There are now five people working at Raised Dot Computing. They are: David Holladay - computer programmer Jesse Kaysen - customer relations and graphics Caryn Navy - technical support Nevin Olson - business manager Kristi Seifert - shipping czar
Please note that we have two phone numbers. The technical hot-line is (608) 257-8833. It is answered from 9 to 5 central time, except when we leave for lunch. The general business line is (608) 257-9595. Please do not call the general business line with a technical question.
We would also like to announce a change in policy: BRAILLE-EDIT costs $300 when ordered with a credit card. The program can still be purchased for $275 by check.
Raised Dot Computing is pleased to announce a new product, the Cranmer Interface Disk. It is designed to speed up the time it takes to set up a Cranmer Brailler with an Apple Computer. The program scans the user's computer system and diagnoses problems with switch settings, cables, and baud rates. It gives careful, step by step directions.
The Cranmer Interface Disk will be included at no charge with all Cranmer Braillers sold by us. If you bought a Cranmer Brailler from us in the past, the Cranmer Interface Disk will cost $25. If you are located outside of the U.S., the cost is $25. If you are located in the U.S. and have not bought the Cranmer Brailler from us, then the cost is $100.
We have gotten some feedback from people in schools and institutions that it has been difficult getting all the equipment set up. The Cranmer Interface Disk should shorten the set-up time to just an hour or two.
If you have any questions about the disk or about the Cranmer Brailler, do not hesitate to write or call.
Raised Dot Computing sells a lot of special cables and adapters. Let's try to make it easier for you to know just what kind of cable or adapter you need. VersaBrailles have been issued with either male or female jacks. KRMs have been issued with either male or female jacks. There is a model "C" VersaBraille and there is a model "C" Apple computer. This article should clarify things.
There are three kinds of Apple computers, the Apple 2 plus, the Apple 2e, and the Apple 2c. All cables for the 2c (the new compact model) require 5-pin ends, and work only for the Apple 2c. If you are working with the Apple 2c, be sure to specify "Apple 2c". Raised Dot Computing has worked out interfaces on the 2 plus and the 2e using the Apple Super Serial Card or the CCS 7710 serial card. It is not necessary to specify if you are working with the Apple 2 plus or the Apple 2e. But it may be necessary to specify whether you are dealing with the Super Serial Card or the CCS 7710 card.
To get the right connector, you've got to know about gender. Fortunately, it's easy to distinguish between "male" and "female" ends. A "male" end has a raised brass collar, which contains some number of metal pins. If you scratch your fingernail along the end, you'll feel the edge of the collar and the little pins sticking out. A "female" end is distinguished by holes. If you run your fingernaill across the female end, mostly you'll feel the flush surface of the plastic. If the two devices you're connecting both have the same sex, then you need a gender changer.
TSI sold the model "B" VersaBraille until Jan. 1983. Since then, they have been selling model "C" and model "D" VersaBrailles. The model "B" was sold with an interface cable with a female end. The VersaBrailles sold in the last two years have been sold with a cable with a male end. These interface cables are identical EXCEPT for the sex of the serial jack. Please examine your VersaBraille interface cable. These are gray with black plastic jacks on either end. The "hammerhead" side goes into the VersaBraille. We are interested in the other end. If it is male, you have a model "B" style cable. If it is female, it is a model "C" style cable. If you bought your VersaBraille within the last two years, you have a model "C" style cable.
The model 3 KRM has a male interfacing jack in the back. The new series 400 KRM has a female interfacing jack in the back. If you are ordering a Kurzweil cable, please find out if you have a model 3 or a series 400 machine.
[Editor's note: this is a follow up to the November article "Quandary"]
The new microcomputers' ability to perform in many roles creates an enormous dilemma for anyone teaching or prescribing them. The following four illustrations help illustrate the current quandary. The names of people and machines have been removed to protect the guilty from embarrassment.
A programmer bought a popular micro and pioneered a low-cost spelled-speech device for it. He wrote software to make it a terminal, used it in his work and proudly demonstrated it. Then he tried a $6,000 talking terminal which he praised until he tried a braille device. He loved the braille device. He took his micro home. We then told him about a full-speech synthesizer and word-processing software for his micro. He said, "I couldn't care less. I won't have speech of any kind or at any price now that I have my braille device." However, after the new software and the cheap new speech device were demonstrated to him, he bought disk drives and the speech board for his micro. He now speaks highly of it and praises the software.
