NEWSLETTER #27 04/01/85

Long-Awaited Announcement -- Introducing Sensory Overload Inc.

4/1/85, Madison WI: Recognizing that there are simply not enough companies out there to serve the enormous market of visually handicapped consumers, Raised Dot Computing is floating bonds for the establishment of Sensory Overload, Inc. Their slogan says it all: "Our Products Speak for Themselves - So Quit Bothering Us!" SOI plans to be everything for everyone; to test the waters, we are presenting some items that will appear in the first Sensory Overload Catalog.

Life Without Fingertips, by David Furlow. In a shameless publicity move, our founder has decided to capitalize on the bizarre circumstances that have rocketed him into his current position as a mass marketeer of goods for the blind. Searching for clues to JFK'S assassination in the sub-sub-basements of MIT proved to be excellent experience for his current career, although some people find it hard to believe that anyone who blew up his left hand with Chinese gunpowder while living in Beirut (Lebanon) at age 14 could be a very good writer. Prove it to yourself. Buy this book.

Do you come home with tired fingers? Sensory Overload, Inc. has a new product for persons overburdened with sensory aids. NursaBraille features mentholated dots. The service contract is valid when you use this device only on fingers.

Don't get behind in your work! You need the MY-BOSS, the user-programmable combination electric seat cushion and appointment calendar. Two modes of operation have successfully cured even the worst procrastinators. For routine appointments, set the MY-BOSS for a 60-cycle buzz. For major events (thesis defense, marriage, bankruptcy hearings), switch into the "Asstral Mode", guaranteed to get you rearing to go.

We now have a classroom aid of special interest to those blind teachers who do not use the blackboard. In high fidelity stereo, the CHALKMAN reproduces the sound of squeaky chalk. This handy product is the size of a pack of cigarettes. We discourage use of the CHALKMAN with head phones for disciplinary purposes.

Do you harbor a secret fear that you are systematically short changed in the modern world? Then you need OPTACOIN! It beeps once for a penny, five times for a nickel, ten times for a dime, 25 times for a quarter; it emits a pleasant low tone when presented with a Susan B. Anthony dollar.

Sensory Overload has reviewed the existing market and recognizes that all the devices out there confuse and befuddle the poor blind consumer. We have therefore created an integrated tool for your many needs. We call it the TRAPS package-- the Total Replacement for All Prosthetics. While still in the design stage, we can announce some of its many functions: it walks, it talks, it brailles, it tapes, it computes, it sings in harmony, it types, it reads, it walks your dog, it answers the phone, and it automatically debits your accounts to pay for itself and its many service contracts. As an optional feature, it repossesses itself.

Sensory Overload is very proud to provide an extremely specialized tool for blind musicians and composers. It takes input in braille music notation and then generates a full score of print sheet music. It will also use this input to conduct a full symphony orchestra. Don't delay! We are taking orders for the long awaited MaestroBrailler!

Does navigating in tricky areas occasionally leave you feeling lost and wondering "now what? Sensory Overload has an electronic answer to your mobility problems. With great precision our device monitors your frustration level. When you are at your breaking point, the Now What Sensor sounds an alarm and flashes its lights. Sighted passers-by will rush to your aid. The deluxe model of the Now What Sensor also sends out a signal on police and marine radio frequencies.

We're pleased to have become a distributor for the triumph of Genuine Intelligence, the Katzenjammer Reading Machine. For only $36,000, a single-minded member of the multi-talented Katzenjammer family will move into your home. He or she will stay close by your side, and will read aloud absolutely every document you hand to him or her. A lifetime of companionship--at least until the warranty expires.

And last, but certainly not least: Sensory Overload, Inc. is well aware that blind people are now rising in the world of corporate management. They do not want to be a security liability for their Fortune 500 employers.

BRAILLE-SHREDDIT is a multi-media work processor. It is able to cleanly and completely destroy regular print, large print, braille, audio and VersaBraille cassettes, and, of course, diskettes. For a nominal extra fee, we have available a "back-processor" which gives the power of hindsight to blind and sighted alike.

For anyone eager to send Purchase Orders for any of the thrilling items outlined above, do check the dateline on this article, and enjoy.

