a Nemeth code translator. She has identified the most significant problem to be the generation of an entry code. It is easy to talk about a translator into the Nemeth code, but what is the computer translating from? How do you tell the computer what equation to put into braille? Basically you need to generate a new code which is easy to do from the keyboard. For example, you could make a control/G stand for a Greek letter. To form a beta, the user could type a control/G followed by a normal "b" (a beta is a Greek "b"). If the program is clever it will show a beta on the screen. But one way or another, there has to be some sort of encoding scheme by which the user tells the computer what mathematical symbols are indicated and they are positioned with respect to each other. If it is harder to learn the new encoding scheme than Nemeth code, then the computer project is self-defeating.
About ten years ago, Caryn and I had a dream for a project we called "the homework machine". This was a device that would use some sort of braille input and generate an inkprint copy of any text or mathematical equations that were indicated by the user. At the time, we estimated that the necessary equipment would cost $75,000. By that standard, an Apple computer/VersaBraille system is cheap (only $10,000). The NUMBERS program was written last year. It takes any Nemeth code and grade two chapter and automatically generates an inkprint copy.
Now that the first dream is a reality, it is time for another dream. In ten years, we would like to set up an optical scanning system that can scan a mathematical equation and automatically produce Nemeth code braille. That would short circuit the need to use an alternative encoding scheme. Please do not ask us about this project until late 1993. We will be spending the bulk of our time waiting for prices to drop on optical scanning equipment.
In the meantime, I would like readers of this newsletter to welcome Caryn as a full partner in Raised Dot Computing. Please do not expect Caryn Navy to be a carbon copy of David Holladay. We are very different people. Caryn has had far more formal education and training than I have had. While I have dropped more undergraduate computer courses than I ever passed, Caryn got very close to getting a master's degree in computer science while she was getting her Phd in mathematics. Caryn brings an intense concentration into any project which I find awesome. Anyway, I would like to make it clear that it would be mistake to introduce Caryn as "David's charming wife". Her accomplishments and her potential need no introduction. I have full confidence that Raised Dot Computer will one day introduce a Nemeth code translator. Such a program will help to lower the barriers facing blind students who wish to study technical subjects.
In the summer of 1984, Raised Dot Computing will be moving to Madison Wisconsin. Caryn and I will probably move just after the 1984 ACB convention in Philadelphia. It is premature to announce a new address for Raised Dot Computing. Please be aware that the Lewisburg address and phone number are temporary.
Madison will afford Raised Dot Computing a good environment in which to better serve its growing customer base. It is increasingly difficult to do everything I need to do in a small town. Raised Dot Computing simply needs access to people and equipment not found in a tiny college town isolated from major towns and cities. I am not alone in hoping that the move will be as smooth as possible.
I occasionally get requests to print the entire Raised Dot Computing price list in the newsletter. While I think it is kind of tacky, I bow to reader requests. These prices are current until Mar. 31, 1984.
A purchase of BRAILLE-EDIT includes a print BRAILLE-EDIT manual, a print interfacing guide, and a subscription (audio or print) to the Newsletter. An alternative media (either audio or VersaBraille tape) is included upon request. Please specify if you want an alternative form of documentation and which form you prefer.
The interfacing guide indicates how to interface a wide variety of special devices to the Apple II. It is updated periodically. The current version is dated October 1, 1983. If you have an old copy, you may want the latest edition.
Generally, all manuals are available in print, audio and in VersaBraille tape. Each manual is $10, so that a complete set of print, audio and VersaBraille tape of the BRAILLE-EDIT manual and the interfacing manual would be $60.
Currently, three Apple manuals are available on VersaBraille tape. These are the Applesoft Tutorial, The DOS Manual, and The Applesoft BASIC Reference Manual. In addition, the manuals for the Echo II and the Apple Super Serial Card are also available on VersaBraille tape.
Note that the print subscription price has gone up to $18 (from $12). This new price will go into effect on Jan. 1, 1984. It is made necessary by the increased length of the newsletter.
It is time for me to renew my list of recommended equipment. I recommend use of the Apple as the computer of choice for word processing. I strongly recommend two drive systems over single drive systems. I recommend the Echo II as the voice synthesizer of choice. I have no favorites for printers. I have a Starwriter F10-40 which has worked like a champ. I recommend the VersaBraille for paperless brailler. The VersaBraille is available from Telesensory Systems, Inc. I recommend the Cranmer Brailler for lower cost braille output. I recommend the Thiel embosser for high-performance braille output. The Thiel is available from Maryland Computer Services. I recommend fixing any Kurzweil Reading Machines you may have available. I cannot at this time recommend the purchase of a Kurzweil.