His reasons for this double turn-about are instructive. He is not fickle: he's typical. Even though the sophisticated talking terminal provided access to a powerful mainframe computer, he wasn't satisfied. The braille access device, though puny in computing power, better suited his needs. When he got his micro to spell, he was pleased because he did gain a measure of independent functioning. But, as a programmer, he needed to be able to examine the exact status of every character. The talking terminal he tried had awkward review features. His application favored braille.
The main selling point for the braille device was its multiple personalities. He could create text in a friendly environment with one cursor instead of two. He could then batch the data back and forth and study the results in that same friendly environment. By contrast, when he was linked through a terminal to the main frame, whether it was his micro or the talking terminal, he had to fuss with both a screen-oriented cursor and a talking cursor. That can be cumbersome. It explains why many of us prefer special software for editing and word processing while using commercial software for some other tasks.
When our programmer got the full speech and special software for his micro, it developed multiple personalities. He gained back the power of his microcomputer. Now he has the option of using the speech for prompts and menus and the braille for text and programs.
Four blind "brand X" computer owners encountered a demonstration of a brand Y computer running special software for the blind. Person Number One responded "Gee, I'm impressed, but your computer seems to be as complicated as mine. I wonder if I could learn to use it." Person Number Two gushed "This is fabulous! I am going to sell my computer and buy yours." Person Number Three moped "Your machine is more powerful than mine, and it runs much faster. I wish I had bought yours instead of mine." Person Number Four calmly said "That's a good system, but mine is just as fast, and I have more options than you do."
Why did the four people react so differently? Person One uses her computer sporadically. She has not yet fully learned her software. Person Two has no special adaptive software for his computer. Person Three has a set of software that runs mostly in Basic and uses an ordinary operating system. Person Four has sophisticated software which runs in machine language and uses a faster operating system.
Everyone involved with designing, evaluating, prescribing or teaching computer aids must recognize why such divergent opinions can co-exist.
Our last two anecdotes speak to the widely-held position that computer aids are a "luxury". It's true that technology is too often promulgated as a panacea. But this argument must be countered with the real benefits of the special technology. The "computers are fancy toys" argument offers uninformed teachers and service providers an opportunity to ignore real needs.
The generous employer of a blind counselor bought him a reading aid to help with reading of records and reports. The aid cost $30,000 and required the space of a small desk. He only used it for half an hour each day, since less than half of his print material was machine-readable.
He discovered that his sighted colleagues were then less willing to read to him. He also found that with a personal computer and a printer he could write reports independently. Our hero didn't ask his employer to finance this, too. He reached into his own pocket for the computer, the special software and a printer. This cost about the same as the annual service contract for his reading aid.
Now he can produce better-looking reports than his colleagues in less time than they do. The secretary who would have typed for him now does the reading for which he needs human assistance. The relevant question becomes: is this a case of questionable use of technology? Is he better off because he has the reading machine?
[Editor's note: We're often asked about the cost-effectiveness of such a reading machine. Of course, there is no single answer. But it is instructive to compare what the reading machine would cost to the salary for a 3/4 time high school student. Many libraries could make all their print materials accessible by having a person sitting at a desk, available to read for blind patrons on demand.]
Our story begins with a productive typist in an office bent on modernizing. Typewriters are a mixed blessing for blind people, but the silent, computerized writing machines known as dedicated word processors are an unmitigated curse. But our heroine tried to adjust to the new technology, nevertheless. She memorized the command sequences and plugged away until the complex and screen-oriented machine grew to be too much for her. Her productivity was called into question. She asked for the help of a local agency for the blind.
Meanwhile, the agency was deluged with similar requests, so it wisely began to gather special aids and expertise to come to the rescue.
They contacted a consultant in computer aids for the blind. He was able to connect a low-cost speech device to the dedicated word processor, but he regretted ever doing it. It raised false hopes. She could hear the mistakes, but there was no efficient way to correct them.