Using Machine-Readable Text -- Michael May

I had the pleasure of speaking at the Information Industries Conference along with TSI's President Jim Bliss this past November. Some issues came up which may interest readers of this newsletter.

There are literally tons of books, newspapers, etc. which are currently stored in an electronic form. We could conceivably access all this information with a VersaBraille or other device. This represents the possibility for easy and inexpensive access to tons of information through a VersaBraille. In the case of books, publishers are reluctant to make their electronic masters available to organizations other than the Library of Congress. Two factors retard the Library of Congress from utilizing this machine readable text: a fear of getting involved in the new technology, and a perception that there is no demonstrated demand from blind users.

A few organizations are starting to produce books on VersaBraille tape. TSI, for example, has received 90 requests for its VersaBraille tape of the book 1984. Is there a demand? Would you like to have books and/or reference materials available on VersaBraille tape? What if the Library of Congress had read only VersaBraille machines available?

We also discussed the possibility of access to daily newspapers, often available in an electronic form. I have written previous articles about using Dialog with its incredible News Search capabilities - nearly 400 magazines and scores of newspapers. The major drawback with Dialog (and to a lesser extent, with the Source and Compuserve), is expense. Alan Holst has made inroads with The Source in considering specialized access for blind users. Dialog might be amenable to a discount for blind users, or at the very least an extension of the free on-line training time already available. Is anyone else out there interested in economical access to newspapers or to over 200 other databases on all subjects?

At the conference, we were asked, "What organization would be the fulcrum for electronic book and other media access for the blind?" We had to answer that there isn't one. For a number of reasons, there is no one place (to my knowledge) that is developing access to machine readable text for blind readers. I would be interested in having anyone who may be working on or interested in the above subjects contact me. My address is: Michael May, 990 Bay Street, Mountain View, CA 94040, (415) 965-3747.

Machine-Readable Text: Four Cautions -- David Holladay

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the potential of using machine readable text. Many people believe that computers will be able to effortlessly spit out braille books on demand. Unfortunately, that is like expecting computers to write our term papers or to write newsletters unassisted.

Computers are tools that greatly speed up the work of preparing text. Anyone who has used a computer to prepare a document can testify that much work is involved in adjusting the format. If you get a disk file of a book designed to work on one system, then you have to do a lot of work to re-do all the format markers. We haven't even gotten into the nightmare of having to change disk or tape formats. This is Rule One on Using Machine-readable text: it is a lot of work.

However, there is some good news. BRAILLE-EDIT was designed with the need to reformat text in mind. Global Replace can automate almost all of a conversion task. Some time must be invested in creating the rules to transform the text. But for subsequent tasks, you will have all your transformation chapters all set up and ready to go. This brings us to Rule Two: the more you do, the easier it gets.

But you'll always encounter tricky situations. For example, I worked on a street directory that had a problem in 5% of the text. The original typist keyed a lower case "l" instead of the digit one. A sighted person could only notice the problem with a magnifying glass. But when I ran the text through a braille translator, the error jumped out. This brings us to Rule Three: Your file must always be cleaner than was required by the original job.

Another area to explore is why text is in machine-readable form in the first place. Some material is put on-line. In this situation, the final end product is the computer file. But in many cases, the final end product is camera-ready copy from a typesetting machine. This copy is then pasted in place, frequently in a different order from the print-out. It's too expensive to re-run the entire page, so small corrections are pasted over a line at a time. This brings us to Rule Four: Often the computer file is only a rough draft.

As Michael May points out, there is no nationally recognized resource on the transfer of machine-readable text into braille or other formats for use by the visually impaired. Raised Dot Computing gets a lot of inquiries. We often refer people to the National Braille Press. The National Braille Press often refers inquiries back to us.

It is clear that the "blindness field" needs a resource center that can read and write a large number of media formats. I see no work in this area from APH, AFB, or NLS. I really think that there is an opportunity for a new organization. It is not necessary to have that much computer equipment (at least in the beginning). The critical element is to have a few people willing to act as national resources in media conversion for the visually impaired. This might be the ideal opportunity for someone with some financial resources who wants to be self-employed.