You do not need anything extra to interface an Echo II to an Apple IIe or a Franklin. You need a 16K RAM card (the 16K RAM card fits in slot zero) to interface an Echo II and an Apple II plus.
Have your Apple dealer interface your inkprint printer to your Apple. Make sure you specify "all necessary interfaces and cables" when you buy your inkprint printer.
The VersaBraille will work with the Apple Super Serial Card or the CCS 7710 card. You also need a cable adapter available from Raised Dot Computing. Without the cable adapter, the VersaBraille will not communicate with the Apple.
The Cranmer Brailler works best with the Super Serial Card. To connect the SSC with the Cranmer, you need a straight male-to-male cable. You can buy the brailler, the serial card, and the cable from Raised Dot Computing.
For the Thiel, use the Super Serial Card and a straight male-to-female cable.
For the Kurzweil Reading Machine use either the Super Serial Card or the CCS 7710 card and a special cable available from Raised Dot Computing. You can directly interface the VersaBraille to the KRM, you can use your VersaBraille I/O cable. If you have a model "C" cable, you will need a female-to-female gender adapter.
To directly connect a VersaBraille to the Cranmer, use the new cable adapter now available from Raised Dot Computer.
For detailed information about all these interfaces (and how to make good use when you do them) write to Raised Dot Computing for up to date interfacing information.
I frequently get calls and letters that go "I have only a limited amount of money. Should I buy a Cranmer Brailler or a VersaBraille?" That depends on what you want to do. These are very different machines. The VersaBraille is portable, the Cranmer is not. The Cranmer gives you hard copy, the VersaBraille does not. A VersaBraille can receive massive files quickly without manual intervention. A Cranmer will take forever on a long file and requires lots of manual intervention. In general, I would recommend the VersaBraille to a blind professional and a Cranmer to a school. If you are confused, please call me so I can help you sort out all the issues involved.
I would like to make a few comments relative to previous newsletters: first about the MicroBrailler, second about devices I have interfaced with, and third about BRAILLE-EDIT quirks.
There are a lot of debatable points about the MicroBrailler, but from my dealings with Triformations and seeing this particular machine, the mere fact that it is $2000 less than the VersaBraille is insignificant and misleading. It is nice that it has a bigger buffer has longer battery life and is lighter than the VersaBraille. More important, though, are the reliability, versatility and technical support of a device. Triformations has not yet proven itself in these respects.
I have used a VersaBraille for two years and have received invaluable advice and servicing from TSI. With the expert coaching of Noel Runyan at TSI, I have interfaced the VersaBraille with at least ten different computers. Noel has often known more about the device I was connecting to than the company I was working for. My job depends on this kind of support and versatility. It is well worth paying for.
I am always in search of the "ultimate" device and I would gladly see the MicroBrailler evolve into at least a viable option to the VersaBraille. From my own experience and from hearing prolific complaints of other blind people, I think it is only fair to give credit where credit is due, and to hope that perspective paperless brailler users, or would-be benefactors, will look carefully beneath the surface before buying a machine.
My second comment is about interfacing. I would like to mention devices I have connected to in hopes that other readers will do the same. I have connected with: Tymnet, Dialog, Dow Jones, a Wang word processor, an IBM 4341, HP 1000, HP 3000, DEC 1170, TRS-80, Apple (of course), and several printers. I would like to communicate with another VersaBraille, sometime, over the phone. Please give me a call if you are interested in trying this; at area code (209) 258-8375.
My third comment is on BRAILLE-EDIT quirks. These are not necessarily good or bad items, just things to be aware of. There are certainly others that I have not noticed so, David, and readers, please add to this list.
1. You can not stop the Edit menu from speaking by means of the control-X. It will just recycle.
2. Using the control-X (voice off control) to skip over the prompt "BRAILLE-EDIT VERSION 2.44, COPYRIGHT 1983 DAVID HOLLADAY", will dump you out of the program. [this is not a problem with version 2.44A]
3. The double dollar commands can go in any order except that the double dollar W must appear before the margin command.
4. When loading more than three VersaBraille pages written in grade two, you can insure that there will not be a Back From translation overflow by answering the prompt "control characters" with the letter M, instead of Yes or No. This closely held secret by David makes the BRAILLE-EDIT page size no more than 2500 characters instead of the usual 3200 character limit when transferring from the VersaBraille.
