Raised Dot Computing Newsletter:

Volume 3, Number 34, November, 1985

Published Monthly by Raised Dot Computing, Inc., 408 South Baldwin Street, Madison WI 53703. General phone: 608-257-9595. Technical Hotline: 608-257-8833.

Subscriptions: $18/year Print, $20/year Audio Tape, $30/year Disk. (Kindly add $20/year for postage outside N. America.)

Submissions are always welcome, particularly those on Apple diskette. For details on submissions see chapter RDC NEWS.

Who's Who at Raised Dot Computing, Inc.

Copyright 1985 by Raised Dot Computing, Inc., All Rights Reserved

Table of Contents--the all-uppercase words name the BRAILLE-EDIT chapters, followed by article titles.

National Braille Press, BETTE and Press Braille by Jesse Kaysen

Last week, we received 12 boxes of the BRAILLE-EDIT User's Guide in press braille. This represented more than a backache for our UPS driver: it was a new milestone in the use of BETTE. It also represented many hours of hard work and cooperation from the staff of National Braille Press, especially from NBP's Director, William Raeder; Information Services Manager, Diane Croft; and Interface Engineer Extraordinary, Don Breda.

Our tale begins in the cold Winter of 1985. We were preparing a new BRAILLE-EDIT Reference Card in paper braille, and we were dreaming about how nice it would be to not have to bind it. Wouldn't it be grand to prepare the Reference Card in press braille? Interpoint press braille cuts the bulk of any braille edition in half, and the sturdy center stapling makes a much more manageable final volume. We knew that any of the braille presses could prepare the Reference Card working from an inkprint version. But because of the technical nature of the material in the Reference Card, we recognized that having it transcribed would create a proofreading nightmare. And frankly, we think that BRAILLE-EDIT's braille translation is good enough that we wanted to show it off in our product.

Press braille might have remained a fantasy if it weren't for a serious illness in our Thiel Embosser. While our Thiel waited for new parts to arrive from Germany, we realized that we desperately needed Reference Cards.

Caryn seized this opportunity and gave National Braille Press a call. They certainly were willing to work with us, but they didn't have an Apple--how could we get them the braille file?

NBP's standard production set-up involves a PDP-11/34 mini-computer running the Duxbury Translator. The PDP-11/34 creates an image of each braille page and transmits it to the Triformation Systems' Plate Embossing Device or "PED." We at RDC don't have access to a PDP-11/34, so we worked out a wild and crazy kludge using the VersaBraille. Caryn has one and Don Breda at NBP has one: if we prepared a completely formatted VB cassette with the text of the reference card, then Don could send the information from his VersaBraille directly to the PED.

Like every computer interface, this project seemed straightforward at first. What we learned was that nothing is ever straightforward. The PED does not support "handshaking." This means that there's no way for the PED to tell the VersaBraille: "You've sent me as much data as I can handle, so hold on until I ask for more." Caryn solved this by making sure the data for every braille page was contained in one VersaBraille chapter. Don could send one VB chapter to the PED, confident that the PED was not getting more data than it could handle in one bite. Another wrinkle involved the PED's preferences for a particular line length. A third twist was that Caryn's and Don's VersaBrailles represented control characters differently. To create the appropriate format, Caryn had to transfer data back and forth between the Apple and the VB, with a pause for global replace three times, and then finally print it to the VersaBraille.

Well, after a lot of data twiddling, we were able to prepare VB tapes, and NBP was able to use it to make the Reference Card. It was clear, however, that any document much longer than 32 braille pages required a different approach. The braille edition of the BRAILLE-EDIT User's Guide was clearly going to be a lot longer than 32 pages. On our Thiel, in fact, it ran to 345 pages.