The agency people contacted the consultant again, this time to interface the darn word processor with a microcomputer running "friendly" word processing software designed for blind people. He did it, but the obstacles proved to be as embarrassing as they were formidable.
Implementing such applications takes five skills. You need someone who is skilled in the use of the specialized devices, and also understands how to interface them with other computer equipment. You need someone who knows how to work the office equipment, and to interface it with non-standard devices. And, you also need someone who understands the real needs in this particular work environment. Since one person rarely has all these skills, several people must be gathered together in a team effort.
Our heroine contacted the equipment company. They sent someone who knew how to operate the machine, but not how to interface it. They tried to set up the right parameters, but it wouldn't work. Then, the agency's computers-for-the-blind consultant found a switch that made the interface work. A sighted agency person studied the word processor's operating manuals, and was able to both figure out and explain to the typist how to make the darn machine fly.
The blind typist was on her way to being a word processor. She would be able to enter and edit texts on her own micro, and then use the dedicated word processor for block transfers of data.
And the outcome of all this? Stay tuned for the next episode of Captain Computer. Will the mired agency people gather the team together? Will the overworked consultant get the interface going again? Will our intimidated heroine gather the patience and the spunk to carry on? And will her efficiency-conscious employer be flexible enough to let her use the friendly word processor whose work station may cost no more then the capital investment to employ a sighted person? And finally, if there is a happy ending, will this caper be documented so others can benefit?
We'll just have to keep you in suspense as this real-life drama unfolds. Meanwhile, the purists among us would like to separate the cost of the special aids from the cost of implementing the access technology. If you find a formula to do that, let us know about it. If you run across people who think technology is a bed of roses, show them this material. And if you find people who downgrade technology for us and think we should fly their computers blind, tell them to go and attempt flight (without a kite).
It used to be you'd buy an Echo 2. You'd get a circuit board, a little speaker and cord, and an Apple DOS 3.3 based disk full of talking utilities and TEXTALKER files. Echo 2s are being phased out. The replacement is already arriving around the country. The replacement is the Echo Plus.
In the box you'll find a circuit board, a little cord and speaker, and a ProDOS based disk of talking utilities & TEXTALKER files. For BRAILLE-EDIT users, that's no problem, because BRAILLE-EDIT has TEXTALKER and some talking utilities.
I tried the new Echo Plus circuit board with the old Echo 2 TEXTALKER software. It worked normally. This is a real advantage. The Echo Plus can run both the old and new text-to-speech software. If you want to take advantage of all the music and sound effects, you have to run the ProDOS-based programs included with the Echo plus.
About the only problem with the Echo Plus is that the old TEXTALKER is not included in the package. This means that a blind user is dependent on other software to make the Echo Plus useful. I expect that all the major vendors of software for the blind will be providing special "starter disks" for blind Echo Plus purchasers.
BRAILLE-EDIT, Talking Transend, Talking TermExec, and just about any other (old) TEXTALKER-supported software works perfectly with the new Echo Plus. Blind users are not being left behind; but they have to be aware of sources of talking software.
Since the publication of part 1 of this series last month, I have received a number of questions. At risk of being as thrilling as a spelling list, I would like to spell out some answers.
Q1) What is the distinction between the left margin in BRAILLE-EDIT and the left margin on paper?
R1) In the last installment, you learned that the BRAILLE-EDIT Print Thinker creates and prints lines one at a time. Each line is created on a "template" whose width is the BRAILLE-EDIT carriage width. The set-up of printer and paper determines where this template lands on paper. Some printers allow you to make a generous left margin by sliding the paper holder to the left. Other printers allow you to move the "printer return spot" (where the printhead starts new lines).
Without any BRAILLE-EDIT left margin command, lines start at the printer return spot. But when obeying, for example, a $$ml5 command, BRAILLE-EDIT actually starts each line with 5 spaces. Instead of shifting the line template landing zone, you have included initial spaces in the templates themselves.
Q2) Can you clarify your recommendation not to use the margin commands for your routine set-up?
R2) Suppose you want to do your routine printing with 72 characters across. As long as you can physically set up your favorite left margin, just avoid the BRAILLE-EDIT margin commands as follows. Use carriage width 72 in your configuration printing description, no matter how many characters your printer has room for.
