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. All are subject to eiting for style and clarity. All opinions expressed are those of the author.
Copyright 1985 by Raised Dot Computing, Inc., All Rights Reserved
Table of Contents: the all-uppercase words name the disk chapters; subheadings in each article are separated by two dashes.
We want to publicly thank the BEX Beta Testers, who put BEX through zillions of paces and made BEX Version 2.0 a much better product. Working under stiff deadlines, each brought a slightly different perspective to the testing task.
If anyone comes to my home in Mississippi, he might see a sign with three letters on it, GTW, which means Gone To Wisconsin. You may wonder why someone would leave the warmth of the South to move North in January. Most people go to Florida to enjoy the sunny beaches during the dead of winter.
A few weeks ago I was standing in front of a group of high school students teaching about world affairs and trying to help students figure out ways to get along with their siblings and parents. Everyone spoke the same language, Southern. Now I am here at Raised Dot Computing answering the tech line with the following phrase: Raised Dot Computing, Phyllis Herrington. In addition to giving technical support, I am contemplating establishing evening classes for Southern English. The first students will be the RDC staff.
Moving to a new place lends itself to new experiences. The biggest obstacle to adapt to is snow and ice. The only ice I saw in Mississippi was the kind which comes out of trays. The stuff is all over the place. I am actually learning how to ski, but thus far it has been in the sitting down position.
I look forward to meeting many of the RDC customers through the tech line. If a "y'all" slips into the conversation, humor this Southerner for a while.
My name is Muriel Hogan, and I'm delighted to be joining the RDC staff as a documentation editor. I've known the Dotheads ever since the company moved to Madison, and have long held secret desire to become part of the world's niftiest small software company. I arrive with two years experience as a documentation specialist at Aardvark/McGraw-Hill, a leading publisher of microcomputer software for tax attorneys and certified public accountants.
In my long career as a generalist, I've worked as a health writer, a production machinist, a lithographic stripper (not as much fun as the dance-hall variety), a library acquisitions assistant, the director of a community center, and the manager of the Underground Switchboard Medical Clinic.
My educational background includes a B.A. in journalism, a master's in library science, and a two-year stint in Paris (a city on which I have a life-long puppy love crush).
In my abundant spare time, I read almost anything (especially trashy spy-thriller novels), and do some folk singing (specializing in labor and political songs).
Starting in the late 1970's, I worked with Vietnam veterans' organizations on the Agent Orange issue. I'm especially proud of my comprehensive bibliography on the effects of dioxin on human health, and my Agent Orange song, "Paul Reutershan," which has been performed and recorded by some of my favorite musicians.
At RDC, I'll be writing and editing software manuals and anything else that comes into my clutches. Documentation writers get such a bad rap (sometimes justifiably) that I consider it my mission in life to make computers and software understandable to everyone who needs them. I'll be counting on feedback from RDC users to help me achieve this. Don't hesitate to comment, criticize, or drop us a postcard saying "Huh?" or "Whaaa....?"
In closing, I'll reveal my Worst Computer Habit: running the program before I read the dox. I promise to mend my wicked ways if all of you users do, too.
One feature of BEX has not been widely advertised: Users can only make a total of three copies of the program disk. Any further attempts to copy the program disk will be unsuccesful. The fact that we've been forced to take these measures depresses and saddens us. Unauthorized copying and piracy of our software has reached an intolerable level, and we were forced to take action against this theft.
Among the generally glowing reports about BEX, we've already begun to receive complaints from both honest users and from those who have fallen into bad copying practices. The latter say: "How dare you put a copy limit on the program! I would never have bought BEX if I knew that." Well, we dared, so be forewarned.
In the past, we distributed BRAILLE-EDIT without any copy protection with the understanding that customers would abide by the terms of our licensing agreement. Unfortunately, a certain number of our customers took this to mean they could make unlimited copies for distribution to friends, clients, teachers, and students. This is copyright violation. It's theft. It's just like walking into a computer store and stealing a program off their shelves. Quite frankly, we grew tired of trying to deal nicely with such a frustrating situation. Hence, the copy limit on BEX.
We realize that this only supports the adage about one bad apple spoiling the rest. We don't particularly care to fall in line with adages (especially about Apples), but, unfortunately, we were left with no choice.