Enter the Apple

We decided to see if perhaps NBP was interested in working with the Apple directly. To our delight, they were willing to become pioneers. We gave them a two-drive Apple 2c system with a Cricket and BETTE. David wrote some special driver programs to provide the PED with the image of the page it needed. The handshaking problem was easily handled with BETTE; Don specified the PED as a printer with "pause on form feed." That way the PED only got one braille page at a time. As an aside, this project demonstrated to us one positive side-effect of how BETTE works. BETTE shares BRAILLE-EDIT's print-thinker, which formats material one line at a time. The data on the Apple disks is one long stream; each braille page is created "on the fly" with BETTE's print-thinker. This is a very different approach than the Duxbury Translator running on NBP's PDP-11/34, which stores an image of each braille page.

The practical implications of this difference became clear when I had to repaginate the User's Guide. The first braille version was for a 40-cell by 25-line page. National Braille Press's format is 38 cells by 28 lines. I used BETTE's "preview mode" (the slot 3, type V brailler) to discover the new page breaks. I did have to re-enter all the page numbers in the table of contents, but it only took 3 hours. The only changes in the bulk of the chapters were at the start of volume II and III, where I had to change one "\\setnumber" command. And the happy result is a mound of 150 3-volume press braille editions of the User's Guide in the basement of RDC.

An Offer to BETTE Users

The User's Guide has served as a "pilot project." We now know it is possible to create braille plates with an Apple 2c and BETTE--but don't contact NBP just yet. National Braille Press is currently in the process of figuring out how to integrate this kind of service into their regular production schedule, and what prices to charge. If any BETTE user is interested in producing press braille from their Apple disks, please get in touch with us.

We've developed a style sheet for BETTE users interested in preparing press braille. We ask that BETTE users transcribe material and send the final, braille, transformed (with double-dollar commands) and finetuned disks to us for review. We'll check to make sure that the disks would indeed produce correctly-formatted material. We've volunteered to serve as the intermediary agent for National Braille Press, because they simply don't have the time or resources to provide detailed technical assistance on using BETTE, while RDC is more than happy to.

One of the major costs of producing press braille in the past has been data entry time and proofreading. BETTE's preview mode allows you to become the final proofreader, and makes the cost of press braille attractive.

A careful reader may have noticed that we have described only "BETTE users," not "BRAILLE-EDIT users," as possible members of the NBP program. There's a good reason for this. BETTE's proofreading mode lets you know exactly what will be sent to the braille embosser. Embossing braille plates is expensive, and it's important to be able to check your work before the plates are punched. Many braille devices can't produce a 38-cell by 28-line braille page for you to proofread. In addition, the process of entering BETTE commands into text is very systematic, and helps to insure that the result is as intended. For a BRAILLE-EDIT user, an upgrade to BETTE is only $100.

What's a good candidate for press braille? Catalogs, promotional materials, magazines, and manuals are all likely suspects. Ask yourself if you need more than 100 copies, or if you think you'll reprint the exact same item more than twice, or if compactness and binding are important. Press braille does require some extra time, so it's not appropriate for people needing "zap braille."

We're appreciative of the National Braille Press's effort and willingness to experiment, and excited about broadening the availability of press braille for individuals and organizations. If you are interested in producing press braille with BETTE, please stay tuned to the Newsletter for further developments.

It's a Bird! It's a Contest! It's the "Echo/Cricket Training Set"

Harvey Lauer and Leonard Mowinski have done it again! These tireless resource people have developed more Apple disks full of useful information and programs for the Echo or Cricket user. We've been proud to distribute their Echo/Cricket Training Disk with all of our BRAILLE-EDIT with Audio Manuals packages for the last year. They've updated this basic tutorial on using the Echo to work with the newest version of TEXTALKER.

They've also gathered together talking utilities, useful short programs, and some fun games. In addition, they have provided several textfiles with names, addresses, and phone numbers of other resources in the field. They sent us three Apple DOS 3.3 disks, and we've rounded this out to a two-flippy set with the addition of the dizzyingly fast disk-copying utility called Diversi-COPY.

The Big Deal

The first 75 people who send us a mailing label will receive an Echo/Cricket Training Set--four sides on two flippies--absolutely free of charge. Please, do send a mailing label. To keep our administrative costs down, we want to be able to just slap the label on and pop your disks in the mail. After that, the Echo/Cricket Training Set will sell for the modest price of $10, postpaid.