I have several reasons for this recommendation. Why bother with unnecessary commands? Printing initial spaces on every line takes time on many printers. The margin commands were really designed with shifting and soft margins in mind. For example, a long quote in a scholarly document calls for adding 5 spaces to both margins; with base margins of 0, a very simple $$ml5$$mr5 does this. The outdenting discussed below is another good demonstration. Using base margins of 0 simplifies these applications. It also makes it easier to use the $$t and $$p commands for setting tab stops and positioning.
If you do use margin commands in your set-up, remember our usual plug for separate set-up chapters, especially if you print to the screen. For margin commands in a chapter make it less transportable to other printing devices. They eat up room from the carriage width. If that width is small as in some screen modes, this will leave very little per line.
Q3) How do I set carriage width and form length for a printing job?
R3) Whether you know it or not, you assign values to these parameters just by answering the question, "Which printer?" (If you answer with a question mark, you will be reminded of your numbered printers and other possible answers.) This assignment of carriage width and form length is quite clear except for printing to the screen. The specific screen modes like SH and SW have built-in values for these parameters. For example the regular size sreen modes (SH, SN, SB) have carriage width 39 and form length 23; the large size modes (SL and SJ) have width 19 and length 9; etc. (An unmodified S calls for the screen mode you requested last, in booting up, editing, or printing.)
A $$w or $$f command totally overrides the previous carriage width or form length, except for some interesting results in printing to the screen. This is not an advertisement for these commands; feel free, in fact encouraged, to ignore them. Some people who use many different formats use these commands to avoid keeping lots of configurations. They also allow for varying carriage width and form length within a document.
You may have discovered what a $$w or $$f command can do in printing to the screen. If it tries to exceed a built-in limit, the screen will scroll uncontrollably. If you use these commands and print to the screen, keep them in a separate set-up chapter.
Q4) What is outdenting and how do you do it?
R4) "Outdenting", as defined by Raised Dot Computing, is the opposite of indenting. An outdented line begins further left than the left margin used elsewhere in the document. When you read a print or braille document, outdented lines jump out from the rest immediately. In standard text, indentation marks the beginning of each paragraph. When the first line of each block of text is instead outdented, blocks and their boundaries stand out even more. Succeeding lines start further right at the established left margin. Outdenting is common in lists, outlines, tests, etc. In fact, official braille transcription rules call for some very specific forms of outdenting.
An earlier issue of the newsletter discussed a fairly tedious method for outdenting with BRAILLE-EDIT (using the $$p commands to step out into the left margin space). However, Version 2.50 of BRAILLE-EDIT simplifies outdenting at paragraph markers. (You can upgrade from 2.45 with $10 or 4 blank disks.) This new ability is just an extension of the way of handling ordinary paragraph indentation. For example, the command $$i3 calls for indenting 3 spaces at each new paragraph. Lo and behold, in Version 2.50 the command $$i-3 calls for outdenting 3 spaces at each new paragraph. But remember, to put something 3 spaces left of the left margin, there must be a left margin of at least 3. The standard set-up sequence would be . If the $$ml3 were missing, the first 3 characters of each paragraph would disappear into the never-never land of unprinted characters.
Q5) Sometimes I need a form feed at the end of a printing job to move to the next page, and other times such a form feed skips an extra page. What's the story here?
R5) The Multicopy Print routine automatically performs a form feed after each copy (unless form length 0 is in use). When you are using page numbering, either print or braille, the Print routine goes to the bottom of your last page to number it and then performs a form feed. By the way, if you are using both page numbering and Multicopy print, the system does not do two form feeds.
If you are using page number or if you are using Multicopy print, putting a form feed at the end of your text will leave an extra blank page.
By the way, to force a form feed, use either a control/L or the four characters "space dollar-sign lowercase-f space". When using the $f route, don't forget that final space, even at the end of a BRAILLE-EDIT page.
Q6) I have found that a carriage return does not turn off the underlining started by $$h. How do I turn it off?
R6) A paragraph marker or a ( $p ) does it.
Q7) Can I use my VersaBraille to test out format before I do a real printout?