For the many of you who always have acted and will continue to act in good faith, please try to understand our position. We know who you are and, if something untoward should happen to your BEX disk, please be assured that we'll treat you fairly. For those of you who have fallen into the bad habit of copying and handing out BRAILLE-EDIT disks, you may want to consider changing your practices before ordering BEX. We have a good idea who you are based on technical inquiries and requests. Don't expect that we will leap at the chance to replace an over-copied BEX program disk--we won't.
When I make a mistake in print, it's called a "typo;" when I make a mistake in braille, it's called a "braillo;" and when I make a mistake like I made last month, it's called a "braino."
My sincere apologies go out to Al Gayzagian, whose article I totally mis-titled. As was clear to anyone who read the first sentence, his article discussed interfacing the IBM-PC to the tape-based VersaBraille. The title referred to the "disk-based" VersaBraille. I'm truly sorry for the mistake; if you want information on interfacing the "disk-based" VersaBraille 2, please contact TSI.
It's been brought to my attention that some people are hesitant to submit articles, letters, or other gems to the RDC Newsletter because they don't own our software. I hope that this is not the case--we welcome submissions from everyone.
We also welcome comments, criticisms, and suggestions on how we can make our products better. Right now, we're particularly interested in hearing about what would improve NUMBERS, the Electronic Blackboard, and the Super Cranmer Graphics Package. Please communicate with us in writing (disk, braille, or inkprint) rather than by telephone so that we can devote our fullest attention to your ideas.
Olga Espinola writes to say that significant changes to this software have solved some of the problems mentioned in Al Gayzagian's article last month. The software now sends out raw ASCII code to the VersaBraille for all characters, including punctuation. It was true that punctuation and control characters were spelled out if the user attempted to transfer a file directly from a program and not from DOS, but this has now been rectified.
Two further revolutionary enhancements that have been made quite recently are recognition of characters that are highlighted, reverse video, blinking or underlined. Also, the program will now recognize up to sixteen colors on the screen. These features are available in real-time interaction, as well as frozen mode. Many commercially available programs, including standards such as MultiMate Advantage, Lotus 1-2-3, and others make heavy use of highlighting and color contrasting for emphasis in searches, replaces and spell checking. These improvements make it even easier for a blind user to adapt to the ever-increasing number of commercial programs for the IBM-PC and compatibles.
You can contact Ron Hutchinson, the program's author at: Computer Conversations -- 614-263-4324.
RDC, Inc. is now selling MicroSci extended 80-column cards for use on the Apple 2e with BEX. This peripheral card allows you to use all of BEX's features by supplying an additional 64K of memory and 80-column screen display, (and some additional BASIC features.) The MicroSci card is available for $125.
The extended 80-column card is designed for use in the Apple 2e only, and must be installed in the Auxiliary slot. The Auxiliary slot (not available on the Apple 2 and 2 plus) effectively replaces the expansion functions of slot 3 on the earlier models. But remember that the Apple 2e is based on the architecture of the 2 and 2 plus, so when you have an extended 80-column card in the 2e Auxiliary slot, you cannot install any card in slot 3.
BEX Version 2.0 can only take advantage of the 128K memory in the Apple 2c or in the Apple 2e with an extended 80-column card installed. We are currently exploring other memory cards. Please don't call us about Ramworks or the Apple 1-Meg Expansion card or whatever--we will tell all in the Newsletter when we know it.
Many memory expansion cards are currently available for the Apple 2 plus, which can add from 64K to 1 Megabyte of memory. Unfortunately, their design prevents BEX from accessing the additional memory. These cards are designed to plug into slot 3 on the Apple 2 plus. There are also different, 80-column cards available for the Apple 2 plus, which also plug in to slot 3. The problem is that you can't plug two cards into the same slot, and you can't get all the "extended 80-column" type memory-features on one card. Currently BEX needs both these features, which is why you can't use the Master Level of BEX on an Apple 2 plus.
Individuals as well as groups can find many uses for continuous form, or tractor feed, mailing labels. With BRAILLE-EDIT or BEX, you can use these labels very efficiently. You can print many different items, for example the addresses of all your Valentines. Or you can print many copies in succession of the same item, for example your return address. Below are some instructions for dealing with the tricky issue of spacing between labels.
