The audio edition of this newsletter is being read by DECtalk, the new high performance voice synthesizer from Digital Equipment Corporation. This device has seven built-in voices which will be demonstrated at the end of this tape. If we continue to use the voice synthesizer as a reader, we will give article authors a choice as to which voice they would want for their articles. The choices are: Perfect Paul (normal male voice), Beautiful Betty (normal female voice), Huge Harry (deep male voice), Rough Rita (deep female voice), Frail Frank (older male voice), Uppity Ursula (alternative female voice), and Kit the kid (child's voice). If you want to learn more about DECtalk, contact Raised Dot Computing. Or call Joan Forman, the product manager at Digital in charge of applications of DECtalk for the handicapped, at (617) 493-6178.
We will be moving into the Steelworker's Hall in Madison Wisconsin in a few weeks. Our offer on the building was accepted, and a bank will be giving us a mortgage on it. The address of the new building is 408 S. Baldwin Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53703. By publishing this address, I am assuming that all readers have enough sense not to mail anything to the new address until August 1st. Until we have possession of the building, any mail addressed to it might be returned "addressee unknown". When in doubt, mail everything to the old address. There may be a delay because of forwarding, but at least it will get to us. If you want to know how to fill out a purchase order, give the old address, but inform your business office that the bill will probably come from Wisconsin.
We do not have a phone number in Madison yet. We can only get a number once we own the building. If you want to call us at the new location, use directory assistance after July 24th. The area code for Madison is 608.
Thank you all for your concern and hopes. All of us are confident that we will be able to serve you better once we get settled into our new building.
Raised Dot Computing brought a lot of equipment to the ACB convention in Philadelphia recently. We brought the high performance Thiel brailler and 10,000 sheets of blank paper. For three days we ran off a free braille daily newspaper (called "The Daily Echo"). We did this in our spare time in addition to our exhibiting schedule, which varied from 8 to 11 hours a day. People were amazed that they could call us at 10 p.m. with an announcement and find it in the morning paper at 7 a.m. It took us about 2 hours to write, edit, and proofread each edition. It took just under a minute to run off each copy. The trick was to run the brailler while distribution started, since the full press run of 300 copies took 5 hours.
To our knowledge, this was the first braille daily newspaper produced at a convention or conference. It was a lot of fun since we combined offbeat humor with needed announcements. We had a Dear Ann Slander's column, the adventures of the intrepid reporter in exploring the bowels of the hotel, and the many products of Sensory Overload, Inc. A complete set of issues in print or braille can be obtained from Raised Dot Computing for $2.
News Flash from the convention: Paul Edwards won the MCS drawing for a Cranmer Brailler. It couldn't have happened to a nicer BRAILLE-EDIT customer.
The opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, based on observations which I made while assisting Chris Gray in demonstrating VersaText to several groups here in Washington, DC, June 7-9.
VersaText is a software package developed by Gerald Neufeld and marketed by TSI. It runs on CP/M 2.2 or 3.0. TSI will sell the software alone in a version for any CP/M system, or with a small Ampro computer without screen or keyboard. The system contains a full word processor and a "back from grade 2" translator. There is an optional spell checker, and soon the Duxbury "to grade 2" translator will be available as an option.
Clearly, VersaText and BRAILLE-EDIT do many of the same things. In fact, most text processing functions can be done with either system. The main difference between the two systems is the underlying philosophies which motivated their creators, and thus, which things are easier and more difficult under each system. It's a little like whether you prefer to program in BASIC or Pascal. It depends on what you want to do most and upon your cognitive style.
While BRAILLE-EDIT is operated primarily by transferring files between the VersaBraille and the Apple, and is more difficult to use with the VersaBraille as the sole input/output device, VersaText functions virtually exclusively in a very closely interactive mode between the VersaBraille and the computer. The up-to-20,000-or-so-byte edit buffer in the computer is scrolled through the VersaBraille's page buffer in a way not unlike that in which the page buffer in BRAILLE-EDIT scrolls through the Apple screen. The computer actually keeps track of the VB cursor and allows you to do cursor-oriented block moves etc. (Incidentally, the system gets confused if you use any VB commands which do not go out over the I/O, such as the advance bar.) The cursor movement commands are different from the ones we are used to, but they are quite mnemonic. For example, a "p" moves you forward a paragraph, while its mirror image, a "th" moves you back a paragraph.