R7) You can do it very easily. Print as if doing the real printout, but substitute the VersaBraille's slot number. On the VersaBraille set the first four CCPs (baud rate, data bits, parity, and stop bits) as usual for Apple communications; set the translator for computer braille; set "ASCII in" (AI) and "carriage return in" (CI) for yes; the others are irrelevant. Inside of a chapter with the cursor on, get things rolling with a chord/R T (no overlay necessary). You will see exactly what the printout would look like, right down to the spaces, carriage returns, form feeds, and page numbers. I will not address them here.
Q8) Why doesn't the BRAILLE-EDIT underlining work with my dot matrix printer, and can I get around this?
R8) The Print Thinker's method for underlining is very straightforward. To print an underlined character, it sends out the character, then a backspace, and then the underline character. Many dot matrix printers will just print the underline character itself.
You can of course consult your printer manual and insert the printer's own codes into your text. One printer I know of uses escape C to start underlining and escape D to stop. If you find your printer's underlining codes awkward to type, just your own personal codes and use a transformation chapter to change them into your printer's codes.
(Correction) I mentioned in the first part of this series that the Model D VersaBraille is in uppercase lock when you turn it on. I have learned that this is also true for the Model C.
Example: In the first part of this series the section called "Who's Boss" considered the question of when a word processing command begins its effect. This is not quite as trivial as it might seem. Here is a good example. Lets say you have a chapter that just consists of:
$$ml7 The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Sometimes I wonder if the lazy dog was really smarter than the quick brown fox.
You really understand this material if you can predict what happens to the lefthand margin when you print this chapter.
The Raised Dot Computing Interface Guide has some useful instructions on how to interface the Kurzweil Reading Machine to the Apple Computer. However, it tells you to jump right into using BRAILLE-EDIT. I find it useful to first test the interface without BRAILLE-EDIT. Here is my description of the interface between an Apple 2 plus or an Apple 2e with a KRM.
You need a serial card for the Apple. This can be an Apple Super Serial Card or a CCS 7710 serial card. These should be set at 4800 baud and 1 stop bit. The four switches on the CCS 7710 card should be set OFF ON ON OFF. The jumper block on the Super Serial Card should be set at terminal. Set bank one to: OFF OFF ON ON OFF ON OFF. Set bank two to: ON OFF ON ON OFF OFF OFF.
Insert the card in one of the Apple slots. You will probably want to use slot 1 or 2. Do not use slot 3 if you have an 80 column card in your Apple 2e. Attach the cable to the card, running the cable through the openings at the back of the Apple, exposing the RS-232 (serial) connector.
You will need a special cable to connect the serial card with the KRM. These cables are available from Raised Dot Computing. [Editor's note: see the article on cables in this issue.] Be sure to specify whether you have a Model 3 or a Series 400 KRM when you order your cable.
Connect the cable to the lower port on the Model 3 Reading Machine, or the middle port on the Series 400.
First turn on the Apple, then turn on the Reading Machine. Sometimes if you turn on the Apple while the Reading Machine is running, you will cause the Reading Machine to crash. Load the software into the Reading Machine, taking note of the version number.
If you are using a Series 400 KRM, set the baud rate to 4800. This is done by setting special command 60 and pressing the number key four times. Then enter the number 4800. The machine will announce the new setting. If you have a Model 3 KRM, the unit probably is already set at 4800 baud.
Set special command 40 (speech output) and special command 42 (timeout mode). Press Resume and Message. The unit should say "Waiting for input".
On the Apple keyboard type a control/reset. The Apple should beep. Now type PR#2 (if the serial card is in slot 2, otherwise use PR#1 or whatever slot you are using) followed by a carriage return. Now anything you type on the Apple will be spoken by the Reading Machine. If you cannot get the KRM to say anything, then there is something wrong with the setup.
Set special command 45 (text output mode). If you have software version 2400 or the Series 400 machine, then you can also activate the scrolling mode by entering special command 45. This will activate software handshakes and help eliminate the problem of losing data.
Do a control/reset on the Apple. The Apple should beep. Type IN#2 (or whatever slot you are using) followed by a carriage return.
Press Page on the reading Machine to begin reading. The material will appear on the screen as it is being read. You will notice syntax error messages and a beep at each carriage return. This is normal. If you cannot get any activity on the Apple by using this procedure, then there is something wrong with this setup.