5. After hearing the prompt "data entry", wait a few seconds before issuing a command. If you are too quick on the trigger something unusual may happen.
6. If you would prefer not to have the VersaBraille cassette eject after a transfer from the Apple, delete line 1245 from the utility program, BRAILLE-EDIT version 2.44.
7. If a disk is close to being full, the BRAILLE-EDIT pages may be recorded but not the contents page. What you can do, is first make room on the disk by deleting another chapter, and then run the FIX program on the chapter which didn't fit on the disk. The FIX program will add the content page; thus giving you access to that chapter.
8. You must start the entire chapter list over if, for any reason, the Apple says "error, please re-enter chapter list". Don't make a mistake when typing the fifteenth chapter name or you will have to start the whole list over again. [you can use the Utility Two to avoid this problem].
9. If you want to take one chapter and split it into two chapters what do you do? You cut the pages where you would like, select a new chapter and then "Grab" the pages from the original chapter to be added to the new chapter. If the first page of your new chapter has zero characters in it, you will have problems when you try transferring it to the VersaBraille. Either put a few blanks in it or delete it. This transfer problem will also occur if for any other reason the first page of a BRAILLE-EDIT chapter has zero characters in it.
An article in a recent computing magazine states that many people who own versatile dot matrix printers print one way only and ignore the fancy features of their machines. Making your printer show its stuff can be a daunting task, but for me it was worth the effort. Now I can control the printer. When using BRAILLE-EDIT, I quickly make copies of material for my students in small print, large print and braille after typing my document only once. I also turn features, such as double strike, on and off during printing by entering the correct symbols into the chapter.
I usually control the ink printer by means of a SET UP chapter with a name like LP SET UP (large print set up) or DLP (dark large print set up). This chapter contains the information for each print style used including carriage width, left margin, right margin, indentation, carriage returns between lines and carriage returns between paragraphs. This information is followed by the "codes" for the printer features needed. The SET UP chapter ends with spaces around $ p and is then stored on the program disk.
The documentation that comes with the printer gives a list of codes for each of the printer's features. Following are three examples of entering these codes into a chapter; I hope these examples will help someone struggling with a printer. I have experience with two different printers and suspect that other brands of printers are controlled similarly.
Example 1. The "code" for double width printing on the Epson MX-80 is given in two ways. One way is decimal codes 27 87 49. Another way is with ASCII symbols, ESC W 1 (that is the digit "one"). For features requiring use of ESC or 27, I must use the ";" and not the ESC key, since the ESC key is used on the Apple II plus for upper case. To enter these symbols into my SET UP chapter using the Apple IIe, I type the following sequence (without spaces): control/X ; shift/W control/X control/A To enter these symbols using the Apple II plus, I type the following sequence (without spaces, ESC is the escape key): control/X ; ESC W control/X control/A. On the screen you will see a symbol for ESC which shows a tiny E inside a bracket, a capital W and an underlined A (for control/a). These characters will not be printed; you will see only the evidence that your instructions have been executed.
Example 2. On the Apple dot matrix printer, the code for elongated characters is given as ASCII symbol SO and as decimal code 14. For this one, I ignore the SO and use control/N (N is the 14th letter of the alphabet). I enter this on the Apple IIe and on the Apple II plus by typing the following sequence (without spaces): control/X control/N
Example 3. On the Epson MX-80, the code for double strike is given as decimal code 27 71 and as ASCII symbol ESC G. To enter this on the Apple IIe, I type the following sequence (without spaces): control/X ; shift/G. On the Apple II plus, I type the following sequence (without spaces, ESC is the escape key): control/X ; ESC G
To use the SET UP chapter, list the SET UP chapter as the first chapter to be printed. Using a separate SET UP chapter is much more convenient than entering the format information into the chapter to be printed. Regular text can be sent to the printer or translated text can be sent to that wonderful machine, the Cranmer Modified Perkins Brailler, without extensive changes in format.
This article may not be appropriate material for a newsletter that has (so far) confined itself to important but mundane matters of technological detail. I feel that this may be the best place to express my fears and apprehensions about the future. It is appropriate because many of those who read this newsletter are an elite. They are already converted technophiles and will be dedicated to a future full of adapted technology for the blind. Those who read this newsletter are potential ambassadors. They are the missionaries of the modern in a land rife with apostles of tradition. The question that gnaws at my innards is do the missionaries have any clear notion of the doctrine they want to preach? A more significant question is: are the converted prepared to assume the leadership roles that they are capable of handling?