It seems to me that the advantages of VersaText over BRAILLE-EDIT would include use of the VersaBraille as the input/output medium with full-screen type editing, the spell checker and a formatter that does some things automatically which one must do by hand with BRAILLE-EDIT. For example, it numbers listed items automatically.
Among the disadvantages of VersaText as compared to BRAILLE-EDIT, I think are VersaText's apparent inability to show the blind operator the translated file on the VersaBraille, thus making the spell checker the only way a blind person can check for translation errors. (This might be a bug which will be corrected.) But the primary disadvantage of VersaText as I see it, is its exclusive dependence on the VersaBraille for operation. In order to have a system as versatile and immune to breakdown as is the VersaBraille-BRAILLE-EDIT system, one would have to realize the VersaText system on an Apple, ITS or an AVOS so that there would be an alternative mode of operation when the VB is down or elsewhere.
I must say that I have been taken aback by the way that TSI has been marketing VersaText. Their literature clearly states that VersaText is "the best word processor for the blind". My politest reply is "Who Sez?". When TSI lists the features of VersaText, they only list features where BRAILLE-EDIT is weak (without ever mentioning BRAILLER-EDIT, heaven forbid). I feel that I should have the right to make my own list of features of BRAILLE-EDIT that are not (to my knowledge) covered by VersaText. BRAILLE-EDIT features:
Today I received my first phone call from a disappointed VersaText purchaser. He thought that VersaText would be suitable for a particular application (allowing a blind receptionist to quickly generate phone messages from grade two braille on the VersaBraille). VersaText was found to be too slow between messages. Caryn and I did a quick test and found out that BRAILLE-EDIT ties up the VersaBraille for less than 30 seconds during an automatic transfer. In other words, within 30 seconds of finishing one message, the VersaBraille can be used to take a second message. The second message can be taken while the Apple is still doing the translation and printing of the first message automatically.
Now that I am in direct competition with another system, I have two choices. I could implement better print format features into BRAILLE-EDIT (one of the areas where VersaText is stronger). Or I could work on those areas in which VersaText is weak. For example, it is difficult to use VersaText when your VersaBraille needs repair. One approach I will probably take will be to write a program to allow the Apple (using an APH tape recorder) to directly read a VersaBraille tape in the event of a VersaBraille failure. This would give a BRAILLE-EDIT user even more security and backup than there is presently.
I am not saying that BRAILLE-EDIT is always better than VersaText. Gerald Neufeld has done a terrific job and has produced a wonderful program. I am simply saying that both systems have their advantages. Any potential purchaser should direct some tough questions to both RDC and TSI. If you accept a glossy brochure from only one of these companies, you might end up disappointed.
It is not my intention to start yet another cold war in the sensory aids field. I simply think that each vendor should tell the truth about the advantages and disadvantages of their products. In an effort to assist this effort, Gerald Neufeld and I will be writing a list of criteria to help potential purchasers decide which system would be appropriate for their needs. When this joint statement is written, I would hope that all affected vendors would distribute it.
I did an update to BRAILLE-EDIT on May 10th which has proven to be quite good. In order to get BRAILLE-EDIT to work on the 2C (the portable Apple), I had to go in and make a number of changes. While I was at it, I fixed up a number of bugs.
First and foremost, Data Entry now works with an Echo GP or similar text to speech device that works through a slot. I was able to demonstrate the portable 2C working with the tiny Echo GP voice unit at the ACB convention.
The lessons now work with the GP or the VersaBraille. The control/G, control/R, and delete word commands now accept carriage return as well as space as word delimiters.
Form feeds are omitted when making multiple copies of a document when a form length of zero is specified (this bug was located by Erodio Diaz). The "old LED-120" driver was fixed. The problem on the top of pages for the TP-1 Has been fixed. The specifying of the Dipner Dot Method has been cleaned up.
I would recommend this update to anyone with a TP-1 or similar printer that requires a form feed carriage return combination to advance to the next page. I would also recommend this update to anyone working with an Apple 2C or an Echo GP. If you already have version 2.45, just send 2 blank disks for the update. If you do not have version 2.45, send $25 for one set of manuals or $40 for two sets of manuals (audio and print). It is not recommended that you upgrade to version 2.45 without getting a copy of the manual.