The height of each label is precisely some number of carriage returns (<CR>s) on an inkprint printer. Vertical line spacing in braille is different from vertical spacing in inkprint, so these instructions work only for an inkprint printer. Some standard sizes for tractor feed labels are six lines each for mailing labels and eleven lines each for cassette labels. Before you start printing, position your printer so that it is in the right place to start the first label. The goal is to start subsequent labels in the same spot.
The crucial task is making your printer advance from the last line of one item to the correct starting spot on the next label. BRAILLE-EDIT or BEX advances to a new page in three situations: 1) when it has filled up the form length you specified; 2) in response to a form feed indicator ($f) you place in your text; and 3) between copies in Multi-copy print. Most of the time, BRAILLE-EDIT or BEX tells your printer to advance to a new page by sending out a form feed character (Control-L).
The printer itself determines how to respond to the Control-L; almost every inkprint printer defaults to a "page length" of 11 inches or 66 single-spaced lines. When you send control-L to the printer, it uses its internal value for page length to determine how far to advance. When printing on mailing labels, it's likely that sending a control-L makes the printer skip over some labels. While it is possible to change the printer's page length by sending escape codes, I'll leave that technique for some future Newsletter article.
I have two approaches for printing labels smoothly; both prevent your printer from ever getting a Control-L. In the first, more manual approach, you prevent the print-thinker from ever attempting to advance to a new page. In the second, more automatic approach, you make the print-thinker spoonfeed the printer when it advances to a new page. The second approach is our in-house favorite. After describing both approaches, I'll discuss how to use them for multiple copies.
Specify a form length of 0. When you do this, the print-thinker does not keep track of lines for changing pages. Vertical positioning is now entirely up to you. The number of <CR>s you enter for each item must be exactly the number of lines per label. For labels with six lines each, you must enter six <CR>s in every item. For example, you want to print your return address to affix to envelopes, postcards, and what-not. Enter: Your Name <CR> Street Address <CR> City, State and ZIP <CR> <CR> <CR> <CR>, for a total of six <CR>s.
(This method will not work on a BRAILLE-EDIT earlier than Version 2.50). Set up a new printer description in your configuration. Give the slot number of your inkprint printer, but say that it is a Cranmer brailler. Give an appropriate carriage width for the labels in use. For the form length, give the maximum number of lines per label. When you describe a printer as a Cranmer, the print-thinker never sends out control-L form feeds. Instead, it counts out the number of lines in the form length that are left on the current page, and spoon-feeds the psuedo-Cranmer the exact number of <CR>s required to get to the end of the page.
Preparing your text with this approach is simpler: place a form feed ($f) indicator between each item. Using the same example, you enter: Your Name <CR> Street Address <CR> City, State and ZIP $f Your Name <CR> Street Address <CR> City, State and ZIP $f etc....
This method is also very nice when you're writing short paragraphs on tractor-feed post cards or index cards.
In the manual, zero form length method, set up Multi-copy print for the number of copies you want. Make sure that each item in your text has the right number of <CR>s. In this case the form length of 0 prevents the action of Multi-copy print from sending out form feeds between cycles, and the <CR>s in your text keep things working smoothly.
In the automatic spoon-feed approach, do not place a ($f) at the end of your text. Multi-copy print automatically advances to a new page between each cycle, so a ($f) would make a blank label between cycles.
Speeding Things Up: When you are printing multiple copies of just one item, use the Page menu (or the Clipboard in BEX) to duplicate the text of your label or card. This speeds up printing by keeping down on disk access. For the manual approach, use the proper number of <CR>s for each copy. With the spoon-feed method, enter a ($f) between items but not after the last one.
Remember that there are three ways of setting form length. You always specify form length in a configuration printer description. If you want to use the spoon-feed method, you must make a new configuration. You can also specify form length with printer N - New parameters. You cannot ask for Cranmer brailler treatment when specifying New parameters, since the New printer always defaults to inkprint. Finally, a $$f# command in your document (or a separate set-up Chapter) establishes a form length that supercedes the form length in your configuration. Once you have established a "Cranmer" in your configuration, you can vary both the form length and the carriage width with $$w# and $$f# commands in your Chapter.
Alas, it is sad but true. The price of the Cranmer Modified Perkins Brailler will be going up $200 on March 1. Thereafter, the Cranmer will sell for $2550. Correspondingly, the price of our TAPS package rises to $3150, and BEX TAPS to $3250.