It is my opinion that everyone setting up a KRM/Apple system should go through this checkout before they run their BRAILLE-EDIT disk. Obviously, the program cannot fill a disk with data from the KRM if you cannot get any characters from one machine to the other.
By the way, I have access to an Apple 2c. I had a lot of difficulty running the "input from slot" on the 2c using a BRAILLE-EDIT disk that Mr. Holladay swore would work on the 2c. David visited me and said the problem was caused by my using the KRM both as my primary voice output device and as my "input from slot device". He did something to my disk to make it work. To my knowledge, I am the only BRAILLE-EDIT user with this special disk. I hope to write up this special use of the Apple 2c and the KRM shortly.
A subject which hasn't received enough attention is how BRAILLE-EDIT can be made to work together with other programs to make some tasks easier than they would be with one program alone. This really came home to me yesterday when I had occasion to use BRAILLE-EDIT first with Lister Talker and later, on a totally different project, with Talking Termexec.
Mike Firth's Lister Talker is a database program which enables you to define fields, store data, retrieve data by stipulating parameters for various fields to select specific items, setup print forms such as labels and lists, and store the results of all this to disk. I maintain my address file on Lister Talker and have a field called "ad info", standing for additional information. For the members of an organization of which my wife is recording secretary, I store in this field the name of the organization, so that at any time I can select the members of the organization in order to print lists, mailing labels, and the like. The problem is that printing such a list or a set of labels requires the program to look at all the entries in my address file and select those I want before printing them in the format I have specified. With a rather long file to work with, this takes quite a long time. What I was able to do, however, was to print the list, including my format, to disk in a text file, write that file to a BRAILLE-EDIT chapter using the "read textfile" option, add a brief introductory statement, using BRAILLE-EDIT's insert feature, set margins, select the elite type font I wanted my printer to use, and quickly run off the five copies of the list my wife needed.
Combining some features of the two programs saved me considerable time and effort and will continue to do so as I produce more lists and labels.
Later the same day, a neighbor, a high school sophomore, asked me if I had an encyclopedia, as he needed to look up material on Martin Luther King for a paper he had to write. I told him that while I didn't have an encyclopedia, I could access one on Compuserve. (Compuserve, the Source, and the Dow Jones News Service all provide access to the American Academic Encyclopedia.)
Talking Termexec is a program which turns the Apple 2 plus and 2e into a terminal and works with the Echo 2 card for use with a telephone modem to access outside databases and bulletin boards. Using this program, I was able to look up Dr. King, download and save to disk a rather complete article about him, again use BRAILLE-EDIT to convert the resulting textfile to a BRAILLE-EDIT chapter, and print the material, properly formatted for my friend's use.
Both Lister Talker and Talking Termexec can send material to a printer, but BRAILLE-EDIT performs this function more easily and with greater flexibility. Again, using BRAILLE-EDIT together with another program made my job a lot easier. Actually, I'd have used BRAILLE-EDIT's editing functions to clean up the text more than I did, but it was time for my wife's corn beef and cabbage, and I know where my priorities lie.
[editor's note: for information about LISTER TALKER, call Mike Firth at (214) 827-7734; for information about TERM EXEC, call Henry Brugsch at (617) 391-0200].
Raised Dot Computing is not selling the Apple 2c. In the December issue of the newsletter, I quoted a local discounter's price for the Apple 2c. I was trying to explain how cheap a combination of BRAILLE-EDIT, a Cricket, and an Apple 2c can be. Raised Dot Computing does sell BRAILLE-EDIT and the Cricket. You will have to shop around for an Apple 2c. Both price tag and local support are worth considering.
Last summer I decided to buy a second computer system. I was looking for something portable which I could carry back and forth to the office. While attending the ACB convention in Philadelphia last July I saw a demonstration of the BRAILLE-EDIT program running on the Apple 2c. I already owned an Apple 2e and decided immediately that this portable system would fill my needs.