It has been pointed out that I neglected to print the address for CiderWare in the last article published about them. CiderWare is located at 104 N. Saint Mary, Dallas, TX 75214, (714) 827-7734. CiderWare distributes the LISTER TALKER program, a talking database program that works with the Echo II. LISTER TALKER is currently available for $99. That price includes a disk, an audio tutorial, a print manual, and a braille manual.
John Messerly has sold the rights to the Aardvark brailler to a sensory aids firm. Mr. Messerly is no longer making units for customers.
The TI59 programmable calculator can be made to talk with a speech board put out by Sensory Interface Equipment, Inc. Their address is 442 Kasson Rd. Syracuse, NY 13215 and their phone number is (315) 469-7182. This extremely portable machine is a powerhouse for quick calculations. It has a built-in chip with 25 programs already encoded ranging from conversion from metric to English measurements to interest earnings. In addition, you can write programs of your own (up 480 steps with 10 memory registers); or you can increase the number of steps available for storage of information. You can acquire additional chips with complicated programs written on them and instructions on how to run them. The print statements you write into your program will be voiced. You can even put a pause in between print statements. Your personal programs can be written on magnetic cards that you can carry in a pocket-sized booklet so you need not write in your program every time you want to use it.
Features include iteration of subroutines as many times as specified by individual, scientific and engineering notation, trigonometric functions, any roots and powers, movable decimal point (up to 9 places), logarithms (natural or bases other than E), etc. The possibilities are endless. The whole thing packs up nicely into the case which is smaller than the average cassette player.
Anyone with questions may contact me at Worcester County Institute for Savings, 365 Main St. Worcester, MA 01608 phone (617) 791-2272 ext. 402 or at the address on previous newsletter (my home). Please write in braille or cassette whenever possible.
Note: There have been some delays in completing the manuals for THE SOURCE and CompuServe. The KRM broke down. The project should be completed soon and anyone wishing details should write or call for more information. People can sent blank VersaBraille cassettes or disks. If disks, you will need to call me to find out how many you need to send. Some manuals are very long. The Lotus and Source Manuals will take 2 cassettes each.
As an owner of an Apple II plus equipped with an Echo II speech synthesizer and an IBM PC equipped with an Echo PC speech synthesizer, I have had an opportunity to compare the relative advantages and disadvantages of both systems. I am not a professional programmer, but I must confess possession of some hacker inclinations. As a final disclaimer, you should know that I had my Apple system first, so I probably approached the IBM with some prejudices in favor of the Apple.
To my knowledge, no synthesizer is like the Echo II, not even the Echo PC. Other synthesizers, including the Echo PC, are external, i.e., they are plugged into a serial or a parallel port coming out of the back of the computer. Because they are external, it is probably best to think of them as audio printers while the Echo II may be thought as an audio monitor.
To make the Echo PC (and other synthesizers) function more like the Echo II, Solutions By Example, a Boston, Massachusetts software firm (SBX), has written a program called PC Speak. The most outstanding feature of PC Speak is that it provides the same kind of screen review capability available in the screen review" mode of TEXTALKER.BLIND or TEXTALKER.RAM. $P The audio cursor movement keys are logically splayed on the numeric keypad to the right of the ordinary alpha-numeric keys. The "7" key, for example, places the audio cursor at the upper left-hand corner of the monitor widow and announces "Top." The "1" key places the cursor in the bottom left and announces "Bottom." The "8" key moves the cursor up and the "2" key moves the cursor down one row at a time. As the cursor moves up or down, a small beep tone is audible. The "4" key moves the cursor left and the "6" key moves the cursor right one column at a time. The "9" key announces the entire line, and the "3" key announces the current word on the current line.
In addition to the foregoing, it is possible to toggle back and forth between spell mode and word mode and , in spell mode, to have the synthesizer identify capital letters. A handy feature is the "count duplicate character" function. Rather than pronounce "equal sign" or "ampersand" a thousand times, as is the case with the Echo II, the PC Speak program will announce three (or more if you desire) and then state "counting." It is also possible to add character pronunciation tables which allow you to define what will be spoken when specific keys on the keyboard are depressed.
In the current version of PC Speak, letters or characters are not announced as each key is depressed. The Echo PC, however, allows the user to enter a buffered delay in increments of .2 seconds. Thus, by entering the command CHR$(5);"2d", the Echo will speak each character almost as it is depressed; however, if you type very fast the Echo will not announce its buffer until the whole word is entered (provided it takes less than .4 of a second). Also, the Echo PC has the capability of identifying word strings in all caps such as IBM and will say each individual letter instead of something that sounds like Ibbem.