We regret having to announce this increase so soon after the price reduction last summer. Our supplier, Maryland Computer Services, Inc. was optimistic about lowering their price, and hoped that sales would go up. They encountered two serious blows to that plan this past fall. First, their parts supplier reorganized and raised the price of parts in an effort to be more profitable. The second setback is much more insidious and pervasive in our field.
There is a common practice used as vendors compete for the sensory aids dollar: to heavily publicize a product under development six months to a year before it will be available. These "vaporware" announcements are all too frequent in the computer market in general. The attempt is to announce a product whose price and/or features appear attractive to the consumer who is about to purchase a competitor's product hoping that they will put off their purchase until the new product arrives. That gives the vendor with the new product a shot at competing before they have anything to compete with.
The sad fact is that few of these announcements ever are based in reality. Many of these products don't live up to the hype and much more frequently, they don't get there on schedule. But it seems to be a common practice to take undeliverable orders anyway, just to hold the customer's interest. In the ever-changing computer environment, God forbid we should buy last year's technology when the new age is just around the corner.
Another symptom of this syndrome is the lack of good, workable applications of the product at the time of introduction. Rushing a product to market often cuts short good development. Every day is treated as a lost sales opportunity. But there is just no excuse for new products that don't work with the existing and accepted technology already on the market.
All opinions aside, we now have Cranmer braillers in stock, ready to be shipped, at $2350, while the supply lasts. You can also buy TAPS at $2950 and BEX TAPS at $3050 while supplies last.
[Author's Note: My thanks to Speech Enterprises, which supplied both programs for my review. AG]
Peter Scialli's The Ultimate Banker and Howard Traxler's Checkbook have a few things in common and many differences. Both are checkbook-managing programs designed for blind users, to work on the Apple 2e and the Echo 2 or Plus. The Ultimate Banker comes in both DOS 3.3 and ProDOS versions; while Checkbook is only available in DOS 3.3. Both enable you to keep your checking account or other banking records, determine your current balance, and search your records by date, check number, payee, transaction code, etc. They both also make provisions for having your computer and printer write your checks, but they go about this task in such different ways that I place it more in the "difference" than in the "similarity" category.
The Ultimate Banker uses one disk for both the program and data storage, while Checkbook uses separate disks for each. One result of this difference is that The Ultimate Banker can accommodate only one account on the disk (although I understand Mr. Scialli plans to change this). On the other hand, Checkbook's data disk can hold up to nine accounts with the understanding, of course, that more accounts means less space for each.
A more important difference is how the two programs handle prompts and menus. If you are the kind of person who wants to have menus read each time you encounter them, and want to have all your entries read back to you so that you can confirm them, you will be happy with The Ultimate Banker. If you're not, you'll find yourself constantly making use of the control-X to shut your Echo up. I personally find it unnecessary to be asked if I know what I'm doing each time I sign on or to be reminded each time of how to enter a date, but others may not share this view.
Checkbook deals with the matter of menus and prompts quite differently. It assumes that you are familiar with the menu choices and simply asks you to make one. It also provides the means of having the menu read to you if you wish, as you most certainly will at first. In addition, it doesn't ask you to confirm each entry by repeating it to you and requesting a Y/N response. There are probably some who will find this approach a little too cavalier, but once you become familiar with the program, you'll find that it greatly speeds up the process of maintaining your account(s).
Each program offers some services over and above recording and letting you search transactions and computing your balance. If you want it to, The Ultimate Banker will adjust your balance on a running basis for the cost of your checks, interest earned on your account, penalties for overdrawn checks, etc. The advantage of letting the program make these adjustments is that it keeps you constantly in touch with your cash flow, or at least very close to in touch. The problem with using these features is that because the program employs different dates from those used by the bank as the bases for these calculations, you will have to make small adjustments to your balance each time you reconcile your account. If you choose not to use these features, you can override them by not giving the program information on the cost of checks, penalty charges, etc. You can then enter these charges as you get them on your monthly or quarterly statement.
Checkbook offers a different set of extra services. It provides a built-in facility for making corrections, including the ability to edit previous entries. It provides facilities for setting up macros, thus enabling you to enter only three keystrokes to designate commmonly used payees and transaction codes and to address the envelopes to be used in mailing your checks. I especially appreciate the reconciliation routine, which facilitates the process of reconciling your account with your bank statement and listing unreconciled items.