Diversi-COPY: A Super-Fast Disk Copier

Diversi-COPY is the trademark of DSR, Inc. of Rockford, IL; their software is "honorware." We thought this program was so useful, we've taken the unusual step of supplying a program we can't support. Here's the deal: you get Diversi-COPY and use it once or twice. To use it legally after the first two weeks, you send the author, Bill Basham, $30. He sends you the latest update and a User Support number.

Diversi-COPY uses every conceivable nook and cranny of the Apple's memory, so there's no room for TEXTALKER software. However, the program is very straightforward and does make beeps when it wants input, so, we added a short textfile to the disk that explains how to use the program without screen or audio output. A copy program this fast means that people will actually make back-ups of their data: a 1-drive copy on a 64K Apple 2 plus required three swaps and a total of 1 minute, 10 seconds. A 1-drive copy on a 384K Apple 2e required no swaps and 36 seconds.

For details on the contents of the other three disks, we'll let Harvey and Leonard speak for themselves:

Helping the Souls in Computer Purgatory by Harvey Lauer and Leonard Mowinski

It was four p.m. as the phone rang. The caller was the third person that day making the same anguished plea. "I just got my computer with all the peripherals installed, but it doesn't talk or print or save anything to disk. Where do I start?"

We collected together the material on these three disks as our compassionate response to an urgent need. It is also an attempt to preserve our own sanity as we, too, work our way through the silicon jungle.

Life is getting harder, not easier, for the new visually-impaired computer user for three reasons. First, there is a greater number and complexity of options to pick from. Second, although computers are becoming "friendlier" for sighted people, their complexity and screen-oriented programs make it harder for blind people using special outputs. In general, the sophistication is getting ahead of the adaptations we need. This is even true of Apple computers around which much of the effort in our behalf has been centered. The third reason is that computers are no longer the monopoly of "bright young people". More people of all ages who begin with less computer literacy need or want to use them. Even senior citizens want them for fun and for profit. Maybe they think computers are easier than mountain climbing. We often recommend parakeets and house plants instead, but our advice is seldom heeded.

Here are examples of what we have done to help users move through the purgatory of study and struggle into the heaven of understanding and utility. We evaluate computer aids and teach people how to use computers. There is no substitute for personal instruction, and some people just can't learn to use a computer by themselves. We have also encouraged several users to become helpers or consultants. However, there aren't enough computer teachers, and social agencies haven't generally accepted the fact that computers cost more to apply than to buy. More and better manuals are available in more media: print, braille, tape, and disk; but most new users need more than manuals.

We have, therefore, gathered and created the following teaching materials for use with Apple computers. We hope they will be adapted for use with other computers. Special thanks for software go to Street Electronics, Raised Dot Computing and Mark Dubnick. Mark did the BASIC programming for us. He is currently creating a talking tutorial introduction to the Apple keyboard. So also is Larry Skutchan of the American Printing House in Louisville, Kentucky.

We prepared four disks, all of which run in the Apple IIe and the Apple IIc. [Editor's note: One of the four disks is ProDOS based, so we've left it out of the Echo/Cricket Training Set.] When booted, all begin talking with either the Echo or the Cricket speech synthesizer. Each one gives the user either a simple instruction as to how to proceed or a menu. A few words have been misspelled to improve pronunciation for the novice. Teachers may want to observe their spelling to aid them in preparing materials for students.

Echo/Cricket Training Disk

This is a revised version of the material we wrote last year. Here is the Menu.


Enter one of the following:

hit any other key to leave this program.

As you can see, the spelling of some words is altered for the Echo speech. We did that with an 8,000-character global replace chapter named ECHOTRAN, used as a transformation chapter in BRAILLE-EDIT. The text of the lessons is fourteen print pages which we also have in unmodified version in print and on disk.

The material is oriented toward using BRAILLE-EDIT for two reasons. First, it adds to the mini-manual called "Lessons In BRAILLE-EDIT" on its boot disk. Second, in our opinion, BRAILLE-EDIT was then the only good talking word processor for the Apple. BRAILLE-EDIT remains our most frequently-recommended word processor, but there are now other good options, so our text needs further revision. We have worked with and written about Word-Talk, are now working with Words and TWP and will work with the new BRAILLE-EDIT Xpress before making the changes. Please pray with us for the resources and strength to do all that.