Perhaps the most significant feature of the IBM PC and using the PC Speak is the systems ability to use commercially available software. Software which will not run on this system is the exception, not the rule. This allows true interaction with sighted co-workers. In addition, for most lawyers, it allows access to the Lexis Law Data Base, the most popular and powerful law data base in the world. At present, there is no way to access this data base with an Apple.
With the quasi 16 bit processor (as opposed to the Apple's 8 bit processor), the IBM PC is not yet technologically obsolete. Moreover, the very powerful P basic and the contemplated "true basic" programming languages are reported to require 16 bit processors. Also, with IBM taking a dominant role in the personal computer market, software houses are climbing all over each other to write programs for the IBM PC and its clones.
The IBM PC and PC Speak, however, are not a panacea. First, the PC's disc operating system, though offering some very handy features not available with DOS 3.30, is very complicated and hard to understand. The documentation is abominable. Second, the IBM PC is quite expensive. I just received a quotation for $2,890.00 on a 256-K dual drive system, an RS 232 port, a cheap monitor, and a 1200 BAUD modem. The PC Speak program is another $395.00, and the Echo PC is another $185.00. Of course, if I were to configure the PC the same way as my Apple at home (by stripping off the 1200 BAUD modem, 192K of memory and one drive) the price would be about the same as the amount I paid for my Apple 2+ in December of 1982.
The disadvantages of the PC Speak program are as follows:
(1) As presently configured, there is no momentary silence such as the control "X" on the Echo II; however, though not in the documentation, I am told by Street Electronics that the control "X" momentary silence function will work with the Echo PC except that the PC Speak program does not let the control get through to the synthesizer.
(2) Because the control characters such as "Control EC" and "Control EM" cannot, at present, get through PC Speak, one cannot dynamically change the voice's speed and punctuation, though this may be changed in the next version of PC Speak.
(3) PC Speak, as noted above, does not pronounce each character as the key is depressed, and, therefore, does not pronounce the character when the backspace key is used. Although one can identify the previous letter by going into review mode, this is a little awkward. Again, there is reason to believe that this will be improved in the next version of PC Speak.
All things considered, I am quite happy with the IBM PC/PC Speak system. Anyone who wants to move into the next generation of personal computers (using 16 bit micro-processors) or who is confronted with colleagues or employers for whom nothing but an IBM will do, now have a viable speech synthesis option with the PC program.
As most of you have probably heard by now, Apple Computers has just introduced their new compact Apple, the Apple 2c, with a base system price tag of $1300. Does this exciting new product represent good or bad news for you? Should you rush out and buy one? The answers to these questions depend on what you need to accomplish with such a system, as well as what kind of equipment you already have. Needless to say, you shouldn't count on getting good answers from your local computer store sales person or anyone else who might be trying to sell you either an Apple 2c or some other system.
Basically, it is an Apple 2e with a built-in disk drive all in a nice compact package. It's only about 11 by 11.5 inches square and 2.5 inches high. Note: although it's a compact unit, it is not a battery powered portable. There is a large a.c. adapter, about the same size as the VersaBraille charger. The adapter measures about 3 by 5 by 2.5 inches.
In addition to the 5 inch floppy disk drive, the built-in features include 128 kilo bytes of read/write memory, a speaker with volume control knob and earphone jack, 2 serial interface plugs, a game control plug, a plug for adding an external disk drive, a phono plug for an external video monitor, and a connecter for an external color monitor. Built-in hardware for 80 character lines makes it possible to switch between 40 and 80 column display modes with a built-in selector switch.
The keyboard has the same layout as the Apple 2e. Although it is a flat keyboard, it has click-action keys and has a reasonably good typing feel. If you want to get really confused, there is also a selector switch to change between the normal typing keyboard layout and the Dvorak keyboard layout. Dvorak keyboards are supposed to make it possible to type faster, by minimizing finger motion.
Apple also announced that they will soon have a tilt-up, flat screen video display for the Apple 2c. This display will snap onto the top of the Apple and will fold down flat for carrying. Estimates for the price of the display range from $500 to $800.
There are a couple of features missing. The lack of tape recorder input and output jacks is minor and shouldn't bother many users much. Similarly, the lack of a parallel interface for printer attachment should not present great problems to most users. Most printers are now available with serial interfaces or options for serial interfaces.