A few additional services offered by Checkbook, not necessarily linked to banking functions, are:
Typing directly to your printer, using your computer like a typewriter
Copying disks (no big deal, of course)
Listing transactions by combinations of time (month, year) and transaction type
With respect to this last-mentioned service, I should point out that The Ultimate Banker also provides useful search functions, now that Mr. Schialli has made some improvements to his initial release, something he seems more than willing to do, as needed improvements are suggested.
As noted earlier, both programs make provisions for you to use your computer and printer to print your checks, but they go about the task quite differently. The Ultimate Banker's check writing program isn't incorporated into the main program. This means that printing a check is a lot of work: you must exit the main program and enter all the check information manually.
Checkbook, on the other hand, incorporates the check printing module into the main program, so that if you answer yes to the question about wanting to print the check, the program uses the information you have already entered to do it.
A word here about using your computer and printer to produce your checks: You will probably find it necessary to experiment with this process using either program, as line and other spacing differ so much from check to check. Mr. Traxler provides some assistance with this procedure both in his documentation and as part of a utility program, and he does offer assistance to those who request it, but you'll find yourself, unless you're particularly clever or lucky, wasting a fair number of checks before getting things right, regardless of which of these two programs you use.
You can read Mr. Scialli's instructions or documentation in a few minutes. It is clear and concise and doesn't have to get particularly complicated, partly because he offers fewer supplementary services, and partly because his program does lots of hand-holding.
Mr. Traxler's documentation is much longer and seems at first to be rather complicated, but in many respects it is exemplary, especially because it is generously laced with live examples of how to do things. There are, however, several areas where it falls short. He doesn't provide adequate explanations of his "temporary check" and his "memo" options, nor does he provide as much help as he could with the check printing process. While he kindly offers his help with this process, he could provide considerable assistance by including some examples of how specific lines can be changed to accomplish specific adjustments. With both programs, you should have no trouble using the documentation to be up and running almost immediately.
I found it very useful with both programs to exit to BASIC and create a small program called "bills" containing a series of print statements listing my outstanding bills, including such information as date received, date due, amount, payee, etc. This technique enabled me to list my outstanding bills at any time as well as to update the list by eliminating those I had paid and adding those newly received. I would suggest that both Mr. Scialli and Mr. Traxler consider building into their programs routines to facilitate this kind of record keeping and access.
An additional suggestion for Mr. Traxler is that he allow more than 24 spaces for his description field which will generally be used to enter check payees. A number of organizations to whom checks must be made out come with names which exceed 24 characters.
It should be clear by now that Checkbook offers more features than The Ultimate Banker, but as is usually the case in such matters, lunch isn't free. Checkbook costs $50 while The Ultimate Banker costs $40. Both programs are bargains, though. They both make it easy for blind persons using their talking Apples to keep good banking records and perform a variety of related functions.
Mr. Scialli and Mr. Traxler have both put a lot of thought into their programs and will, no doubt, be improving them over time. Which of their programs you'll prefer will depend on how you feel about the differences identified here, but you won't go wrong either way.
The Ultimate Banker
Mr Peter Scialli
17 Zabriskie Street
Hackensack NJ 07601
Howard K. Traxler
6504 West Girard Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53210
414-445-5925 PMs (or talk to my machine in the daytime)
Many people have found that it's convenient to use a word processor to edit BASIC programs. The techniques I'll describe hold true for almost any word processor, although I'll mention some features that are peculiar to BRAILLE-EDIT and BEX.
First of all, you must be able to get your BASIC program into an RDC-format data file (a BEX or BRAILLE-EDIT Chapter) and vice versa. The trade language you use is the DOS 3.3 textfile. We'll show you a one-line program you can add to any BASIC program to make it create a textfile of itself. Then you use options W and R on the Second menu (of BEX or BRAILLE-EDIT) to move data between textfiles and Chapters.
When writing a BASIC program, you can place several BASIC statements on one line if you separate the instructions with colons. For example, this three-line program:
functions identically when written on just one line, like this:
100 FOR I = 1 TO 10 : PRINT "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" : NEXT I
A BASIC program line can contain up to 256 characters. Most people number their programs starting with a round number like "10" or "100," but you actually can number the first line as "line zero." To make a textfile out of a program, you add one line, as line zero, containing several statements separated by colons. First, load your program into memory. Then, at the BASIC prompt, type the following exactly:
After you type in this line, press <CR>, then type RUN at the BASIC prompt. The disk drive whirs as the entire program is listed into the textfile named MY PROGRAM. This textfile is written on DOS's current drive; if you want the textfile on drive 2, then CATALOG drive 2 before running the program.