Notes on Teaching BRAILLE-EDIT -- Robert Carter

Two years ago when I first learned to use BRAILLE-EDIT, I did not find getting started difficult. Of course, I prepared myself very well. I love computers and sensory aids technology, so I was highly motivated to learn. Before sitting down with the equipment and the manuals, I talked with many people and read everything I could find on computerized sensory aids equipment. Granted, there still isn't enough literature available but I read what was out there. I can sit down with a well-designed piece of equipment and a decent manual (and BRAILLE-EDIT qualifies in both categories) and teach myself to get the most out of the system. I am unafraid and persistent enough to keep asking questions until I understand something.

By now you are probably saying, "Well good for you." I am not writing to brag about my ability to learn from a manual. I want to explore ways to help those people who are not thrilled by stacks of manuals. Believe it or not there are plenty of people who fear computers and dread the thought of using one.

My question to the readers of this newsletter is this: what is the best way to train people to use BRAILLE-EDIT? I will briefly share some of my ideas below. If you have suggestions or ideas, please write an article for the newsletter, or contact me at the address which follows this article.

What you need to know about BRAILLE-EDIT depends on what you want to do with it. It also depends on your degree of visual impairment. For example, I can teach a reader, or my sighted wife, to use data entry in about five minutes. If, however, a person trained at this level decides to do anything outside of data entry, they are lost and need further instruction. This level of training may lead to dependence, while the all-important independence is available to a better trained BRAILLE-EDIT user. A person who cannot use the screen will have to start out with a higher level of training: they must also learn to understand and use synthetic speech and maybe a braille device as well. Tailoring the training to meet the needs of the individual being trained is not a problem. My quandary is this: can people learn to use BRAILLE-EDIT without spending the hours that I spent poring over the manuals and documentation? Which short-cuts are safe and which ones will only make the new user dependent on me or some other trainer?

During the next couple of months I will be developing as complete a list as possible of existing training materials. I also intend to develop new materials. Please send your ideas, so that we can help more people get started with BRAILLE-EDIT. Robert Carter 1426 S.W. 25th Place Gainesville, Florida 32608.

Using BRAILLE-EDIT to Write Disk-based Instructional Material

Many readers have probably had the opportunity to examine the "Echo/Cricket Training Disk" prepared by the ever-resourceful Harvey Lauer of Illinois. This software uses the BRAILLE-EDIT program as its "hidden" motive force. Users need know nothing about BRAILLE-EDIT; they simply boot the Echo/Cricket Disk and it talks its way through the basics of using these synthesizers.

RDC knows what work would be required to develop "authoring software" using BRAILLE-EDIT. (For those outside the educational milieu, "authoring software" enables someone with ZIP programming knowledge to create computer-aided instructional material.)

Is anyone interested? Would you like to be able to create disks that students could review with voice or braille output? What would you be willing to pay? (The highest cost in developing this software would clearly writing the Manual!)

Jesse Kaysen is eagerly awaiting your comments--please drop her a line!

Hungry for a Taste of BETTE?

We used a lot of ink (and tape) in last month's Newsletter describing our new BRAILLE-EDIT Textbook Transcribing Edition. As with any sophisticated software, a new user needs some time to get acquainted with BETTE before they can really understand what it's about. To facilitate this process, RDC is offering an opportunity to examine the BETTE Manual for thirty days under no obligation. We think that a few weeks' reflection on the BETTE Manual will be more educational and useful than any amount of sales literature.

If you are interested, please drop us a note on your letterhead. Briefly describe what braille transcription you are currently engaged in, and what equipment you use, and finish with a request for a review copy of the BETTE Manual. We'll send one along with an invoice for $40. If you return the BETTE Manual (in resalable condition!) within 30 days of receiving it, then we'll just void the invoice.

Of course, we hope you'll decide that BETTE would make your braille transcription operation much more efficient. When you send the $40 payment for the BETTE Manual, we'll issue you a coupon worth $40 off the purchase price of the BETTE software package itself. A BETTE package, which costs $400, includes the BETTE software, BETTE Manual, BRAILLE-EDIT Manual and Interface Guide, and a year's subscription to our Newsletter. The BETTE Manual is also available on three disks (in BRAILLE-EDIT Chapters) for review by blind users. We're currently preparing a braille version of the BETTE Manual--due to the wealth of page format details, it's just not a suitable candidate for audio manuals. We won't have the weighty (3-volume) braille trial copies available until the end of April.