Other files on the disk include a talking textfile reader, and four textfiles: two about general computer resources, one about Apple computer resources, and one with information about the TEXTALKER 3.1 update and how it changes the Echo's performance

The Echo lessons text is controlled by a subset of the BRAILLE-EDIT program written by David Holladay. That accounts for many of the strange filenames on the disk. A BRAILLE-EDIT user could use it to create other materials for beginners. There is another, little known program disk that lets you create a one- or two-disk information package. It gives a non-user menus and sub-menus to pick from. At your option or at the user's option, the menus and output of the text can be in print on the screen or to a printer, in Grade 2 braille to a braille printer or a VersaBraille or in speech to the Echo or another speech device. I always thought it would be good for an occupational information service in a rehab agency.

Games and Programs

This disk boots talking, with instructions on how to use the textfiles that contain instructions about the games and programs. The disk contains:


This version of Integer BASIC is compatible with TEXTALKER, unlike the one on the DOS 3.3 System Master. Most of the other programs are simply fun (especially Blackjack!) but the Financial Pak is truly useful. It can calculate 18 financial formulas like total interest and amortization on a mortgage.

DOS 3.3 Utilities and Useful Programs

There are three very handy programs on this disk: Spelling Test, Phone List, and Address Book. Detailed instructions on the Spelling Test, which makes a great game for people of all ages, are supplied in a textfile.

Phone List and Address Book are both so straightforward they need no instructions. Phone List, besides being able to hold 150 names and numbers, is very carefully documented: examining a listing will give new users many insights into Applesoft BASIC programming.

In addition, there are talking utilities modified from the DOS 3.3 System Master. Here's the catalog for this disk:


What's Next?

Now that we have, with the help of friendly experts, climbed halfway up the Apple tree; we can pick fruit for the starving souls in computer purgatory. Now we are under pressure to fly off into the Big Blue yonder. Isn't there any justice in this world?

Using Input from slot in Three VersaBraille Emergencies by Caryn Navy

BRAILLE-EDIT has more than one way to move chapters from the original, tape-based VersaBraille to the Apple. Option F - Load from VersaBraille works very automatically. However, when it does not do exactly what you need, you have an alternative in BRAILLE-EDIT'S flexible option I - Input from slot.

Sending data from VB to Apple with Input from slot lets you start in the middle of a VB chapter, and it does not require an overlay. We have come across three situations where the Input from slot route from VB to Apple is especially handy: when your VersaBraille chapter is massive, when you do not have a working overlay, or when you have a bad VB page in the middle of a chapter.

One plaintive phone call came from a lawyer in Boston. He had a VersaBraille chapter of 180 pages - virtually the entire side of a tape. When he tried to transfer it to his Apple, BRAILLE-EDIT crashed with a disk full error message after about 90 pages had made it to disk. We started with the usual lively give-and-take. For example, I pointed out that "Load from Versabraille" was not designed to work with such large chapters. I suggested that he rearrange his work habits to avoid creating such large chapters. He informed me of the folly of pausing to change VB chapters while logged onto an expensive legal database. The file in question had cost him over $500 in connect charges.

After the discussion of RDC'S rampant indifference to those using on-line services, we worked out a rescue procedure with two steps. The first step saved what he had already sent to the Apple, and the second step picked up the transfer again.

The first step, using "Fix chapters," is useful whenever an option fills up a BRAILLE-EDIT data disk and crashes with a "DISK FULL" message. Use the following procedure to salvage all but one of your pages. Quit BRAILLE-EDIT and type CATALOG. The disk will contain a large number of page files, with names like DATA.A, DATA.B, and so on through the alphabet. After the first twenty-six pages, punctuation is used as the extension, in this order: left bracket, backslash, caret, grave accent. Because the disk is full, there isn't room for the BRAILLE-EDIT directory file for the chapter. Use the DOS command "DELETE" to erase the last page file. Then use option F - Fix chapters on the Second menu to create a BRAILLE-EDIT directory.