In mid August, I purchased an Apple 2c, an Apple Image Writer Printer, the Echo GP, and BRAILLE-EDIT. I bought the latter two items from Raised Dot Computing. I had some initial problems getting the parts of the system to communicate with one another, but the tremendous support I received from RDC soon got things to work right. [Editor's note: Providing BRAILLE-EDIT for the Apple 2c has become much more routine since then.]
The Apple 2c comes equipped with two ports using DIN five pin connectors. BRAILLE-EDIT automatically sets both ports for receiving and sending at 9600 baud. I have my system set up to handle the Image Writer printer in port one and have the Echo GP plugged into port two. I have currently set up two configurations; one set for a single disk drive system, and one set for two disk drives. I bought a second disk drive for the computer and find the two drive configuration much more handy to use.
Since I have an Echo GP, I direct the "primary output" to slot 2. I specified two printers, printer one is my real printer in slot one, and printer two is set up to send output to my Echo GP in slot 2.
The Apple 2c is an extremely portable and lightweight system. It can be packed away into its accessory carrying case which will hold the computer, the power supply, and a few cables. I usually carry a backpack to work so this can be used to carry the extra goodies such as the accessory disk drive and the speech board.
Unlike the Apple 2e, the Apple 2c needs to have all its accessories outside the machine. It is easy to end up having a rat's nest of cables coming out the back of the machine to connect to your printer, disk drive, speech board and monitor (if applicable).
When I purchased this system, I wanted to get something that would have many of the advantages of the VersaBraille but at a fraction of its price. I work for the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, and my job entails drafting many letters. Until now, I have had to braille my drafts and then transcribe them with a typewriter. The portable computer enables me to bypass the typewriter. Most of the letters we write have many stock paragraphs. BRAILLE-EDIT allows me to combine my stock paragraphs with ones I write from scratch.
The 2c allows me to produce near letter perfect documents. This means that my reader does not have to spend all of his time proofing my typing.
I should point out that I also use an Optacon with a CRT lens to directly read the monitor. Since the Echo GP does not have the review capability which is built into the TEXTALKER program (available for the Echo plus and the Cricket), I use the Optacon to read the screen occasionally.
In Conclusion, I feel that coupled with the BRAILLE-EDIT program, the Apple 2c makes a superb word processing system for any blind professional, college student, or bureaucrat. If you are already familiar with computers, it can make the perfect second system. Used with a Cricket synthesizer, the Apple 2c system might possibly be recommended as a starter system for someone who does not want all the expansion capabilities offered in the 2e.
I hope this article will be of some assistance to others who have been considering purchasing a 2c. If any readers of the newsletter would like to get in touch with me, I can be contacted in any medium, print, braille, cassette or open reel tape. I can also be reached at the following telephone numbers: (215)-596-6785 (work) (215)-922-4581 (home)
If any readers are ham operators I can usually be found on ten meter FM either on the simplex frequencies or on the Virgin Islands repeater when the band is open. This is Eric Clegg, KU3I signing off. XXX ADDRESS?
Several months ago, I saw a notice in the CompuServe advertising section about a software disk providing a list of operating BBS systems in the U.S. and Canada. It was searchable by area code, type of computer used, board activities (games, educational, file transfer, etc.), hours of operation, and geographic location (state or city). I contacted the manufacturer, who turned out to be H and R Compustore of Rome, New York. This small mail order company is run by Ken Ryder.
I sent him a note asking him if the disk could be made to work with speech. He asked for details about the Echo 2. After a couple of false starts, we are pleased to announce that THE BBS CONNECTION is now ready for sale.
This disk works with the Apple 2 Plus and 2e using the Echo 2 or Echo GP. It contains a listing of almost 800 operating BBS systems which can be searched as described above. We've set up the columns so that the identifiers are repeated with every search. This means you don't have to constantly move the cursor to the top of the screen. The disk is available for only $15. When ordering, you should specify that you want the "talking" version of this program. To order, contact Mr. Ken Ryder, H And R Compustore, Box 4102, Rome, New York 13440. Telephone: (318) (339-1069 (evenings).
For those of you who want BBS information in a slightly different format, I have compiled 3 major BBS directories for sale in 3 different formats: VersaBraille cassette, textfile disk format, and BRAILLE-EDIT chapter disk format (for speech). Not all of the information in each of the directories will be accurate, since the turnover in operating BBS systems is high. The directories are not searchable, but two of the 3 are organized by region and then subdivided according to telephone area code. The third directory is organized according to the type of BBS system, e.g., Apple, TRS-80, etc.