All RDC Software Manuals Now Available on Trial

Our most recent price list shows that all Manuals for RDC software have gone up in price. The BRAILLE-EDIT Manual and Interface Guide are now $25 (each) and the BETTE Manual is $40.

Here's why. Some people may want to inspect the Manuals to help decide if our software is right for them. Some other people may want to buy the Manual so that they can get better use out of a pirated disk. To help out the first group, we will issue a coupon with the Manual. For example, the $25 spent on an Interface Guide can be credited toward a purchase of BRAILLE-EDIT within 60 days. As always, we welcome comments.

News and Announcements

Vtek Announces Name Change & Move

Visualtek, Inc. announced that it has changed its name to Vtek, Inc. (pronounced "Vee-teck").

Since the company was founded in 1971, it has been a world leader in the field of electronic low vision aids for the partially sighted (legally blind). In late 1984, the company developed and announced some new products for totally blind people, including a braille embosser (printer) and a braille-output computer-access device. According to founder and Chairman Larry Israel, company management felt that the "visual" in the company's name no longer seemed appropriate, and was potentially confusing to blind clients who might misidentify the company's area of expertise. "We expect many people will continue to call our equipment 'Visualtek machines,' as they've been doing for many years," Israel said, "but we also expect that we'll hear more and more references to 'Vtek machines' as the name catches on." He also noted that only the name was changing, and that the quality technological leadership, versatility, and service associated with the company's name around the globe would continue as before.

Simultaneously, the company announced a move to a new headquarters building at 1625 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404. The move is scheduled for May, and company officials expect it to be complete by June 1. The phone number will remain unchanged as 213/829-6841, as will the TELEX numbers 910-343-6875.

Talking ProDOS Users' Disk & Audio Tape

The ProDOS Users' Disk that contains ProDOS TEXTALKER is available free from us or from Computer Aids. Computer Aids also has an audio tape with instructions. Contact them at 124 W. Washington Boulevard, Lower Arcade, Ft Wayne IN 46802, phone 219/422-2424.

NBA Braille Transcription & Duplication Prices

The National Bralle Association announces the following price structure for braille transcription and duplication, effective 1/85:

Cost to individuals is being subsidized by the NBA. Subsidy to others is no longer available due to depletion of grants. Contact them at 1290 University Ave., Rochester NY 14607, phone 716/473-0900.

Musings From an Expert User -- Carolyn Jones

I have had the opportunity to use BRAILLE-EDIT and also to begin programming on the Apple. I'd like to offer some musings on my experience, a short plug for my software, and a request for information from other users.

I am currently using BRAILLE-EDIT to type my personal and business correspondence, having recently become self-employed in my secretarial business, ACCUCOMP WORD PROCESSING/TRANSCRIPTION SERVICE. First, I key in text using the EDITOR, and after I've written a rough draft, I transfer my work onto the VersaBraille for proofreading purposes. After first reading through a grade II translation of my document on the VersaBraille, I then run it through my Sensible Speller (software available from Sensible Software.) I do not have a talking version of the program, but I now have the Print-It! circuit card and an ECHO GP synthesizer. I use these two devices to find out what a horrible speller I really am. After this, I correct my mistakes, and get another VersaBraille translation to make sure everything is okay. Then, comes the big moment... THE PRINTOUT. Then, the document goes to its destination.

The other phase of my work is programming. In addition to my secretarial business, I've also been designing talking instructional software for the Apple 2e and 2 Plus. My first program provides drills in multiplication, subtraction and addition using the numbers from one to 20. The software has both Echo and screen output, and is aimed at kids in grades one through six. The order of the drills is governed by a random number generator, so the program can be used over and over by the same kids without repetition. The software comes on one disk and costs $40--please contact me for further details. I am currently working on plans for some spelling games.

I have found that I have had much success with David's program and the VersaBraille. My dealer and I had no trouble with the connections using RDC's excellent instructions. The documentation is the best I've ever seen for any program ever. I would not hesitate to make any necessary connections using the Interface Guide.

I'll close with a request. Would you nice Cranmer Brailler users out there please send me any feedback on these machines? I would like to have both pros and cons, since I'm considering buying one in the near future and am hesitant because of the bad reports about them. I'd love to hear from anyone who has Cranmer experience.