Both BRAILLE-EDIT and BEX have the Second menu option R -- Read textfile to Chapter. To make the text easier to edit, use Global Replace to change the hard <CR>s into ($p) paragraph symbols. With BEX, you'll be able to use the move-by-paragraphs commands to find your way around in the program.
Once you're done editing the program, you use the Second menu option W -- Write Chapter to textfile. BEX has a few features that make this process easier; I'll describe the BEX procedure first, then the BRAILLE-EDIT procedure.
With the BEX procedure, place the following format commands at the start of your BEX Chapter:
Now all hard <CR>s, new line ($l) indicators and new paragraph ($p) indicators are executed the same way. The $$su command makes BEX print all the text of the program as uppercase, but the ($p) commands remain in lowercase, so they still work.
The BRAILLE-EDIT procedure is a little clumsier. You need to ensure that <CR>s appear only at the end of program lines, and you also need to ensure that all your text is uppercase. One approach is to type everything very carefully. The other approach is to use Global replace. First, change every ($l) and ($p) indicator to a <CR>. Then, use the transformation Chapter named LCUC on your program disk, which changes all lowercase letters to uppercase. Finally, edit this Chapter, and insert these format commands at the start:
From this point on, the procedure is the same for both BRAILLE-EDIT and BEX Chapters. Write the Chapter to a textfile using option W on the Second menu. For the sake of example, let's name this textfile REVISED PROGRAM. When you want to regenerate the program, proceed to the BASIC prompt, and type the following:
The EXEC instruction tells the Apple to find the named textfile, read it a character at a time, and interpret each character as if it were being typed in from the keyboard. If your Echo is on, you will hear only the BASIC prompts for each line.
While most programmers don't like to think about errors and mistakes, they are a fact of life. If there is an error in a line, AppleSoft will respond with an error message. Try to keep notes on any lines that need repair. When you're done, remember to save the program to disk!
If you are doing a lot of programming, you probably will get tired of repeatedly typing in the information in line zero. You can save this one line program as a textfile, then EXEC this textfile whenever you want to list a BASIC program.
Any one who has purchased any software from Raised Dot Computing Inc. in the past year has probably encountered the famous blue "Customer Registration Card" (or the discussion of it on the "Read Me First" cassette). So you are probably already familiar with the dire warning thereon: You must return the Card (or a braille or typed equivalent) to receive any technical support from RDC.
One side-effect of RDC's phenomenal growth is that the Technical Support staff can't recognize that you're a legitimate customer simply by your name. If you haven't returned your Customer Registration Card or equivalent, the Technical Support staff won't talk with you.
We admit that this may cause occasional inconveniences for you, and daily ones for us. However, our tech support staff's time is lamentably finite, and they would rather use it helping legitimate users than those with unauthorized copies of our programs. Part of the cost of our product is technical support, and we want to save our time for you --- you've paid for it.
While registering your ownership is important for all RDC customers, it's especially crucial for BEX owners (of all three types). This is because all BEX bug-fixes and improvements are going to be announced in separate notices, mailed only to registered customers. Having registered is the sole criterion for any further BEX-related material or technical support. As an example, we're currently working on the Index to the BEX Dox. This will be mailed free of charge to all registered BEX owners. If you do not return your Customer Registration Card or equivalent, you won't get the Index.
We recognize that this hardening attitude represents a change from RDC's previously mellow approach. We do feel that requiring customer registration means that we can treat all our customers fairly and equally.
We recently received a phone call from the Post Office on the West Coast: our package to Kenya was being held for insufficient postage. Our response was: "Huh???"
Placing our detective caps firmly on our heads, we figured out what happened. Someone re-used RDC packing materials without removing our mailing label with our return address.
Three days later we got a braille letter with 56 cents postage due. The sender had written "Free Matter" in the upper left hand corner, but the Post Office only paid attention to the "First Class" stamped in red on the front of the envelope.
We certainly don't mind you re-using our packing materials, but we do want you to be aware of the possible consequences. When we send something "First Class," we stamp "First Class" all over it in red ink. Our mailing labels say "Raised Dot Computing" in bright blue ink. Please make sure that this information is obliterated if you use a padded envelope or disk mailer again. This will save you the distress of lost mail or the embarrasment of sending items with postage due.