Knowledge has liberated a small number out of the total blind population. Too often, the few have chosen to use their knowledge and ignore the needs of other blind persons. This attitude is short-sighted and self-defeating. It has already cost us much and that it is likely to cost us even more unless this trend can be reversed.
When the VersaBraille was new and BRAILLE-EDIT was yet unborn, there were predictions that grade two braille was dead. It was said that braille books would soon be available in book stores produced by converting computerized compositor tapes into VersaBraille format, and that there would be daily newspaper delivery. This would liberate the blind from their dependence on the Library of Congress and its arbitrary book selection policies. There still is talk; but that's all there is. There were confident predictions that the Library of Congress would begin producing a cheap paperless braille reader. Such a device would move the masses into the new technology camp (provided that the devices could write as well as read). It might even persuade more than two per cent of the blind that it was worth their while to learn braille.
Those predictions are as near fruition now as they were when they were first made. There are as many reasons why this is so as there are brands of computers. Some of the reasons are beyond our control. Some things we could have and should have done. Blind consumer organizations have failed to assume a leadership role in the emerging technology. The economics of production have been dictated by agencies serving the blind whose myopia would qualify them as clients of their own agencies. What have any of us done to change the course of events? I need hardly add that Ronald Reagan was elected and has operated relatively unhindered by the disability movement. Granted, his administration was unable to gut educational programs for the handicapped but where is the competent, workable blue-print for future policy that will be needed for real progress? How many Senators and Representatives know a VersaBraille from a Voxcom or care? We have, for too long, assumed that our disability, by itself, is sufficient to protect us from the slings and arrows of political annihilation. What is needed is a united disabled community with clearly expressed and forcefully-articulated goals.
The blind are becoming Balkanized as surely and as disastrously as have the blacks and the Hispanics before us and it is time that we, the blind elite, recognize our obligation to try to stop it. If this means overthrowing the leadership of existing organizations, so be it. The blind may be writing for this newsletter. But where are the articles on technology in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness? Who is writing for the Braille Forum or the Monitor? How many community workshops have each of you BRAILLE-EDIT users done? How many educators among you have begun to use the new technology as an integrating element into the school and college system? What the hell are we waiting for? Do we need to lose more promises down the toilet of time before we recognize that the buck stops with every damned one of us?
It is essential that every blind school in the world have a computer. It is essential that every school district in the country make computers available to its blind students. It is imperative that we, the technological elite, ensure that the next generation can run circles around us. Too often I have heard that the computer will free the blind. What I am seeing, increasingly, is a new prison population who have been mollycoddled through school and who are not prepared for the present, much less prepared for the future. Unless the next generation of blind people is computer literate, blindness will be more of a disability than it has ever been. Have you considered that we graduate more good typists from school than the normal population does? And yet we have failed to reap the rewards that this advantage gives us.
It may seem that this article has gone far afield from its mild beginnings. Let me return to where it started. The halcyon promises are gone but there are new hopes. Those who have access to Kurzweils and Apples could begin producing material without waiting for a large printing house to do it for them. High-speed duplication makes the production of VersaBraille materials or spoken-word books little more costly than the production of paperbacks. Those with modems can start producing digests of material from the Source or Compuserve. The Cranmer Braille Printer is cheap enough and braille paper is plentiful enough to begin producing material for wider circulation. If Telesensory Systems and the Library of Congress will not come through for us, let us do it for ourselves. We are the end users of the products and appear to be the last to be taken into consideration by manufacturers, service providers or book producers. Whose fault is it? If we are truly liberated by technology, let us prove our freedom by action!
editor's note: I recognize that I have a responsibility to allow for the opposing view. I welcome submissions from myopic agencies, manufacturers, and from the Library of Congress.
This short little article is intended to draw to your attention the diversity available to you using BRAILLE-EDIT. At the outset, notice that you have three editing choices available to you if you have a complete system including a VersaBraille and an Echo 2 synthesizer. I will not be discussing the difficult issue of proofreading, since this is a matter of individual taste. Some people prefer to use speech while others feel that braille is the only way to edit effectively. I am of the second school for what it is worth and my remarks should be taken in that context. (I am aware that there are those who use a combination method and they might wish to write on the merits of their system.)