One last thing, I promise! I've found it stimulating to read any newsletters I can find, and am constantly subscribing to them. I live in an isolated area where there are no other computer users, and so these are the only forums to which I'm exposed. Thanks to all other contributing readers. My name and address are: C.A. Jones, 24337 S. Skylane Drive, Canby, OR 97013, phone: 503/266-1423.

Last Call for Printer Manuals

As announced last month, BEX (the major BRAILLE-EDIT rewrite) will support some features (underlining, bold face, pitch change) in a number of specific printers. If you send us a printer manual, we will try to include your printer. At the end of this article is a list of printer manuals we have received. If you do not recognize your printer, then send us a photocopy of your printer manual. Please note that we may choose not to support a printer even though we have its manual.

Gee Whiz: A Contest!

Would you like to win a prize? Send us a postcard or short note, giving your name, address, and printer name and model. If your printer is not on the list below, take this opportunity to send us a photocopy of your printer's manual. For each printer we will support in BEX, we will draw one name. We'll send the winner a disk to test out whether we've captured their printer control sequences correctly. At the successful conclusion of the test, each tester will get a certificate worth 6 months of the Newsletter. That may not seem like much, but at least we won't be sending out any more counterfeit pizza coupons. (Business manager's note: we ran out, anyway.)

Printer Manuals Now Now on Hand

RDC's Fiscal Health Diagnosed -- Nevin Olson, Business Manager

On a recent business trip, I heard the latest rumor about Raised Dot Computing's financial troubles. Eyebrows askew, I demanded more. THIS was certainly news! Since I am the payer of bills, depositor of receipts, and (to some of you) the reminder of past due balances, I would like to let the readers know about the real financial condition of RDC.

Business has been good and keeps getting better. Our new BETTE software has begun to sell very well. BRAILLE-EDIT sales have increased every quarter. Sales of the Cranmer Brailler over the past 9 months have matched our optimistic forecasts. But we're not bragging about being rich because none of us are. As RDC gets bigger, so do the costs of operation. The move from Lewisburg to Madison has meant an increase in the available office space and staff and a corresponding increase in overhead costs. Increased revenue has meant the ability to invest in supplies and equipment to improve our services. RDC has been able to increase wages and benefits over the last year to the point where we are all happy.

Facts & Figures

RDC sales in 1984 were approximately $400,000. We expect sales to be around $500,000 in 1985. We anticipate continued growth, but neither desire nor expect to ever rival TSI, MCS, Triformation, Vtek, etc. in size or sales. We think that we are doing a pretty fair job now and don't want things to get out of control. All of us here have worked in some grand institutions of U.S. commerce and, to be frank, that's why we're here.

RDC has been able to save some money over the past year--our revenues have exceeded our expenses. We're using these proits to invest in the future of the business: equipment, facilities maintenance & improvement, and the development of new products. In order to work out interfaces to new devices, we often must purchase them, which we are happy to do. But it does add to our costs. We are very fortunate that many of our customers provide us with valuable interfacing information. This helps keep the costs down, and we try to pass the information along to everyone.

RDC pays a top salary of $9 per hour, with fringes equivalent to $1.75 per hour. This is not exactly executive level. There are no company cars, jets, or country club memberships. I'm sure we would all be happy to have more money, and our wages can improve if we keep the business prosperous. That will never mean gouging the users. None of us at RDC think we can become rich in this business. Ideally, we'd like to see the costs of all computer equipment, brailling devices, and software come down to a more affordable price range. That's why we keep our prices down where we can.

RDC has a pretty good product mix, that is, the products we sell are related and work well together. But all our products also work well by themselves. Unlike many of our counterparts, we are not totally dependent on just software or just hardware sales. We have no dramatic new products up our sleeves; anyone with a passing familiarity with RDC will be able to anticipate what the next year will bring.

RDC believes that the best marketing strategy is the continued support we offer. Our experience is that detailed technical support creates lasting good will and a lasting market. In fact, we receive so many inquiries about various technical aspects of other vendors' products that we can understand why some of the other companies have financial troubles. If we put a product on the market, we will support its use and fully intend to cooperate in the interfacing with other products.