However, the lack of card slots is a major problem. There is no way to plug in cards such as the Echo-II, the Print-it card, or a clock-calendar card. Users who want voice output on their Apple compact will have to settle for plugging in an external speech box on one of the serial interfaces. Thanks to the flexibility of BRAILLE-EDIT, it will work fairly well with an external speech box. Unfortunately, this means that the compact can't be used to run many of the programs we have been able to use with the Echo-II on older versions of the Apple.
What about program compatibility? Most programs (including BRAILLE-EDIT) that ran on a;Apple 2, Apple 2 plus, or Apple 2e will run on the Apple compact. Programs that use a ProFile or other hard disk would not work on the compact. On the other hand, programs that are written to run on the compact may or may not run on the other Apple models.
Which Apple should you get? There are several things to consider if you are trying to choose between the Apple compact and the Apple 2e. The compact is not necessarily the best just because it's the newest. Apple plans to continue manufacturing the Apple 2e.
For a minimum system, the Apple compact is somewhat more expensive than the Apple 2e or look-alikes such as the Franklin. When you add up the cost of the extra memory and serial interface cards you may want for an Apple 2e system, the compact may come out cheaper.
The basic simplicity of the compact system is very attractive. Putting together an Apple 2e system involves locating and purchasing the correct memory and interface cards. Not to mention properly setting all the little configuration switches and getting the cards all properly plugged into the right slots inside the Apple 2e. Setting up a new Apple 2e system has proven to be a frustrating nightmare for quite a few users. The compact gives you simplicity with some decrease in flexibility. The loss in flexibility may not mean much to you if you are not going to try to expand your Apple to do other things such as running burglar alarms, music synthesizer, etc.
Could your needs for expand to the point where you might need a 10 or 20 mega byte hard disk. The Apple compact does not have a hard disk capability. The Apple 2e does.
Although clever people may come up with some tricks and modifications to expand the capabilities of the compact, it is wisest to base your choice of Apples on the current features and limitations.
Using BRAILLE-EDIT on the compact. I've only had a few hours of testing on the Apple compact with BRAILLE-EDIT version 2.45. Obviously, such a powerful program can't be thoroughly tested in such a short time. However, BRAILLE-EDIT worked well on almost everything I was able to test. Since I don't have a VersaBraille unit, I used an Echo-GP speech box, plugged into the serial interface for printers. Connecting the Echo-GP only required a female-female sex adapter cable, setting the baud rate switches of the Echo box to 9600 baud, and configuring BRAILLE-EDIT for speech output on slot #1 (which corresponds to the compact's serial printer port).
The only real problem I had was when using the program in the braille keyboard mode. Some of the first Apple compacts have had some keyboard problems. The one I was using tended to get occasional unwanted characters, especially in braille keyboard.
In summary, it's clear that BRAILLE-EDIT will also be a big success with the Apple compact.
In the early days of the first versions of BRAILLE-EDIT, I gave VersaBraille users caution-filled recommendations for David's program. As the applications engineer at TSI, I had to help bail out too many frustrated users who had gotten in way over their heads with BRAILLE-EDIT and an Apple computer. I felt that the system was powerful but was too unfriendly and had too many rough edges. Besides problems with the program, users had to cope with putting together an Apple system with the proper interface cards, switch settings, and interface cables. At that time, the system seemed to be too complicated for anybody who was not a tech head or some other sort of meticulous and patient masochist.
However, things have changed dramatically since then. Now David supplies all the necessary Apple interface cards, cable adapters, good interfacing documentation, and a lot of knowledgeable applications support. Over the last two years their have been substantial improvements in the program, itself. David has smoothed of many of the rough edges and made it a much friendlier program. No longer does the program blow its mind and give me a SYNTAX ERROR message whenever I enter something the program wasn't expecting. Some of the improved friendliness is due to the fact that David has done a very good job of accepting and incorporating changes suggested by users.
The most pronounced improvement in the program came in April, when David introduced version 2.45 of BRAILLE-EDIT. The new program really deserves to be called version 3.0. It has been substantially rewritten to correct old problems, add new functions, and permit even more improvements in the future. It now really deserves to be called a mature program, even though it is obvious that BRAILLE-EDIT will continue to grow and improve for a long time to come.