The next step was getting the rest of the VB chapter to the Apple with BRAILLE-EDIT'S option I - Input from slot on the Main menu. For option I to work, you must have a Super Serial Card or CCS card, and you must specify the slot for this card in the "Download Section" of your configuration. You do not need an overlay in the VersaBraille. Set the VersaBraille parameters for 9600 baud, 8 data bits, 2 stop bits, no parity, computer braille translator, and "dc3" handshakes. Edit the last page of the chapter just fixed to find out where in the VB chapter the data stops.

Get a blank, initialized data disk, and start up "Input from slot." When the Apple prompts: "Start device," go to the VB and locate the first page not fully on the disk. Move to the previous VB page. If you want to start on page 90, get to page 89. On the VersaBraille, do a chord-R I. The second half of the VersaBraille chapter is now on its way to the Apple. When the VersaBraille tape stops moving, press Q on the Apple.

Another caller was a student on spring break in a remote area. She was unable to send her precious work from VB tape to the Apple with Load from VersaBraille. She seemed to have a bad "From VB" overlay (having stepped off the precipice of acceptable practice by not making several copies). Fortunately, she was able to proceed by using Input from slot.

Another VB emergency is having a bad page in the middle of a VB chapter. You can use Input from slot to piece together what is left. When a VersaBraille page is only marginally bad, beeping twice to warn you of garbage data, it does not interfere with option F - Load from VB. A more seriously damaged page makes a transfer stop dead, with a "bad page" message on the braille display. Then you need Input from slot. Start up Input from slot on the Apple. Get to the chapter in question in the table of contents, and do a chord-R I. When the VersaBraille crashes, press Q on the Apple keyboard. Choose Input from slot again on the Apple, using a different chapter name. Position the VersaBraille cursor just beyond the bad page and do a chord-R I. When the VB tape stops moving, press Q on the Apple.

So, if you ever have a valuable, massive VersaBraille chapter with a bad page while you are stuck in Katamandu without an overlay, reach into your BRAILLE-EDIT bag of tricks to keep the data moving!

Two-Way Braille Translation for the IBM-PC with "Hot Dots"

We are pleased to announce that Hot Dots, a braille translation program for the IBM-PC, will soon be available from RDC, Inc.

Hot Dots is based on Raised Dot Computing's proven braille translation algorithms. The program's author is Lee Kamentsky, who until recently was the applications programmer maintaining the Kurzweil Reading Machine. Hot Dots is made up of six different programs that are tied together with a menu-oriented interface.

Hot Dots is a collection of programs that serves as the perfect complement to the IBM-PC user's existing word processing program. Hot Dots allows the user to translate print text files to grade 2 braille and to output the braille files on a variety of brailling devices. Hot Dots can also translate grade 2 braille files to print text files. These functions enable users to handle documents in either their braille or print form depending on the desire of the user or the nature of the application. Hot Dots also includes a global search and replace feature (useful for changing text and for adjusting braille translation) and a formatting feature (useful for switching between braille and print page layouts). This collection of programs offers an easy-to-use bridge between the print and braille world. No microprocessor braille translator can be perfect, since perfect brailling requires a knowledge of the language that will not fit inside a small computer. Even so, Hot Dots offers accuracy, speed and ease of use.

Hot Dots can be run on any IBM-PC, PC/XT, or 100% compatible using DOS 2.0 or higher with 128K and at least one floppy drive. Hot Dots will sell for $300, which includes program disk, the manual in three formats, (in print, on audio tape, and on disk), and reference card.

If you are interested in Hot Dots, please send us your name and address and we will send you complete ordering information.

Would You Buy Inexpensive Floppies from Us?

by Nevin Olson, Business Manager

Since RDC, Inc. has been using so many 5-1/4" floppy disks recently, we've had to seek out suppliers of quality disks at more reasonable prices. We're not willing to risk our data by using "cheap" disks, and we were tired of paying $3.00 per disk.

