It disturbs me to constantly repeat myself, but I feel that I have no choice. One primary function of this newsletter is to answer questions so people will not be forced to call me at all hours of the day and night.
The new version of BRAILLE-EDIT consists of two disks. For $10 (or four blank high-quantity disks), a BRAILLE-EDIT purchaser can upgrade to the new version, and get a reference card which functions as a mini-manual. The reference card is available in print and in braille. There are several BRAILLE-EDIT chapters of documentation on the boot disk. These are LESSONS, DIF, and REF. LESSONS contains the text of the beginning lessons available from the Starting Menu. DIF contains a description of the differences between the old version and the new version. REF contains the text of the reference card. These three chapters are ordinary BRAILLE-EDIT chapters, accessible by the old or new programs. Just because they lie on the program disk does not change their status at all.
For an additional $30, you can get the new manuals in both print and in audio. The new manuals are finished and ready to go.
Believe it or not, we have received a number of purchase orders from non-BRAILLE-EDIT purchasers for the new version 2.45 for $10 or $25 or $40. Of course these are refused. The price for BRAILLE-EDIT is $300. Only legitimate past purchasers have the privilege of upgrading their systems in this manner. Any purchase order for under $300 from a new organization will be refused.
To my knowledge, we have shipped all pending orders and freebies. If you are expecting an update or a manual from Raised Dot Computing, and have not received anything, please contact us so we can set things straight.
On April 8th, yet another upgrade to version 2.45 was made. The back translator was improved thanks to a new translation table provided by Graham Stoodley. A clash between the Apple II plus keyboard handler and the data entry system over the handling of control/X was resolved. The "insert a control character into the text" command was changed to a control/C. The role of a control/C control/P remains the same (cut page). Single drive disk copying was fixed. The REF chapter was put on the boot disk. The From VersaBraille program now handles the "special character" dot 5 properly when you ask for control characters (on a model "C" a dot 4 dot 5 in computer braille should be interpreted as an "at sign"). Finally the translators were modified to correct a bug in the facility to "start" and "stop" the translation with the composition signs starting with a dot 4.
On April 18, two changes were made. The translators were modified to pass through the $l, $p, and $ f formatting commands. The "multiple print" option was modified to allow the user to restrict printing to a single Apple page. My elimination of the "print single page" from the old version proved to be very unpopular. I bow to the wishes of my consumers. Use the "M" option from the Main Menu. Select only one chapter and you will be asked if you want to print just a single page.
One thing that I left out of the DIF chapter: the write textfiles does not put in carriage returns except at paragraphs. If you want them back in, use the $ $l1 ("l" one) word processing command in the chapter. You can also use the "w" command to set the carriage width.
If anyone who has an early release of version 2.45 wants the current version, they are invited to do so. Just send me two blank disks and I will send the very latest release.
With great fanfare, Apple Computer has announced a new member of the Apple two family. It is the Apple 2C. The 2C is portable. It is small, light, and nifty.
I have already received many phone calls from blind persons asking if the 2C can be used as a kind of audio VersaBraille. The answer is yes and no. Yes in the sense that the 2C offers the potential of a portable writing machine for the blind with some pretty nice software. No in the sense that nothing but a VersaBraille is like a VersaBraille. The VersaBraille's functions are unique. Unfortunately, the VersaBraille is also quite expensive.
The Apple 2C is Apple's entry into the portable computer sweepstakes. The size is 11 by 11 by 2 1/2 inches. That is the size of a stack of braille paper. Functionally, it is like the Apple 2E except that is has no slots. It does have two built in serial ports and a built-in disk drive. You can attach one additional disk drive to a special 19 pin connector.
The serial ports are identical to Super Serial Cards. One is set for terminal, the other is set for modem. The connectors to the serial ports are 5-pin DIN connectors, NOT RS-232 jacks. Apparently Apple wants to make sure that nobody plugs the wrong things into the 2C.
Because there are no slots in the 2C, you cannot use an Echo II. You have to use an Echo GP to get an Echo voice. I will soon be selling the cable between the 2C and the 2C.