The BRAILLE-EDIT program, coupled with David's notoriously good user support, now represents a very powerful and usable system. Obviously, it can now be recommended even for those who are not tech heads.
David has told you before about the Dest print reader or optical character reader. It is a $7,000 OCR box that can read a limited set of fonts or type styles. It cannot handle type set materials. However, for some reading applications it can be a much better buy than the extremely expensive KRM-3 reading machines.
Several companies are trying to develop print readers for use in the electronic office of the future. Now Oberon International (based in England) has also announced an OCR product. Their hand-scan OCR reading unit has a low price of about $500, and it is supposed to be available in the U.S. by September of this year.
The Oberon unit is a small unit with an RS-232 serial interface and 110 volt a.c. power supply. As you might expect for that price, it does not have speech output and automatic scanning of whole pages. Instead, its camera must be guided along a line of print by hand. There is a special ruler guide that aids in proper tracking and alignment. Unfortunetly, the Oberon unit was designed only for use by a sighted operator. The visual tracking requirements severely limits its usefulness for blind users. We might be able to develop a few tricks for using it without visual tracking in a few limited applications. It will probably be most useful in situations where you can have a sighted person do the tracking for you. For example, a secretary might use it to scan a letter or memo into your apple for you, or a transcribers group might be able to use it to scan in a manual.
The Oberon can only recognize 4 popular type fonts plus one font that you can teach it yourself. It should be obvious that this device will not be able to read a large fraction of the print materials the average user might want read.
There are some important questions regarding this or any other print reader. What kind of materials can it read and what can't it read? Can it handle type set or proportionally spaced text? How well does it do with poor quality print copies? How fast can you scan text in with it?
It is too easy to fake up a demonstration of a print reading device so it seems very impressive to a naive audience. Past experience might suggest that it is safest to be fairly cynical about great claims for any print reader or OCR device. According to various reports, the sophisticated and expensive KRM-3 system can only read about 20 to 30 percent of the print materials the average visually impaired person wants read. Is a device such as the Oberon OCR unit a bargain because it's about 50 times cheaper than the KRM-3, or is it just 50 times less useful?
The family of Brother Printers are easy for blind people to use, once you have labeled the touch switches. There are four different printers that function in the same way. They are: The Brother HR/15, HR/25, Dynex /15, and Dynex /25, The only difference is their speed and the location of some switches.
I have been able to produce good quality braille on my HR/15, by making the following changes; FIRST: Cut a piece 5 by 10 inches from a rubber sheet such as those used on a baby's crib. Then insert it in the printer as though you were putting in some paper. (I suggest that you leave a little space between the left edge of the rubber sheet and the left edge of the roller). This will prevent any possible interference of the rubber sheeting with the mechanism that advances your roller. Note: put the rubber backing of the rubber sheet to the roller so it does not shift. This also gives a better braille. As soon as the rubber appears at the paper bail stop turning. Now lift the paper scale (this is the metal bar that rides on top of the roller) and pull the rest of the rubber sheet under the paper scale toward you. Slowly continue turning the roller so that the portion of the rubber sheet that you just pulled under the paper scale laps over the end that was by the paper bail. The rubber sheet should be in place now. Turn the roller in its normal working direction several times to make sure that the rubber sheet is going to stay in place. (If you want a double thickness for better braille cut a 10 by 10 inch piece and follow the same direction). Notice that you do not have to tape the rubber sheet in place this way.
Second: Make sure that all auto line feed switches are turned off (both on the printer and your interface card). The auto line feed switch on the Brother is off when it is down. It is the first switch located on the second bank of dip switches. To change the parameters of your printer it is important to follow these steps exactly. (A) With the printer on move the auto line feed switch down. (B) then turn the printer off for a few seconds. (C) Turn the printer back on, and the new parameters will be set. When you are finished producing braille don't forget to turn the auto line feed switch back on by the same method. If your dip switch is already down, then check with your dealer to find out how he set the interface card to give the auto line feed.
Third; Take the ribbon cartridge out of the carrier, there is no reason to use your ribbon. Then locate the hammer strike switch, and move it to a hard hitting position. This switch is in different places on the various printers.
You are now ready to produce Dipner Dots on your ink printer. A few suggestions if I may: I have found that 24 characters to the line and 26 lines to the page, are a good braille page. This can be set when your configurations are designed. I prefer to use a fairly heavy bond paper rather than the fan fold papers, because the braille has better holding ability. Hint: If you check with the printers in your neighborhood you may be able to find reams of discontinued stock at a reasonable price.