We went looking for a good supplier and, to our delight, found one. Our question now is this: are you interested in buying top-quality Apple-format diskettes at a "cheap diskette" price? We could supply a box of ten Verbatim or Verex single-sided, double-density disks (each in a sleeve, with write-protect tabs and labels) for less than $20 per box. If we did, would you buy them? If there's sufficient interest, we'll increase our order and add disks to our price list.

Call for Articles by Jesse Kaysen, Editor

The RDC Newsletter prints articles, announcements, letters, and think pieces from its readership. Do you have something to get off your chest? We'd love to be flooded with items from our readers.

What To Write About

We welcome articles on a variety of topics. One area is "application notes": the nitty-gritty details of how you use particular hardware, software or a combination to accomplish a task. Another is "product reviews": tell us all about hardware or software you have worked with, and why it is useful or useless. A third area is "opinion pieces." Do you think that the currently available access technology is sufficient for visually impaired people's needs? Is it priced right? Do all people have equal access to devices that can improve their employability? A fourth area is "announcements": let our readers know about new products coming to the market or workshops or conferences or whatever. Another area is "letters": either directly to us or 'open letters' to other vendors or institutions in the field. We sometimes publish articles that have appeared in other publications, but we rarely publish routine press releases.

How to Write It

Pretend you're on the phone with a friend and want to tell them about something of interest. Shorter is generally better than longer. If you are willing to answer questions from our readers, please say so and include your name, address, and telephone. If you don't want readers to contact you, please tell us clearly, but still include your name, address and telephone in case we have to contact you. The absolutely best medium for submissions is on computer diskette: at present we can handle BRAILLE-EDIT chapters, Apple DOS 3.3 or ProDOS textfiles, AppleWorks files, and MS-DOS or IBM PC-DOS textfiles. If you send us an article on diskette, we will immediately send you an equivalent diskette (even if we don't publish your article.) We can also cope with submissions in print or braille.

How We'll Edit It

All submissions are subject to copy editing for spelling, grammar, style and length. Normally we do not submit the copy-edited piece back to the author before publication, but we're happy to do this if you clearly request it. If we feel that changes in content are appropriate, we will definitely contact you before publishing. If your piece contains attacks or allegations of mispropriety on the part of an individual, institution, or company, we will contact the maligned party for a response to appear concurrently.

The Pay-Off

The RDC Newsletter is actually a money-losing proposition, so we don't have funds available to pay our writers. However, having your work published can be rewarding: you may find yourself the sudden recipient of fame or fortune, or at least some "consulting" contracts. Please consider contributing something to the community of computer technology for the visually impaired!

BEX Announcement in the Air

To minimize the sales-pitchiness of the Newsletter, and to leave room for other articles, we will be sending a separate new product announcement about BEX to everyone on our Newsletter list.

Watch your mailboxes in mid-November for all the details about BEX's features and ordering information.

No Need to Run Away from Escape Sequences by David Holladay

If you inspect your printer manual, you will probably find reference to all sorts of special capabilities. By sending the right control sequence from the computer to the printer, you can make the printer do tricks. Examples are getting foreign language characters, underlining, bold face, or changing vertical and horizontal spacing. Usually the trickiest part is trying to figure out what characters to type in. Most printer manuals seem to be written by over-eager high school students from Venus. [Editors note: this is not meant as a slur on high school students, Venus, or over-eager people].

BRAILLE-EDIT is unusual because it's very straightforward to enter control characters directly into your text--many word processing programs won't let you do this. Because of this, many printer manuals assume that you must write a special BASIC computer program to control your printer's behavior. Many of the commands are represented with tons of quote marks and semi-colons because that's how you must write them in BASIC. That's not needed in BRAILLE-EDIT, where the procedure is just like sending any text to your printer. First you type it in with the Editor, then you output it with the print option. When your printer gets the control characters, it doesn't print anything, it responds to the commands. I hope to give you some background that enables you to decode your printer manual so you'll know which commands to enter.