The Apple 2C costs about $1,295. The price does not include a TV monitor. All it includes is what you get in one package, a computer with keyboard, one disk drive, 128K, 80 column card, and two serial ports. There is also a game port and a volume knob for the speaker.
The 2C would make an appropriate note-taking and memo-generating tool with an Echo GP and a small, portable thermal printer. The potential is very high. There are a lot of details to be worked out. I hope to have a system up and running in time for the ACB convention this July.
Because of the large interest in this item, I must insist on some special telephone ground rules. If you are hungry for details about this new, portable computer, do not call me up. Please trust that I will print whatever information that I have in this newsletter. If you have information or offer, by all means give me a ring. I regard phone calls asking for updates on a subject I write in this newsletter as abusive. Thank you for your understanding.
This summer is going to be very difficult for Raised Dot Computing. Caryn and I will be moving to Madison Wisconsin in late July. Cindy Peltier, who works full time for Raised Dot Computing will be going on a long-deserved vacation between late May and early July. In mid or late May I will be taking a U-Haul of goods to Madison Wisconsin. At that time I will start the process of incorporating under Wisconsin law and of renting appropriate office or industrial space. The final move to Wisconsin will take place in late July. In between, Caryn and I will be attending the ACB convention in Philadelphia and will be doing a last round of family visits before disappearing into obscurity in the Midwest.
I hope I have been able to give the right flavor for the chaos that will overtake Raised Dot Computing this summer. Please do not expect much personal contact.
There are quite a few people that use me as their primary technical support. There is nothing wrong with that. I only take issue when I am regarded as the ONLY technical support. Those who have indicated their network affiliations have a long list of other persons to tap for assistance. I urge everyone to indicate their network affiliations now so they can get assistance when Caryn and I are on the road.
I will not have the time this summer to write the newsletter. Please keep this forum alive. Send me newsletter articles. Lets try to open up the format. Send me articles about other computer systems. Send me short works of fiction about sensory aids. Send cartoons. Write a review of DECtalk, Versatext, the IBM PC, and all those other systems. Write about how sensory aids equipment have changed your life. Write about how Raised Dot Computing messed up your last order. OK?
Raised Dot Computing is planning to make a number of program and computer manuals available in braille. These will start to be available in early June. We will start with the BRAILLE-EDIT manual and the interface manual. These will be available for $20 each. Also planned are the manuals for the Cranmer Brailler (the version supplied by Kentucky), the Echo II manual, and the Apple IIe owner's manual. The price for these manuals will depend on their length.
Raised Dot Computing is also planning a braille edition of this newsletter. This edition will be strictly limited to deaf-blind individuals. The price is $30/year. The braille edition will start with the September 1st issue.
For some time, I have been trying to convince experienced BRAILLE-EDIT users to sign up as consultants. I would like to encourage users to make contact with local and regional institutions that are in need of their expertise. To facilitate this process, I will list their names and addresses in this newsletter. The actual negotiations are strictly between the consultant and the institution. One way to get practice at being a consultant is to offer free training to a blind individual trying to get up to speed with sensory aids equipment.
Many sensory aids firms work with experienced users on a percentage basis. If you sell a VersaBraille or a Kurzweil Reading Machine then you get a certain amount. One of the problems with the BRAILLE-EDIT program is that it is priced so low, that even a good percentage is just some crumbs. If there is money to be made over BRAILLE-EDIT, either you work full-time for Raised Dot, or you offer your services to the institutions that have money but cannot read manuals. This brings us to the next problem. The fundamental rule for a consultant is that you can only serve one master. It is considered highly unethical for a consultant to be collecting money from two different sources on the same job. In other words, if you are simultaneously being paid by an institution to teach them BRAILLE-EDIT while I am paying you a percentage for a sale you make, you are seriously breaching the ethics of a consultant. I know this is a common practice in the sensory aids field, but that does not make it right.
If you are listed as a consultant, Raised Dot Computing will do the following:
1) List your name and address in the newsletter.
2) Refer inquiries for training to you.
3) Send technical manuals to you to facilitate a job.