When I decided to accept the generous offer of employment from Honeywell Information Systems to become their encoder of computer assisted instructional disks, I had some misgivings over just how I was going to access their computers. They were undaunted by my tales of interfacing nightmares, cabling, software, etc. "We'll work it out," they said, "never fear."
Quaking in my shoes I walked in with my trusty VersaBraille, Echo PC, the Duxbury Grade Two Translator for the IBM PC and the Enhanced PC Talking Program. After a few false starts with a terminal emulator that was supposed to work, but didn't, we decided to try the Honeywell terminal emulator for the IBM PC, the PC-7300 Asynchronous Communications Emulator. It worked immediately. This means that I now have total access to the Honeywell DPS- Level 6 Minicomputer and the Honeywell 610 minicomputer. I run both of these off of the second serial port (COM 2) on my Columbia (IBM-PC clone) and run the speech synthesizer and VersaBraille from COM 1. I can switch at any time between VersaBraille and speech. The Phoenix computer is accessible to me on the VersaBraille or the PC via a modem. We're now looking into the possibilities of a braille printer. I need hardcopy of the programs I write.
In short, here is yet another group of computers that are now accessible to us. Anyone wishing further information or details about any of the products described here may contact me in braille, VersaBraille cassette or audio cassette only please, at the following address. Please do not telephone as I prefer not to be disturbed at work.
Miss Olga Espinola
c/o Honeywell Information Systems
65 Walnut St.
Wellesley, MA 02181
MA-5 Mail Station 016
VersaNews, a quarterly magazine for VersaBraille users, is beginning its fourth year of publication. It provides a forum for users around the world to exchange tips, VersaBraille applications, and information on braille and braille technology as well as the latest developments in the field of paperless braille. Topics have included bookkeeping with the VersaBraille, and interfacing it with computers and other devices. A "Letters" section encourages subscribers to write about the ways they use their machines and to ask questions.
Annual subscriptions in ink-print and VersaBraille (not audio) cassette format cost $20 ($25 for readers outside the US and Canada).
Checks should be made payable to VersaNews, and sent to:
David Goldstein, Editor
87 Sanford Lane
Stamford CT 06905
I've been distributing computer manuals in accessible media for a number of years, and I'm pleased to announce the latest addition to the catalogue. The "ProDOS User's Guide" and "Supplement" are now available on VersaBraille cassette, in hardcopy braille or Apple disk. Contact me for further details on what's available.
Anyone who has received an incomplete VersaBraille cassette of the IBM DOS Manual and who would like the complete version, you are welcome to return that cassette so that it may be updated at no charge. However, due to the length of the appendices, a second VersaBraille cassette has been added. A charge of $3 will be needed to receive this cassette. Please make payment with your order. Thank you.
Miss Olga Espinola
763 Grafton St., Apt. 2
Worcester, MA 01604
A new Special Interest Group (SIG) called The Disabilities Forum has just been added to CompuServe Information Service, the country's largest on-line information service for people with personal computers. The Disabilities Forum is a place where anyone interested in disabilities can meet to exchange information.
Disabled people can share information, ideas, and experiences related to daily living and to their attempts to integrate into society. Parents and families of disabled people can share information about parenting and family life. Professionals, employers, and others who work with disabled people can talk about their experiences and learn about the efforts of others around the country.
The Disabilities Forum addresses issues related to all handicapping conditions. Users may exchange information through public messages, on-line conferences, and the use of data libraries that contain articles, computer programs, and lists of organizations and publications. You can forward information for the Disabilities Forum to:
P.O. Box 3557
Berkeley, CA 94703
The American Foundation for the Blind is looking for a qualified Resource Specialist to work in the newly established National Technology Center. This person will work in establishing a database of technical information; assist in developing evaluations of devices for the blind and visually impaired, and report its findings. Strong organizational skills required, ability to interact with technical personnel a must. Familiarization with personal computers and technical writing required. Knowledge of the rehabilitation field a plus. Bachelor's degree a plus. Two to five years experience, salary commensurate with experience. Contact:
American Foundation for the Blind
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011
January marked the opening of the American Foundation for the Blind's National Technology Center, established to help blind and visually impaired people participate fully in the computer age. The Center will focus on high technology research and development, evaluation, and database services to enable blind people to work with and have access to the same information as their sighted peers on the job, at school, and at leisure.
