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 editing for style and clarity. All opinions expressed are those of the author.
Copyright 1986 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.
In the last Newsletter, we stressed the importance of registering your BEX ownership by returning the Customer Registration card or a braille equivalent. Right now, just over half of all BEX owners are registered.
To further emphasize the importance of returning your registration information, we recently sent a BEX program update to registered BEX owners whose programs were shipped on or before February 9th. (BEX programs shipped on February 10th or after already contain the update data.) We will continue to send these updates as registration information is received.
As mentioned last month, we're working on the BEX Index, which we will be sending free of charge, in both print and braille, to all registered BEX owners sometime in early April.
The moral of all this is: it's worth your while to register. Thank you.
Due to yet another braino on my part, I relegated one BEX tester to unwanted anonymity. We do want to publicly acknowledge the work of Dr. Mila Truan of the Tennessee School for the Blind. Based on her experience of teaching BRAILLE-EDIT to young children, her comments about what to include for the "Learner Level" were particularly helpful.
She also suggested a way to make BEX's existing large print even larger. There are "pre-boot" programs available for many dot matrix printers that send printer commands to change the size and style of output. These "pre-boot" programs are handy if you don't care to delve into the mysteries of the printer's own control codes. We did a little experimentation in-house, following her suggestions, and discovered how to get the same effect using BEX alone--see the article in this issue titled "Even Bigger Printing on the ImageWriter."
In the past few months, RDC has been experiencing disquieting variety in the quality of the audio tapes we produce. We recently obtained a second high-quality duplicator, only to discover that it was systematically sabotaging one-third of its output. That machine is now receiving moral re-education at the manufacturer's. We also obtained a source of what we understood would be higher quality blank cassettes. Reports from the field don't seem to bear this out.
In summary, you may be the unhappy recipient of documentation cassettes that sound as if the reader was whispering at the bottom of a well. Some of the tapes will play quite normally after they have been rewound once. So if yours sound awful, please try fast-forwarding then rewinding them. If they still sound awful, please contact me. I'll be delighted to send you replacements.
As announced in these pages over the last few months, RDC, Inc. is now selling "Hot Dots," two-way braille translation and global replace utility software for the IBM-PC and compatibles. We've had a number of inquiries about just how "fully compatible" a PC must be to run Hot Dots. To meet this need, and also to provide more information for the generally curious, we now have a demonstration disk available.
The demonstration disk contains all of Hot Dots' features, but has a limited life span. The disk, accompanied by your choice of print or audio tape documentation, costs $30. This sum is credited towards the full $300 purchase price if you go ahead and buy Hot Dots within 60 days. If you don't wish to purchase the program, you can return the demo disk and documentation to us (in resaleable condition) within 30 days, and we'll refund your $30.
Built in to the ImageWriter is a feature called "headline" or "expanded printing." This mode produces two dots for each dot in the original pattern. The result is text which is stretched in the horizontal direction.
The single command, control-N, turns this mode on, and control-O turns it off. There are two ways to get the appropriate command to the ImageWriter. When printing to a large print printer, you cannot include the control-N or control-O as part of the text, because all control characters (except for carriage return, form feed and back arrow) are thrown away by BEX's large print software before they reach the ImageWriter. You can use these control characters when printing to a generic printer or to a specific printer. This means that the entire print stream of large print must be in one size.
One approach is to make a BEX chapter that contains just "control-N." In your configuration, define the ImageWriter twice: for example, printer 1 is a regular printer, and printer 2 is a large print printer. When you want to double the size of the large print, first print the control-N chapter to printer 1. This is exactly what a "pre-boot" program does. Now print your text to printer 2, and the letters will be twice as wide.
The other approach uses a "set-up sequence," which BEX allows you to include in your printer descriptions when configuring at the User and Master Levels. To establish a double-size large print printer, you simply answer "Y" to the question "Do you have a setup sequence." Then enter control-N followed by the delete key.
No matter how you send the control-N command to the printer, you must change the carriage width. The control-N expands the characters by a factor of two. Since only half as many of the larger characters will fit in a line, you need to halve your carriage width. When you use the BEX chapter method, you must reduce the carriage width with the $$w# command at the start of your actual text. When you configure with a set-up sequence, then just halve the recommended value at the "carriage width" prompt.
When you're tired of double-wide printing, you have several choices. The command to resume normal printing is control-O. You can define another large print printer with control-O as a setup sequence. You can print a BEX chapter containing just control-O. The simplest way, however, is to turn off the printer briefly to reset its parameters back to the default.
[Editor's note: I've deleted the initial 2 paragraphs of this letter, which discussed administrative details. JK]
Of particular interest was Mister Mandell's violin solo. The notion that "poverty is bad and should be avoided" seems quite valid, but I've never really thought of it as the exclusive province of the blind.