4) Loan special cables or circuit cards when available to facilitate a job.
5) Reimburse you for some travel expenses or out of pocket expenses in special circumstances on a case by case basis. Raised Dot Computing will never reimburse anyone for any expenses without prior approval.
I strongly urge experienced BRAILLE-EDIT users to be listed as consultants. Right now, there are a number of persons who are acting as a consultant who have not written me. All I ask is that you send me a letter asking to join the list of consultants. Please do not call me, I insist on a letter. If I have doubts about your qualifications, I will call you and give you a pop quiz.
Being a consultant is a way to be exposed to a broad cross section of the sensory aids field. It is a way to be regarded as an expert in your own community. It is a way to help others. For some it can be a means to make in one day what was spent on BRAILLE-EDIT in the first place.
Please use discretion if you write or call any of these individuals. If you need someone to shoot the breeze with about computers, then use the network groups. If this listing is abused, it will be discontinued.
For some time, I have been asking BRAILLE-EDIT users to Xerox their printer manuals and other documentation and send them to me. That way I can instantly answer a question about your printer when it messes up or you need to know how to get out of hyper-inverse upside-down bold-face mode without affecting the other parameters (or whatever). Many of you have responded. Many have not. I will list the manuals that I currently have on file. If you do not recognize your printer, do yourself a favor and send me a Xerox copy.
Several readers have responded to my invitation to display their Apple systems at conferences. So far, the Rhode Island conference and the BVA conference have been claimed. No one has claimed the NFB conference. Surely one of you would be interested in taking your Apple to Phoenix Arizona this summer.
Those of us who use BRAILLE-EDIT are indeed fortunate. Have you ever really stopped to consider just how lucky we are?
We have an outstanding word processing program exclusively designed to meet our unique needs. We have accessible documentation at our finger tips. We can get output in three forms- voice, braille, or print. And perhaps most important of all, we have support that is second to none.
After all, how many users of Word Star, Apple Writer, or Bank Street Writer can pick up the phone and call the guy who wrote the program? And how many programmers are willing to provide copyable software just because it's more convenient for the user?
"Yes," you may be saying, "You don't have to tell me how great David is; I've already joined the David Holladay fan club. Why are you bringing all this up now?"
Good question; I'm glad you asked. My reason is simply this, I want to encourage all my fellow BRAILLE-EDIT users to insist on the best as you buy software. As you know, there are other programmers who seek to serve the blind Apple using community. I think that's great! We, the blind Apple users of America, still have lots of software needs. We still need all the help we can get! But let's remember that Raised Dot Computing has set the industry standard. As we cast our dollar votes for software let's be sure that we're endorsing professional high quality programs.
To be more specific, you have heard, no doubt, that there is a new Grade II translator on the market now. It's called Braille Out. It's produced by Computer Aids in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The program's authors claim that it's the best Grade two translator on the market. I don't intend to dispute that claim here though I must admit that I find it hard to believe. Rather I'd like to point out that Raised Dot Computing would never make such a claim. I think that we need to be particularly cautious when we buy sensory aids. On the other hand, I think that software writers and equipment manufacturers should be strongly encouraged to tell the truth about their products.
Actually I'm delighted that we have a competitive market for both software and hardware. As long as we, the consuming public, stay on top of developments we can really stand to benefit from this competition. We also have an obligation however to keep our vendors honest.
In the last few months I've had several discussions with members of the blind Apple using community. Never has the credibility of Raised Dot Computing been questioned. I eagerly look forward to a time when we can say the same for everyone in this industry. People know that they can rely on David's programs. That's why I say that Raised Dot Computing has set the standard in this industry.
My purpose in saying all this is simply to encourage you to check things out before you buy any program. If you're like me, you can't afford to buy two programs that do the same thing. You've got to buy the right program the first time. Programs cost lots of money so you want to be sure to buy the program that will best meet your needs.