I have found that returning to Data Entry for the purpose of editing is more difficult than to use the global replace option. For those who have not become familiar with this remarkable feature of BRAILLE-EDIT, a few words of introduction. Global replace allows you to indicate that there is something in your text that you want changed from what it is to what you specify. In order to accomplish this, you enter a "from string", and a "to string". Every occurrence of the "from string" is replaced by the "to string". If you have made the same mistake several times, global replace will correct them all at once. To use this feature, hit an "A" when you are in the Utility Menu. Please read the manual to learn how to use this feature.
One of the biggest advantages of global replace is the fact that you do not need to enter the changes you want to make in any particular order. As mistakes occur to you, you can enter them as "from strings" and "to strings". It is critical for your "from string" to be exactly as it occurs in the text. If not, nothing will happen. Pay close attention to capital letters. The same care must be taken with the "to strings" you enter. I edit using the keyboard with a VersaBraille print-out of the chapter for checking "from strings". There is a limit of 20 characters to the size of the strings that you can enter.
You need to exercise the same care that you use when using the word-locate features of the Data Entry section or the word-search of the VersaBraille when specifying the context of the change spot. It will sometimes be necessary to include a good many extra characters to ensure the uniqueness of the context. This is particularly true with changes in small common words. What I have found particularly nice is that you can use global replace for inserting or deleting words or even phrases.
If the conjunction were missing between dog and cat, my approach would be as follows: FROM-STRING: dog cat (terminator) TO-STRING: dog and cat (terminator). (I have underlined the actual text that you need to enter.
To delete words or phrases, the main thing to remember is that you need to type enough to be sure that the spot where the word must be deleted is unique. Incidentally, I have used global replace to insert word processing commands as well which means that you can change margins or tabs without risking an error in data entry which is a lot harder to correct. If you do not have a copy of the text you are correcting in front of you, you should use a slate or tape recorder to note exactly what is there.
I mentioned at the outset that this article would explore three methods of editing and it will. I have spent this length of time on global replace because I feel it is better than the others in most cases. I am going to discuss the other two in my descending order of preference and will confine myself to a few comments on each.
Edit in local mode on the VersaBraille. One of the advantages of local editing is that you will end up correcting all formats of your chapter. It is really pretty easy to edit with a VersaBraille and perhaps the only major disadvantage lies in the fact that you need to transfer to the Apple and then reverse translate a chapter that you plan to share with the non-grade two user.
Using data entry is the third most effective mode of correcting text. If you are not an experienced user, there is the potential of ending up with a bigger mess than you started with. I find that the control characters have a tendency not to register sometimes. This may be a problem with my keyboard. This causes phantom letters in the middle of my text. You also need to know what Apple page an error is on to correct. Sometimes I have to do a word-locate two or even three times before I find what I am looking for. VersaBraille users may want to translate the chapter into grade two braille and transfer the chapter to the VersaBraille. If you are going to load it onto the same side of tape that the original is on, you will need to change the name of one or the other chapters (or you can delete the original chapter on the VersaBraille).
The range of options that are available for correcting text with BRAILLE-EDIT are truly awesome and this article has aimed to suggest some of the techniques that can be employed to do this. It is significant that, only three years ago, none of the options I have described were available. We have come a long way!
Since I have learned the trick of moving pages around the VersaBraille, I have used my VersaBraille as the primary list-maker in our household. It has served as the primary guide for school supplies and groceries as well as for other tasks that need doing. The approach is fairly simple. Let's use grocery shopping for our example. Take a couple of pages and list every single item that you are ever likely to need at the grocery store. You have just made your master grocery list. You will probably forget a few things, but you can always go back to and add items. Now you can move these pages to a new location at the end of the tape. Remember that you will need to create the chapter and pages first so there will really be pages and chapters with the numbers and names that you specify when you do your move. Now you have a copy of your master list and can delete those items that you do not need this week. With very little effort, from week to week, you have your grocery list done. Now take your VersaBraille to the store with you and delete each item as you pick it up. When there is nothing left on the pages you have copied, you can go home.
Obviously this is a fairly mundane use of an expensive piece of equipment. The same principles can be used to make up a master chapter of letter headings which you use frequently. This will enable you to send the same letter to different people by changing the first page around. Another use of the move trick lies with forms. You should no longer have to keep more than one copy of a form on each side of a versabraille tape. All you need to do is create a chapter with piles of pages at the end of the tape and then transfer form copies of the kind you need to a page in this chapter.