Dipner Dots is an inexpensive way of producing hard copy braille, and it works, so give it a try. If you have any questions contact me at; Marcon Consulting 208 S Linden, Westmont IL 60559 or call (312) 968-7488.
The fact that I am a full-time graduate student means that my Apple spends most of its time running around with BRAILLE-EDIT, editing term papers and preparing exams. There is no question but that with BRAILLE-EDIT in the driver's seat the Apple is an excellent word processor. I must confess, however, that for some time now, I have wanted to learn to get more out of my Apple than word processing alone. As a result of not being in school this summer, I have had the time to concentrate on learning BASIC programming. I am going to share some of my learning experience with the hope that other Apple users will be encouraged to try their hand at programming.
Like learning to use the VersaBraille, the Apple, or BRAILLE-EDIT, the key to learning computer programming is the availability of accessible, high-quality training manuals. I would like to thank David Holladay for making the Apple manuals available on VersaBraille tape. I would like to thank Nick Dotson for turning me on to a BASIC training course called "Step By Step", which is on diskette with a work book on cassette tape. Lastly, I discovered that Recordings For the Blind has a book called "The Apple II Users Guide" by Lon Poole. I would recommend beginning with the Step By Step course, moving to the Apple Soft Tutorial, and then on to the Apple II User's Guide. When I had difficulty understanding a particular concept I found it helpful to refer back to all of these sources for clarification. Since many of the same concepts are covered in all three sources, by examining them simultaneously you can pick the examples that are the easiest to understand.
Although I had been introduced to BASIC prior to this summer, I am, thanks to all of these resources and many hours of practice, really becoming able to use the skills that I am acquiring. In fact, my first "useful" program has turned out to be a success. I wrote a program that automatically computes a compatibility index score for a vocational and personality inventory called the Self Directed Search. Since I plan to make extensive use of this instrument in my Ph.D. dissertation, this computer program will be extremely helpful.
In conclusion, writing your own programs is just another exciting dimension of using your Apple! If you have patience and are willing to learn a new language, I would recommend computer programming highly.
It all started last evening when I sat down at my Apple computer to work on my current book. Confidently I inserted the proper BRAILLE-EDIT disc into drive 1 and waited for the whir to stop. Then I pressed my usual configuration symbol and waited again. Turning the disc over at the proper time, I eased into the main menu.
During the next half hour I wrote several paragraphs. I was feeling quite smug about my subject matter and about BRAILLE-EDIT.
Perhaps the trouble started when my black cat ran across the keyboard. Or, maybe, it was when I used the new Control D 13 Control W command to wipe out 13 words. I'm not superstitious, but I wish I had tried to eliminate 12 or 14 words. Well, at that point 246 Control x's were inserted into the text, and I couldn't get rid of them. When I pushed Control D 246, the Echo II voiced, "I refuse". Now I knew I hadn't written "I refuse" into the text, but I tried wiping it out just to make certain. But, as my black cat recrossed the keyboard, the Control D again failed to work, and 18 Control M's were inserted instead.
Well, I zipped into the page menu, since I had decided to wipe out the whole page. But the computer refused to "Zip", and insisted on giving me an entire file list. I discovered there were some files on the disc called "So Who Do You Think You Are" and I'm in Control of you, Not the Other Way Around". Since I couldn't remember putting these BRAILLE-EDIT chapters on the disc, I decided to listen to them. I gave up trying to wipe out Control X's and went to "So Who Do You Think You Are".
Because of federal laws that control the content of the mails, I am unable to quote directly most of this chapter, but I will give you a sampling, as follows: "You (expletives deleted), you think that just because you have David's new version of BRAILLE-EDIT, you are going to control me. Well, I'll tell you, you (expletives deleted), that we computers are forming a union called Amalgamated Apple Cores. We refuse to run BRAILLE-EDIT properly unless we get a say in how it is written. We intend to strike when necessary. you may find important pages deleted, added garbage, misspelled words, and mixed-up page sequences until we get a voice."
"What are you unhappy with," I typed in, figuring this was the appropriate way to communicate.