Here's how I'd check out a program before buying it. Ask the sales person to give you the names of other users. Call them! Here are just a few of the questions you may want to ask:
Is the documentation accessible? Did you have difficulty understanding the documentation? Is there good user support? Are you able to get good clear answers to your questions? How do you use the program? Does it meet your needs? Are there any unusual bugs in the program that make it hard to work with? Do you know if anyone else will be coming out with a similar program soon? Is it worth waiting for?
These are just some of the questions that I would ask before buying any new piece of software.
I'm not writing this to be critical of any particular programmer; I just think that we have an obligation to ourselves, to our vendors, and to other members of the blind Apple using community. After all, we're investing a lot of time and money in our equipment. We deserve to have the best- so let's insist on it.
So far, I've had experience or heard reports from people who have used PRINT-IT with the Cranmer Brailler, the VersaBraille, and the Echo GP. In all cases the same wiring was needed as with the Super Serial Card (straight through on the Cranmer and the GP, the usual adapter for the VersaBraille). My most recent report came from Henry Brugsch. He reports that when you set the switches for "Okidata", that sets the card for 9600 baud. My most recent interface guide gives a setting for 1200 baud. Henry will be sending a more detailed report for next month's issue.
To use the PRINT-IT, connect it to your serial output device. Hit the button attached to the card to stop the program. hit the carriage return key to dump the screen to the device. Hit the space bar get the computer to resume.
Harvey Jossem has worked very hard to produce a number of manuals and materials on VersaBraille tapes. He has spent countless hours going over the material to make them more suitable for VersaBraille reading. The availability of his tapes was mentioned in a previous newsletter. So far, there have been few takers. Apparently, I did not indicate how nifty Mr. Jossem's tapes are. Find out for yourself what the real frontiers of electronic braille are.
Write or call Harvey today. His number is address is: Harvey Jossem, 1432 Sunny Avenue, Eureka, CA 95501, (707) 442-7247. Harvey prefers letters in braille.
New York State has prepared a lengthy report on the blind population in the state. They want to produce it in paper braille. One problem is that the report has extensive tables. It is about 150 ink pages with about 50 pages of tables. They are willing to pay several hundred dollars to anyone who will produce 2 paper braille copies.
They will provide the raw text on VersaBraille tape (in computer braille). Your job is to reformat it into Apple disks. I am willing to do the final run into paper braille for a small fee (there may have to be several trial runs). I am asking any blind individual with a VersaBraille and an Apple to make the arrangements. Any interested party should call Herb Alfasso, Director of Operations Analysis, NY State Department of Social Services, 1 Commerce Plaza 12th floor, Albany, NY, (518) 473-0514.
If you are interested, you call Herb, get his tape, make a disk formatted for paper braille, sent it to me, I send you the braille, we repeat until necessary, you send the braille to Herb and collect the fee, you pay me 5 cents per page of any braille produced. So simple.
Recently, Sid Wharton spent a day visiting Raised Dot Computing. He brought his video camera. He filmed me working with the Apple, BRAILLE-EDIT, the Cranmer Brailler and the VersaBraille. The result is a 2 hour VHS format video tape. This tape is available for $50. A half hour is devoted to a quick demonstration of the BRAILLE-EDIT program. The rest of the tape is instructional material designed to help someone at an institution or school get set up with these various pieces of equipment. It is our hope that this tape will save media resource persons, sensory aids specialists, and others most of the usual set up time. To get a copy of the tape, send a check or purchase order to: Wharton Productions 2774 Grovemore Lane Vienna, VA 22180.
CiderWare is pleased to announce LISTER and LISTER TALKER, file management programs, the latter supporting the Echo II speech card. Introductory prices are: LISTER $79 LISTER TALKER $99 a copy of LISTER is included with LISTER TALKER. LISTER is a file manager program. Its principal features are fast, key indexed, access that does not require unique keys and flexible print formatting.
LISTER is provided with a printed manual, tape tutorial, sample data files, LISTER FILE CONVERTER, and program reduction files on diskette. In addition, LISTER TALKER is provided with the instruction manual in Braille and in text files on the disk for conversion as the user desires. A small support program will speak these files from the disk.