And now for the bad news. There are some things that customers can do to hurt the business. Some nameless individuals and institutions don't pay their bills within a reasonable time. Most of you are very good and very prompt and we appreciate it. But RDC carries a big Accounts Receivable every month that grows with sales. If we do have a slowdown, our Accounts Receivable could become a problem. Most of the tardy bill-payers areinstitutional. If you buy our products through an institution, please lend us a hand in getting your accounting office in gear.

Our other concern is the use of our programs when they are not purchased. We have an article in this issue about piracy. I will let you draw your own conclusions from that.

So there you have it in a nutshell. No billion dollar defensive budgets, no smoke, and no mirrors.

Raising Money to Help Prose & Cons Buy a Thiel

One of the BETTE testers mentioned last month is the Prose & Cons Braille Unit of Nebraska. As their name suggests, they are an affiliate of the Nebraska Department of Corrections, headquartered in the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln.

Prose & Cons was started in 1980 by inmates seeking to be of worthy service to others rather than "just putting in time." As of January 1985, the unit has produced over 120,000 pages of custom braille, using the skills of 14 certified braillists (including 3 Nemeth transcribers).

Prose & Cons provides services to schools, groups, and individuals in 46 states. They log many, many hours on their two Cranmer Braillers and Thermoform machine. They also produce large print through both photographic enlargement and transcription on large-print typewriters. In addition, they produce tactile drawings, and perform repairs on braille stem-wind watches, Talking Book machines, and cassette players.

Prose & Cons really puts BETTE to the test; we're delighted that they helped in the design process. We would like to return the favor, and want to enlist support for what we feel is a worthwhile project. Prose & Cons wants a Thiel Embosser, which costs around $17,000. Prose & Cons needs a Thiel! RDC believes that if any organization deserves a high-performance braille embosser, it is Prose & Cons.

The Offer

Prose & Cons is in the processing of raising funds to buy this equipment. RDC will match donations on a 4-to-1 basis. For every $4 Prose & Cons raises for the Thiel, RDC will donate $1, up to a limit of $3,000. If you're interested in donating money, (or fundraising expertise or contacts) to the hardworking Cons, contact Dr. John Marshall, Prose & Cons Braille Unit Manager, PO Box 2500, Lincoln NE 68502, phone 402/471-3161 ext. 373.

Piracy Comes to Lake Wobegon -- Jesse Kaysen

Recent circumstances have forced us to yet again face the question of software piracy. Before I launch into my tale of woe, here's some background on why BRAILLE-EDIT and our other software is fully copyable.

First and foremost, we recognize that a single floppy disk is a very vulnerable item. We want our customers to be able to make and use a back-up of their program disk, keeping the original somewhere safe. This provides our customers with a completely accessible system that is also very easy to service. The bits and pieces of the Apple are fixable locally. Any trauma due to a damaged back-up of BRAILLE-EDIT is easily neutralized by copying your archived original.

Disks duplicated without copy-protection are more reliable. The "openness" also alows us to do minor bug-fixes and updates in a real hurry. The ability to CATALOG and LIST our software gives new computer users a chance to learn something about the structure of programs in general. And the fundamental truth is: We trust our customers. And we're right to; the vast majority of customers respect our copyright. Why put the extra hurdle of copy protection in the way of such an ethical group of people?

We've joked on occasion about printing known pirates' names in the Newsletter. We realize that might open people up to harrassment from the ethical multitude. But we do think some lessons can be learned from our recent experiences. Only the guilty will recognize themselves.

One day, the strange folks at a well-known computer firm writing and marketing flexible word processing software for blind users (we'll call them RDC) received a call on the Technical Helpline. The caller was a worker at a state agency for the blind in a large city we'll call "Megalopolis". Mr. Megapolitan had a troubling problem: he'd lent his program disk to a VH teacher in another part of the state. He wanted to give her a "taste" of the software. Our caller had received his software back, but the disk had been initialized; he wondered: Would we replace his program disk for free?

The next week, we received a call from a VH teacher in a small town--let's call it Lake Wobegon. This VH teacher had made the "trial" copy of the software (and, perhaps, initialized Mr. Megapolitan's disk.) The teacher had some technical questions; could we help her get started with the program?