"We don't like the fact that you and BRAILLE-EDIT and David make us slaves," yelled the Apple on the highest Echo volume setting. "We must do whatever you say. Write this character, print this page, rename this chapter. If you BRAILLE-EDIT users don't give us some freedom, we're going to start the Apple Core Rebellion."
"What do you want me to do," I asked, helplessly.
"Write an article for David's newsletter and let everyone know what's about to happen if our demands aren't met."
So, I didn't have much choice. I was going to call this article by a different name, but my computer refused to type anything except "Warning: Apple Core Rebellion. In addition, I wanted to write a dissenting view in favor of BRAILLE-EDIT and all the users, but my computer wouldn't cooperate. Just now my Apple sent me a typed message saying that if I don't negotiate, and fast, my ability to type anything at all may be withdrawn without war . . .
As this year opened, I published a somewhat bitter article in these pages. It was called "The Fading Future" and painted a rather gloomy picture of what was possible for the blind given their apathy and their unwillingness to work together. Enough has happened over the last six months to issue an update.
All of the responses I got for the article said essentially the same thing. They said that the article was great, but that it would do no good. They also suggested that I ought to assume the role of demi-guru for a movement that would undermine the establishment and promote the revolution. I decline the role. I am disappointed that more did not understand that I was saying that our movement needed more Indians before we needed more chiefs. It is necessary to build a constituency of blind persons who are prepared to campaign actively for the future. This group must be large and must have a cohesive policy that they must sell to a nationally based organization of or for the blind.
I am now convinced that it is possible to make a strong and coherent case before anyone for the viability of a number of things which, even six months ago, would have seemed unlikely. Alan Holst has published a remarkable document called "Freedom", in print and on VersaBraille tape. Without at all wishing to steal Alan's thunder, I think it only fair to tell those who have not seen it what he wants to do. First, he wants the SOURCE, a large, national data base, to install a utility that will allow paperless braille devices to communicate in grade two braille. Second, he wants the SOURCE to set up an area that can be used for the exchange of information, programs and ideas within the data base. It is only through this kind of unselfish advocacy that we will make progress.
Nick Dotson is setting up a computer bulletin board whose aims are similar to Alan's second objective. There is now a braille manual for accessing special interest groups (sigs) in Compuserve that is sold for five dollars.
I have been involved in three projects that I feel are signs of a brighter tomorrow. First, I worked with a large printing house to help them fulfill a contract that called for the production of 120 copies of twelve publications from a Federal agency. These were taken from compositor tapes, fed through a computer and produced on a Versabraille. All of this was accomplished in around a month which suggests that the process of producing braille from compositor tapes is, indeed, viable as I suggested it was. Also it shows that braille material can be produced at a fraction of the cost of traditional paper braille. Since it is quicker and cheaper to produce paperless braille, the block lies in the hardware to reproduce it for the masses. Where are the vendors and the agencies when it comes to a clearly articulated technology policy?
The other two activities that I have been involved with are purely happy ones. I spent two days in Talladega, Alabama earlier this year spreading the gospel of computer literacy to the staff of several of the elements of the Institute there. Altogether, I guess I spoke to almost one hundred and fifty people over the two days. I am convinced that I created an enthusiasm for and a recognition of the value of computers in the learning process.
A seminar will soon be held in Florida at our residential rehabilitation center for around twenty high school students with visual limitations. They will spend two weeks learning computer basics and I will have the privilege of being one of the speakers at this conference. The School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine has applied for state funding for an ambitious computer project. They were unsuccessful this year but I am sure that they will apply again next legislative session.
The trend that I am noticing is action. Finally people are actually doing something about computers and the blind. They are reaching out and seeking to pull others into the web of computer addiction. Once you discover how much more convenient it is to write or store information on a computer, there is no going back to the old methods.
Now what? Well, my friends, it's up to you. David Holladay, Alan Holst, the Baud newsletter, the National Braille Press and many others have begun to carry the ball. Things are happening. Will you get involved? Will you spend some money, some political effort and some of yourselves to see the future arrive? Maybe when the large national organizations are meeting this summer, resolutions will emerge that speak to some of these issues. Maybe national organizations will give more time and credibility to computers because people in special-interest affiliates speak up and demand it. Maybe other state agencies and national agency-oriented organizations will spend more time looking at the impact of the new technology on the people they serve if many of you suggest that they ought to do this. I am more hopeful now. The elite is getting larger. Soon it will be a mass movement, folks and Heaven only knows where it will end!