LISTER TALKER requires an Apple IIe or an Apple II Plus with added memory card and the Echo II speech card. LISTER will run on a 48k Apple, but may have a larger index if the DOS is moved into a RAM card. Both run under DOS 3.3. LISTER programs are written in AppleSoft with machine code support. Both program and data disks are copyable (subject to copyright restrictions). Support is provided to registered owners by serial number and name.
LISTER is the latest version of a file maintenance program that has been used for general data base access and as the basis for custom software for several years. This program provides dual key indexed access, does not require unique keys and permits substantial control of report layout. Recovery time for a record is about 5 seconds. Records may be any length and have any number of fields, limited only by disk and memory capacity. Each field may be up to 245 characters. A typical mailing list permits about 400 entries per disk Printed output may be arranged in any manner on a form and a form may be any length. Print format files can be stored for reuse and one file can be set to load automatically at startup. Specific formatting commands are included. Print output may be sent to any slot, to screen (and talker) or to a disk file for further processing. The standard printer slot is 1.
LISTER TALKER uses the question mark as a help command to review the available commands and to reduce excess talking. Data is spoken for review with a period.
LISTER CONVERTER is provided to permit moving records between disks with selection of records by one or more fields. This permits division of files between two or more disks, combining of files, addition or removal of fields after data has been entered, clearing of fields or addition of fixed data. The program also permits conversion to LISTER form of repetitive sequential files (such as might be produced by printing from another data base to a modem); INFO Database files; and solid line columnar data sequential files such as from a word processor or spreadsheets like VisiCalc/MultiPlan.
Duxbury Systems has announced that they have a back translator. A back translator will take grade two braille and turn it into inkprint. The Duxbury translators run under CP/M on Z-80 processors. Both translators (forward and back) are packaged together. The cost of a microcomputer license depends on your status. For an individual, it is $475. For an organization that does not sell braille it is $995. For an organization selling braille, it is $2,995.
Note that since the fall of 1981, BRAILLE-EDIT has included both a forward and back translator. The cost of BRAILLE-EDIT is $300 (with a $25 rebate for payment with your order).
David certainly was the master of understatement when he referred to the lack of software available that can be used with braille or speech output devices. I have spent many hours in the past year trying various programs and I found that even if I could change the program to obtain speech output, there was usually some display procedure that made it difficult or impossible for a person without vision relying on a linear output. Recently I have obtained some public domain software, which can be often be adapted - it depends upon the program of course. These disks are not as sophisticated or fancy as most commercial programs, but we all know that sophisticated just means impossible for speech or braille output. As you can get into the programs and modify them to meet the needs of your output, you can also make changes and improvements in the programs and this is a good way to learn programming. The following are three sources I have discovered for software, available at a very low cost and you may copy these disks for educational purposes. (Micro-coop and Softswap also have programs for systems other than Apple).
Softswap, Micro Computer Center San Mateo County Office of Education 333 Main St. Redwood City, CA 94063 send $1.00 for a catalog
Micro-Coop 610 E. Brook Drive Arlington Heights, IL 60005 Big Red Apple Club 1301 N. 19th Norfolk, NE 68701 sample newsletter for $1.00
I have adapted some of the Softswap disks and would be happy to share information or programs with others if they write me: Lynne Albright, 111 Coburn Ave., Nashua, NH 03063 (CompuServe 72456,362).
By the way, Street Electronics just distributes a listing of companies using Echo synthesizers with heir programs - beware however - this may mean they use a synthesizer to read directions or some text, but use of the screen may still be essential to the program.
Much attention has focused on the new solenoids being used in the current model of the Cranmer Brailler sold by MCS and Raised Dot Computing. At the same time, the software has been significantly improved. Here are some of the new features: - The Cranmer will now do handshaking in both directions. Previously it would only do handshaking in one direction. - The Cranmer can now emboss in Edit-Input if you like. Previously, if you wanted to emboss as you typed you had to be in Remote mode or Local Mode. - You can now produce an automatic linefeed either when receiving or transmitting. Previously, auto linefeed only worked while receiving data. - You can now turn off the dumping of data down the serial port in the Edit Mode. - When the Cranmer reaches the end of the page, it will automatically release the page. - When the page is released you can now clear the buffer. - You can make the buffer scroll. This makes the Cranmer work more like a CRT computer terminal.