I have worked out a way to represent columnar material on the VersaBraille. The VersaBraille stores information as if it was receiving data on a continuous piece of dymo tape. The VersaBraille uses pages and chapters to fool you into thinking it is doing something more complicated. A balance sheet or a financial ledger is not very happy in this format because its figures appear in one long row. Leaving spaces between figures to indicate columns really doesn't do much good.
There are very few ledgers that have more than ten columns. My system allows for the use of up to fifteen comfortably. When you start writing in the table, precede column one by a space, the letter k and another space. This isolated k will allow you to use word search to find the figures in the first column if you want to read them one after the other. Each time you are entering the first column, just be sure there is a space k space before it and you will be able to hit it every time with the word search. The choice of k was not arbitrary. Most braille users grew up learning that the letters a through j preceded by a number sign constitute the numbers one through nine and the zero. Thus, k is the number one (without the number sign) plus dot three.
I suspect that many of you are way ahead of me, already. Space l space precedes column two; space m space precedes column three; space n space precedes column four and so on. Space t space, of course, becomes the symbol for the tenth column and, if needed, you can use the u, v, x, y and z for eleven through fifteen. While you could, in theory, carry on with this by using and, for, of, the, and with, it could be that the equals sign which would in this system constitute the seventeenth column, might create confusion. When I first had need to devise this scheme, I had visions of having to go back and correct my own transcribing mistakes till the cows came home, had supper and been milked; however, this did not happen. It was surprisingly easy to get used to the notation and, once you get the hang of it, you will find it simple to flit from column to column as you need various figures.
Let's try a simple example of how this would be used. Let's suppose you have properly entered a table that shows how much gold, silver, iron and zinc was produced in five successive years. The first column of the table lists the minerals while columns two through six list the amount produced in each of the years. Examining the first or the last year, it would probably be quickest just to keep using the space k space and looking ahead or back. If you wanted to look at the middle year, however, this is what you would do. You are starting from the first column, so your first task is to locate the middle column. Hit "word' space n space "advance" and you will be ready to read the correct value following the n. If you decided to look at the production of each of the commodities for that year, you could continue hitting word advance. If you couldn't remember which mineral you were currently looking at, just hit "word space k space "back" and, hey presto, you will be back to the first column for which you are reading the current figure.
The method works and it may have saved me my job. I have to keep a budget and need to be able to get figures out of it pretty quickly. I am also sometimes asked to produce tables with the figures arranged in a different order and, without this system, I would not only find it hard to do the chopping and changing that is needed, I would also never be quite certain that I had pulled together the right set of figures. The system really works!
Editor's note: you can use BRAILLE-EDIT to print up your VersaBraille table. The first step is to get the file transferred to the Apple. Next, use a global replace to take each of the ten or more "space letter space" markers and turn them into "space dollar sign dollar sign space". These are tab marks. Reverse translate the table. Then go into data entry to add the column positions of all the tabs. With any luck, you will get a nice printout of your table.
I have title to an original MIT braillemboss. It was very useful as a braille output device when I did not have access to any other embosser. I will sell it to anyone for $1. Transportation, repair and upkeep are the responsibility of the new owner. It is strongly recommended that the new owner be familiar with the repair of tricky eletromechanical devices.
Presently, Raised Dot Computing is arranging for the financing of a Thiel brailler. These embossers are made in Germany and can produce a braille page in under 8 seconds. That means that 10 copies of a 200 page braille manual could be produced in under 5 hours. The only drawback is the price, which is just over $15,000. The Thiel is available from Maryland Computer Services.
When I say that Raised Dot Computing is "arranging for the financing for a Thiel", I really mean that I am trying to sell a lot of copies of BRAILLE-EDIT to raise $15,000. When Raised Dot Computing gets a Thiel, it will be able to produce volumes of documentation and manuals in braille. It might be possible to produce this monthly newsletter in braille.
Raised Dot Computing will be in a position to produce a braille magazine for a group (such as Women's Braille Press) if it is sent a disk. Raised Dot Computing would only charge for the paper and some handling. No attempt will be made to recover the capital costs of the Thiel through a per page charge. All I ask is that readers of this newsletter increase their vigilance against improper copies of BRAILLE-EDIT in circulation. After I set a base per page rate, I will increase that rate a tenth of a cent per page for each "borrowed" copy of BRAILLE-EDIT that I discover. In that way I make explicit the relationship between the support services which I can provide and my interests. I think that is a fair bargain. You get low-cost braille output just as long as my copyright interests are being protected.