Elliot Schreier, director of the National Technology Center, said that the facility would serve as a resource center for blind and visually impaired people as well as professionals in the blindness field, employers, researchers, and companies developing and manufacturing special aids and devices.
The National Technology Center is located at AFB's New York headquarters. For more information, contact
Elliot Schreier, Director
National Technology Center
American Foundation for the Blind
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011
We've received a copy of ConnSENSE, the lively newsletter published by the Special Education Resource Center at the University of Connecticut. ConnSENSE stands for Connecticut's Special Education Network for Software Evaluation.
The newsletter includes over a dozen software reviews of educational and game programs, with special attention given to their suitability to special education and adaptabilty to disabled users. There are also announcements, a calendar, and a bibliography of current books and articles.
Best of all, you can join the Special Education Network for Software Evaluation and subscribe to the ConnSENSE Bulletin free. For more information and a membership application, write to:
UConn, U-64, Room 227
Storrs, CT 06268
Did you ever see an old TV science fiction show where a computer was typing by itself? Well, that day is now at hand. Picture yourself sitting at your computer with the phone ringing off the hook, people demanding letters be printed out by noontime and the boss with a deadline that went by yesterday. You have to type 60 letters. They're all basically the same, but you have to change the dates on some, the names on others. The computer is such a time-saver. A word processor can help you so much.
But there's an even faster way. Suppose you have the same file on which you have to make minor changes. You might use a global replace feature. But the problem is you need to make these changes for just a few of the copies. For others the changes will be different. Will you have to keep doing global replace every time? No. You could write a macro to type the file for you to the point where the first change will occur, then you can fill in the change, then have the macro continue typing by itself.
A program called Newkey for computers that use MS-DOS makes this very easy. Newkey is a key redefinition program. A prime example of its endless applications is the scenario depicted above. You can define a key, say Ctrl-A, to be a return address. You can set it up to stop and wait for you to fill in a date, let's say, then continue writing the rest of the file. You could have it extract information from one file into another and then save the new file. You might have it set formatting parameters for you with just one keystroke.
The beauty of this is that Newkey will "talk" as it's typing. You just press one key and off it goes, telling you just what it's doing as it's doing it. It is transparent to most commercial software: MultiMate, Lotus, Wordstar. It was not written for the visually impaired and will not "talk" unless a speech program, such as the Enhanced PC Talking Program, is resident in memory. It can be toggled on and off at your convenience.
Key definition files can be set up to work with different software. You could have one file that works with Wordstar, another with BASIC, etc. It is a freeware disk; that is, the author encourages people to copy the program and pass it out to prospective users and computer clubs. If a person finds the program useful, he's asked to make a contribution of $19.95 to the author to become a registered user and be eligible for complete documentation and updates.
The program had been updated to do direct screen I/O. This knocks out the speech synthesizer. I found Mr. Bell to be very pleasant about modifying the program for those of us that are visually impaired. Upon request, he will include the modified version on the disk. He has also given me permission to distribute his complete documentation in hardcopy braille to registered blind users. The cost is $9.
Newkey can be a wonderful tool. Just let your creativity take over. Its flexibility is superb. The address for more information on Newkey is:
Mr. Frank A. Bell
P.O. Box 336
Wayland, MA 01778
BEX, BRAILLE-EDIT-XPRESS, BRAILLE-EDIT, BETTE, and NUMBERS are all trademarks of Raised Dot Computing, Inc. Apple Computer, Apple 2c, Apple 2e, Apple 2 plus, Apple ImageWriter, Apple LaserWriter, Apple Super Serial Card, and ProDOS are trademarks and/or copyrights of Apple Computer Inc.; Cricket, Echo 2, Echo Plus, Echo GP, and TEXTALKER are trademarks and/or copyrights of Street Electronics Corp.; Cranmer Brailler is a trademark of Maryland Computer Services, Inc.; Enhanced PC Talking Program is a trademark of COmputer Conversations, Inc.; Ramworks is a trademarks of Applied Engineering, Inc.; VersaBraille & VersaBraille 2 are trademarks of Telesensory Systems, Inc.; IBM and IBM-PC are trademarks of International Business Machines, Inc.