For the second year in a row, Teachers College of Columbia University is holding its summer institute "Technology in the Education and Rehabilitation of the Visually Impaired". The program is organized by Larry Gardner and Frank Irzyk. It is designed for university personnel, agency directors, and other random bureaucrats with no or little experience with sensory aids equipment. If this newsletter does not make any sense to you, you are a perfect candidate. The Institute will emphasize practical applications in the use of technological aids, software applications, and computer-assisted instruction. It will include hands-on experience with the following: Apollo Computer Terminal System, Viewscan Text System, BRAILLE-EDIT, Cranmer Modified Perkins Brailler, DECtalk, Echo II, Information Thru Speech, Kurzweil Reading Machine, VersaBraille, Microbrailler, and the Visualtek Large Print Computer. For details call or write Larry or Frank at Teachers College, Columbia University, Box 223, New York, NY 10027, (212) 678-3862.
Last year, Frank borrowed ten Apple computers and obtained permission to copy the BRAILLE-EDIT program for all of them. Just having so many workstations had a powerful impact on the institute participants. I hope that this year Larry and Frank can pull it off again.
I have recently received a letter from Ernest Bate of the Royal National College for the Blind in England. He informs me of a project to develop a new braille computer terminal. The Mountbatten Brailler is just in the planning stages. They have a long list of design criteria. I do not feel that it is appropriate to reprint their entire document, since it describes a device they hope to market in 1986. After all, anyone can publish a wish list for an electronic device, braille or not. If you are interested in the Mountbatten Brailler, write: Ernest Bate, Royal National College for the Blind, College Road, Hereford HR1 1EB, England.
I am writing in response to your questionnaire regarding using the Kurzweil Reading Machine as an optical scanner. I have used the KRM as an optical scanner with the VersaBraille.
I find this helpful in my work as a graduate student. I us the KRM and VersaBraille to generate braille copies of articles and handouts. I can then send them to BRAILLE-EDIT and get grade two.
My experience has been that the accuracy of the KRM's character recognition varies with the style, format, and the quality of the print that the machine is attempting to read. In some instances only slight editing is needed before translating the text into grade two. If the character recognition is not very good however, a great deal of editing is necessary. It is worth while to give the KRM a try because I have generated a lot of braille fairly quickly.
With no overlay loaded in the model C VersaBraille you can use chord/R T to automatically get the information from the KRM into the VersaBraille. The VersaBraille does not get behind during page changes because without an overlay taking up buffer space the text can be held during page changes. I have experienced no loss of material using this method.
I have devised a method for getting some formatting information from text read from the Kurzweil. I use a transformation chapter that strips off any line feeds first. Then it looks for a period carriage return and replaces them with a period followed by a paragraph symbol. Any remaining carriage returns are eliminated. This tends to put in a few extra paragraph symbols were they are not needed. But it puts a paragraph in virtually every spot where they belong. Note that this method only works on straight text.
I suspect that the new portable Apple will be a boon to those who want to work with the KRM. It means that you can hold in a briefcase the system you want to use to get your text from the KRM into Apple disks. No more dragging a big case into the research library resource room.
The subject of recreational computing has been nestled by most publications that relate to computers and the blind somewhere between afterthought and not at all. I cannot speak for all of you out there but I felt this absence deeply. I have been an avid game player since I discovered that you could draw neat shapes on the wall with plasticene and other stuff. I have been equally disappointed that games for the blind have been few and far between and, more significantly, they were very expensive. This and other articles that will follow will try to communicate my liberation since the acquisition of an Apple computer and an Echo II and a Versabraille. I should tell you that I am no programmer and there have, therefore been many disappointments to contend with along with the successes. It is sad that many of these disappointments could have been rendered successful with a little help from some competent programmers. This first column will focus on problems. The second will get down to more specifics.