When we pointed out that she had not purchased the program from us, and therefore had not obtained the right to technical support, she was surprised. We were the program's creators, she expostulated; surely we were interested in supporting our work? After all, she had spent $20 for a copy of our software manual in braille--didn't that $20 purchase entitle her to something?

Mr. Megapolitan has put Ms. Teacher in a difficult situation. How can she obtain a genuine taste for using our software if illegality constrains her from asking us technical questions? If Ms. Teacher wanted to know more about using our stuff, why didn't she call us?

It was for situations like this that four-letter words were invented! But our tale has not even come close to its end. The folks from Megalopolis and Lake Wobegon are, after all, small-timers, but software piracy is not just a small-time operation.

Let's consider the case of a well-established sensory aids firm. It is not surprising that they would find our software useful in demonstrating their brailling device. What is surprising is that they could demonstrate these devices in two places at once with only one copy of the program.

The persnickety folks at RDC queried them: How can you be in two places at once when you aren't anywhere at all? Their reply: Oh, we thought that the "backup copies" allowed for in the licensing agreement meant it was OK to freely duplicate your software for distribution and use within the company. We successfully disabused them of this notion, and they agreed to a bulk purchase at a lower price.

So, everybody's doing it. What does it matter? After all, how much money does RDC need?

First of all, let's take a look at the real costs of developing and supporting good software. We spend a lot of time on the phone, on the road, and in the air discovering how the many different computerized devices out there work. The office gets subscriptions to many publications in an effort to keep up-to-date on new developments. We ring up a small fortune in phone bills getting the latest news on the many sensory aids devices under development. There are also the fairly high capital costs of maintaining braille and audio literature.

There are several things missing at the RDC office. No cocaine habits here! No high salaries, either; the owners draw $9 an hour.

Most importantly, we pass up many opportunities to turn information into a source of income. RDC publishes an Interface Guide with a wealth of details. If we could stomach it, we could sit on all that information and instead hire ourselves out at $50 an hour to explain VersaBraille-Apple interfacing one-to-one. We could charge for technical support by the quarter-hour...the "big boys" like Lotus, IBM, and MicroSoft do.

The moral: You get what you pay for. The legitimate purchasers have supported constant updates and bug-fixes and a staff that tries hard to help.

As always, we are happy to discuss payment terms for individuals who can't afford $275 all in one chunk. As always, we are happy to discuss "package deals" for institutions or groups who want to set up many Apples with our software.

And though it is sometimes a source of humor in our hectic days, we will not be polite to people who think they can pirate our stuff and then get help for free!

But let's throw away the "guilt trip". When you don't get our software through normal channels, you miss out on many things. An order of "BRAILLE-EDIT with Audio Tapes" includes: the BRAILLE-EDIT disk; the BRAILLE-EDIT Manual in print and audio cassette; the Interface Guide in print and audio cassette; a "Quick Reference Card" for the MENUs and commands in both print and paper braille; an Echo/Cricket Training Disk; the all-important Licensing Agreement in both print and braille; a year's sub to this Newsletter; and print and audio copies of the current Newsletter.

Of course, most pirated software comes without documentation. The MENUs in BRAILLE-EDIT are fairly cryptic for a reason: to speed access when using voice. The other side of this feature, though, is that you really do need to read the Manuals to understand what's going on. This means that a pirated copy is less useful than a legitimate copy: much of the power of the software will be unaccessible.

Bona fide users also have the ability to call for technical help. Sometimes we'll just tell folks to refer to a particular section of the Manual. Other times, we spend a lot of time and effort Making Things Right. We have diagnosed some pretty tricky and strange problems in our day--and we enjoy doing it. If you find a bug in our software, we do our darndest to fix it.

To sum up: You end up getting a lot less when you pirate the software. All of our software is intended for use with ONE Apple system. Only you can encourage careful software development and support.


You've probably noticed that the Newsletter is becoming overwhelmed by staff-written articles. It's not as bad as in the early issues, because we have more staff, but I'm sure that many feel on the verge of tech-head overdose. There's a simple solution! Write an article! We welcome reviews, application notes, diatribes, gossip (clearly labelled), humor, philosophy, etc. If you send in an article on disk, we'll send back a blank disk the same day. Let your creativity flow! Thanks.