To order, send payment for $29.95 to Barry Scheur, 64 Green Park, Newton, Massachusetts 02158, or call (617) (965-6606). Please indicate the file format you would like the material in and whether you want it on disk or VersaBraille cassette.
The dilemma addressed in Roger Petersen's article (in Newsletter 19/20) is serious and not easily solved. This year I've had experience with two conventions where an attempt to produce braille literature was questionably successful. At one convention, every workshop had a long list of identifiers (organization division number, sponsoring affiliate, time, place, theme, speaker(s), moderator(s) and their credentials) nicely spaced out with blank lines. I waded through these items to discover that some had the frustrating legend: "no session planned". What a waste of effort! Of course, the program had not been formatted for reproduction in braille. But I think it is only reasonable to assume that the first joint meeting of the Association of Educators of the Visually Handicapped and the American Association of Workers for the Blind would include some people experienced in braille production!
At the other conference, there was liberal use of blank lines in the program, which did not improve readability one bit. This added to the bulk of the braille programs. Much more frustrating was that a great deal of changes had been made to the print program at the last minute. The print readers got a corrections sheet. The braille readers got the original, erroneous program. Therefore, those of us who were so happy for the enhancement of our independence (having the conference program in a medium we could read ourselves) ended up negotiating our way to an empty room.
End of complaints; here are some ideas for improvements in the future:
1) Compactness and portability are very important. A permanently bound 2 or 3 volume work is unwieldy. If the braille reader was supplied with a lightweight three-ring binder, they could skim the program for the items they want, ad leave the rest in their hotel room.
2) A really elegant solution would be a "custom-made convention program." If all of the program is available from mass storage (for example, a hard disk) it would be possible to emboss just those parts of the program the convention-goer desires. The braille reader could receive a print copy of the program two weeks prior to the convention. The convention organizers would collate the requests from braille readers, and be able to have manageable-size programs available at the registration desk.
I hope this has set people thinking about the alternative and innovative methods necessary to providing equal access at conventions.
Morgan Jones is selling his Apple 2 plus computer with 64K memory, green monitor, lower case adapter, and one disk drive. His system is in perfect condition with all manuals and diskettes. Morgan will accept the first good offer around $850. If interested, call (914) 255-1254.
Sherry Lowry has written a disk containing a long list of resources for blind Apple users. It contains a long list of Echo compatible software. She is offering the disk (in textfile format) in exchange for two high quality disks. Her address is: Sherry Lowry, 10622 Fairlane, Houston TX 77024. Her phone number is (713) 461-9654.
Larry Skutchen has written WORDS, a talking word processing program for an Apple computer with an Echo synthesizer. The program costs $95.50 and is available from Larry Skutchan, 6804 Asher Avenue #62, Little Rock, Arkansas 72204. Phone is (501) 56802172.
We would welcome a comparison review of WORDS, BRAILLE-EDIT, and DOCUMENTS.
I was intrigued by an ad in a recent issue of "InCider" magazine for a relatively inexpensive magazine published on double-sided disk. So I purchased the November, 1984 issue of "Softyme." The magazine is fully copyable, and all of its programs can be listed and modified. Most useful to me was a thorough BASIC Tutorial, including a Quick Reference to BASIC, an array tutorial, and an error-handling utility. All these were quite usable with the Echo 2. Other items also appeared to be perfectly usable but were not of current interest to me. These were a lengthy financial package, a checkbook-balancing program, and a utility for packing binary files onto disk so that they take up fewer sectors. The items I couldn't use with voice were the Feature, a solitaire card game with excellent high-res graphics; a Wheel of Fortune type game; and some miscellaneous graphics displays. On the whole, though, I found the magazine useful. It's new (only about three months old), and the editor seems to be receptive to requests from readers as to content.
The magazine costs $7.50 per issue, or $48.00 for a year's subscription. While this isn't cheap, it's much cheaper than other commercial magazines available on disk. For more information or to request issues, write to Softyme, P.O. Box 299, Newport, RI 02840.