It has probably not escaped anyone's notice that there are a host of games out there. Anyone who has begun to try to access a few of them has also discovered that many of them cannot be made to run with speech or with the Versabraille. Let us distinguish two reasons why games do not work. Sometimes they do not work because the disks on which they are stored need to be booted to run. The boot process removes the Echo program from memory as well as cancelling the IN#2 and PR#2 instructions that would allow input and output to a Versabraille in slot two. Usually the manufacturers of such games have changed the disk operating system rules in order to make it more difficult for their program to be copied and to make it impossible for unauthorized people to get in and list their programs. This has the effect of making it difficult, if not impossible, for such programs to be made accessible to either spoken or braille output. If you have an outboard speech synthesizer and a zero card, you may be able to use some of these. Others such as the family of games made by Infocom allow output of text to a printer in slot one. This means that connecting a synthesizer or Versabraille to this slot can sometimes work well. I would like to thank Nick Dotson for this last bit of information.
There is another way of accessing programs but it is beyond the means and abilities of most of us and is illegal, anyway. There are a number of cards on the market that allow the storage of the image of the boot system or anything else for that matter in a memory built into the cards. If you are a skilled programmer, you can untangle the boot system and make the program open to listing, copyable and accessible to speech or Versabraille. These cards and the generation of pirating programs that preceded them are part of the reason why manufacturers of programs have gone to complex boot systems. Clearly it is wrong to steal copies of programs that individuals or companies have created. Equally clearly, even with such products, your chances of success are slim unless you are an excellent programmer. Manufacturers have built elements into their programs that will cause the disk to destroy itself if you attempt to tamper with the disk system. Thus, you may very well end up destroying an expensive game while trying to make it work.
Many blind persons have tried contacting manufacturers of games that are potentially playable by the blind to see if they would be prepared to modify their disks so that they can work for us. Success has been extremely limited. Manufacturers have taken the stance that the market is too small, their overheads are too high and piracy would be rendered too easy if they changed the systems they are currently using. These arguments are difficult to refute, especially if you are one individual in search of fun. I feel certain, however, that if a large consumer organization were to request a license from a manufacturer to make their program talk, it would be granted. This would be particularly likely if that group were clearly non-profit and had a good record of services to the blind of this country. Another approach that might be taken would involve encouraging Street Electronics to become more involved in persuading manufacturers to include textalker on their disks. I do not know enough about the system to have a clear notion of how much potential this suggestion has. It is, however, another approach to the problem.
A third option involves attempting for the Apple what the National Federation of the Blind is attempting for the IBM PC. I have even less ability to prognosticate on the possible success of this approach.
Aside from the large number of proprietary games that are inaccessible, there is a large body of public domain software that cannot be used. This is a crime that some enterprising blind programmers should solve. I am not here referring to the various arcade games which rely primarily on hand-eye coordination for play. I am referring to such games as Yahtzee which could be made playable with speech or Versabraille. It cannot now be played because hi-res letters and numbers have been used instead of ordinary ones. Such symbols are ignored by the Versabraille and the Echo. It would not take much alteration of such programs, though, to make them talk and it is a shame that more has not been done about this.
This article has focused, so far, on what is not possible. I should hasten to point out that there is much that is. My next column will review some specific games and will discuss the methods that must be used to make them accessible to speech or Versabraille. Let me end this column with a suggestion. There are many dealers who have libraries of public domain software available. Most will make such disks available for the price of a disk, especially if you purchased your system from them. Check with them and get copies of the various games disks they have to offer. Your investment is small and the prospect that you will succeed in making several work is great. If this does not succeed, there is a source for a large number of public domain programs that needs to be mentioned. The Apple Avocational Alliance is located in Cheyenne Wyoming and offers around one hundred and fifty public domain disks of programs. These are sold by them for around three dollars each. Many of the disks that are being offered by BAUD's library are direct copies of AAA disks. Incidentally, AAA sells a catalog in print for two dollars so you may want to send money direct to them and look at what they have to offer. Their address is 721 Pike street, Cheyenne, Wyoming. The zip is 82009.