Strange Symbols You'll Encounter

In controlling printers, one of the most frequently used characters is the "escape key." In BRAILLE-EDIT, you simply press the key marked "Esc" in the upper left hand corner of the Apple keyboard--and you've entered the Escape character in your text. If your printer manual shows a BASIC program listing, then "Escape" shows up as "CHR$(27)". 'CHR$' is a BASIC function that yields the ASCII character associated with the decimal number following it in parenthesis. So it's not surprising that "Escape" is the 27th character in the ASCII table. One other way of expressing the "escape" character is "control-left brace," (and that is what the Echo calls an Escape character.)

Sometimes printer manuals will refer to base 16 or hexadecimal numbers. You recognize a hex number by the initial dollar sign. If a printer manual is putting you through the pain of giving hex numbers, then somewhere they should have a copy of the ASCII chart showing what the corresponding decimal number is. If it doesn't have a chart like this hurl the manual against the wall. The ASCII characters between zero and 31 are all control characters; ASCII 32 is the space character, and 33 on up are letters and punctuation.

Another potentially mystifying item is how your particular manual represents "control characters." "CTL-Q" or "^Q" or "CHR$(17)" or "decimal 17" or "$11" or "hexadecimal 11"--all these strange expressions are the same concept that we label: "control-Q." To type a control character in your text in BRAILLE-EDIT, press control-C, then the character you wish to type in: in this example, control-C Q. (If you want to, you can enter the Escape character by pressing control-C left bracket.)

There are a number of other non-standard but important things that can be confusing in deciphering printer manuals. It seems like every manual uses a different symbol to represent a space: some use a space, some an underscore character, some a crazy symbol that looks like an upside-down 'V' printed over an "O"....the list goes on. Some manuals place quote marks around the characters you're supposed to enter, but almost always, you don't actually type the quote marks themselves. Sometimes characters will be separated by semi-colons, which is how you set up a BASIC program to print two things right next to each other. What follows are a random sampling of actual commands culled from the large pile of printer manuals in my office.

I hope that this gives you the courage to explore your printer's special features.

Dipner Dots Briefs

Dipner Dots is a combination of software (in BRAILLE-EDIT) and hardware (one of many brands of daisy-wheel printers) that allows for relatively low-cost, draft-quality braille. We have two reports from the field about implementing Dipner Dots: both relate to modifying the platen (also known as "the roller").

Dean Martineau requests that we make it clear that, contrary to our instructions in the Interface Guide and the note we added to his article last month, you really don't have to be able to remove the platen. You can use a letter-quality printer as a sheet-fed braille device by following the procedure he described last month: Dean simply makes a sandwich of braille paper and rubber flannel sheeting, and rolls this sandwich right in the printer.

Diana and Douglas Brent comment on alternatives to rubber flannel sheeting:

"...one of the best things to use for a roller backing is dental dam--the rubber sheet the dentist puts in your mouth to keep you from drooling on the tooth he's working on. It's thin enough that the paper can slide past it with the pressure release, so that the added thickness of the roller doesn't make the paper bunch up when you're using a tractor feed. The only problem is that you have to find some in a long sheet; many dentists now use little pre-cut sheets that are too small to fit a roller... "

For more details about Dipner Dots, see last month's Newsletter or the Interface Guide.


VersaBraille P2C for Sale

Price - $3700. Paid-up service contract through April 30, 1986. For more details, please contact:

Media Transcription Survey

Are you interested in the development of a service that would quickly transcribe print or disk material into a braille or audio format? If you are, the Lighthouse for the Blind and Sensory Aids Foundation are eager to hear from you. Complete our Media Transcription Survey, available in print, braille, cassette, or by phone, and let us know how this service can assist you in education, employment, avocations, and household pursuits. To request a copy of our survey, please contact:

[Editor's Note: In addition to this survey, there are three other surveys addressing the needs for campers and for counselors at a computer camp and adults in a computer training program. If you or someone you know would be interested in providing crucial planning information, please contact Ms. Castner at the phone above.]

Orientation & Mobility Drills on Disk

We recently received a disk from Bruce McClanahan, a teacher with the Area Education Agency 6 in Marshalltown Iowa. The disk reinforces the concepts of orientation by the points of the compass. The disk contains TEXTALKER and boots talking, then gives the user the option of outputting a braille map to a Cranmer. The user is then presented with a menu, offering three different starting points in the area shown on the map. After choosing a starting point and being told where the points of the compass are, the user is asked several questions. A sample item is "You are standing on the northwest corner of Main and 4th Avenue. Walk north to the southwest corner of Summit & 4th. How many streets have you crossed?"

Mr. McClanahan is not a proficient programmer; he borrowed all the tricky parts from other Apple disk drills in his agency. He said that writing the narrative was quite simple: it's just a long string of PRINT statements with an occasional INPUT statement. The map was prepared by a transcriber directly on the Cranmer Brailler. When it looked just right, the data in the Cranmer's buffer was sent to BRAILLE-EDIT and saved as a BRAILLE-EDIT chapter. You don't need BRAILLE-EDIT to output the map.

He thinks that other O & M classes may find his approach useful, especially for those days when bad weather prevents instruction outdoors. He's willing to send a copy of his disk to anyone sending a blank disk with return postage. You can contact him at:

Echo Enhancer Alternative: Archer Mini Speaker-Amplifier by Dean Martineau

Those seeking some of the advantages offered by the Echo Enhancer but at a lower cost may wish to check out their local Radio Shack. The Archer Mini Speaker-Amplifier is a small box with a volume control and jacks for input and output. It runs on a nine-volt battery and requires a patch cord for attachment to the Echo: neither of these are supplied, but are also available at Radio Shack. If you're willing to do a little legwork, but no soldering, you can put together a functional little unit.

The Archer Mini Speaker-Amplifier allows the user to control the Echo's volume right at the speaker and to attach earphones or a tape recorder. The unit lacks some of the niceties possessed by the Echo Enhancer: specifically, there is only one volume control, so the setting of this knob determines the sound level for the output jack for headphones or recording. Similarly, the speaker is disconnected when the output jack is used, so the unit cannot serve as a monitor while recordings are made. Nevertheless, I am pleased with the unit, and find its $11.00 price tag especially appealing.

HELP WANTED: Two Job Openings of Interest to Readers

BRAILLE-EDIT Technical Support

As we mentioned last month, RDC needs help in the area of technical support. We have one opening for a full-time Technical Support staff position, to start here in Madison on or around January 1986. Technical support staff are responsible for answering technical inquiries on the phone and in writing from BRAILLE-EDIT users and owners of other RDC products; testing software and hardware products; troubleshooting interface problems; and preparing technical information and documentation for users. We need someone with a variety of skills, including: attention to details; problem-solving abilities; patience and excellent listening skills; concise written and verbal communication skills; demonstrated ability to learn quickly; calm under stress. Experience with BRAILLE-EDIT and other Apple software for blind computer users is very important. Experience with other computer systems, as well as ability to write newsletter articles and/or instructional materials are definite plusses.

Here at Raised Dot we can offer: variety and challenge; opportunity for learning and growth; some flexibility in working hours; health insurance; paid lunch and vacations; profit-sharing and pension plans; some help with relocation costs. $14,000-16,000 annually to start, based on experience. Long-term commitment expected. Women and minorities are strongly encouraged to apply. Madison has a relatively low cost of living, an excellent mass transit system (RDC is on three bus lines), fairly grueling winters (not much snow but very cold) and is generally well known for its high quality of life.

The deadline for applications is 5:00 pm CST, November 15, 1985. Please submit a BRAILLE-EDIT data disk with your complete work history, any questions or concerns you may have, and cover letter addressing our above-stated needs. Anyone phoning about this position will be disqualified. Address your communications to:

Rehab Director Sought

Metro Employment and Rehabilitation Services of St. Louis, Missouri has received funding for "Technology Resources for You" or "Project TRY." They're seeking a Director for this program to train visually impaired people in using computer technology. A candidate should be familiar with program administration and social services, knowledgeable of and comfortable with technology for the blind, and well versed in blindness issues. Salary is $27,000 to $30,000. For more information, contact: Annette Grove at 312-647-7453.