If it is immoral for the Haves to "have" and the Have-nots to "have not", I wonder: will it be long before someone, in the name of civil-righteousness, proposes that, since the "sighties" can't make us see, they should have their eyes put out so that we can all be equal. Share the darkness. Tax dollars. Computing Equipment. Virgin sisters.
Right or wrong, you guys at RDC do stuff. I salute you.
PS: Has it ever seemed to you that cranking out better and better software for an aging eight-bit processor is a bit like manufacturing better and better buggy whips?
[Editor's Note: This is the complete text of a letter received this month from Dr. Jacqueline B. Shahzadi, Director for Student Training at the Braille Institute in Los Angeles. I welcome other responses. JK]
The letter from Daveed Mandell (January 1986) struck a responsive chord. He wrote, "Where are agencies and associations for the blind, and the organizations of the blind, when it comes to down-to-earth solutions for financing this [sensory aids] equipment?... What about sensory aids loans or subsidies?" For blind persons living within its Southern California service area, Braille Institute has an answer!
In 1982, Braille Institute established a Sensory Aids Learning Center at Braille Institute Sight Center in Los Angeles. Here the newest electronic aids have been brought together in one room where they can be inspected, demonstrated, compared, and evaluated by the blind. When a blind person has determined which aids would be of most benefit in his or her chosen vocation, that person can apply to Braille Institute for a financial subsidy to cover one-half of the purchase price of needed equipment costing between $2,000 and $15,000. This subsidy program has been in existence since July 1, 1983. Since that time, more than 87 individual subsidies totaling over $280,000 have been granted.
Because Braille Institute's service is limited to Southern California, we have been eager to spread the word of this program in order to encourage other agencies to establish subsidy programs in their local areas. Information on setting up and administering such an aid program may be obtained by writing Braille Institute, 741 North Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90029. Application forms, for eligible blind persons living in Southern California, may be obtained from the same address, care of Student Services Department.
Daveed Mandell has raised an important question on how communities can assume some of the responsibility of making expensive sensory aids financially accessible to the blind and visually impaired. We are pleased that Braille Institute can provide at least part of the solution.
We recently received a detailed review of the new, talking version of Sensible Speller, the powerful spell-checking program for the Apple that's distributed by Sensible Software. The authors, Rick Ehrler and Dennis Walker, state that, "Sensible Speller is a good product, and, with just a few qualifications, we'd recommend it to anyone who wants a powerful spell checker."
The first qualification is, that, as supplied by Sensible Software, the program disk does not contain the appropriate software for Echo speech. Mssrs. Ehrler and Walker provide detailed instructions on how to modify the program to make it talk, as well as suggestions for minor program changes which improve the quality of Echo speech. Their review provides background information on the structure and operation of the software which makes it easier for Echo users to get up and running with Sensible Speller. Finally, Mssrs. Ehrler and Walker also provide detailed instructions for using Sensible Speller with both BEX and WORD.TALK files.
If you are contemplating purchasing Sensible Speller, then the "Sensible Speller Review and Users Guide" will be of keen interest to you. I did not want to eliminate any of the useful information in the review, but at 15,000 characters, it was simply too long for inclusion in the Newsletter. I felt the best solution was to offer the review, in accessible formats, to any interested parties. We have available two editions: on disk, in RDC-format data files and DOS 3.3 textfiles, and in large print. We're happy to send them, at no charge, to any interested parties. Just drop us a postcard with your name, address, and preferred medium.
In an earlier RDC Newsletter article, I mentioned the fact that there seemed to be no way of sending carriage returns from the tape-based VersaBraille to the IBM PC-XT during automatic file transfer. The result of this inability is that material goes to the IBM in one long line, making it impossible to edit or print the text without the intervention of a word processing program.
I discussed the problem with a TSI representative, a well-informed IBM programmer of my acquaintance, and the IBM experts in the company that pays my salary, but all to no avail. Then, I casually mentioned the problem in a conversation with Ron Hutchinson, the guru of Computer Conversations, the developer and marketer of the Enhanced PC-Talking program. Ron came up with a solution that works.
He suggested use of a terminal program, specifically PC-Talk III, a public domain program which he had earlier sent me. This is one of those "shareware" programs which people are encouraged to copy and send to others, with the understanding (or at least the hope) that those who like it will send $35 to the developer. I don't like to speak for solutions I haven't tried, but I presume that other terminal programs will work equally well.
By adding a line-feed to the VersaBraille's carriage return and using the hardcopy overlay, I have been able to send material to the IBM succesfully. The carriage returns include both "hard" ones I have entered in the text, and those generated by the VersaBraille itself in accordance with the line length setting. I therefore thought I'd pass this solution along to others who might find it of interest and, at the same time, express my appreciation to Ron.
I should also mention here that the new HOT DOTS program developed by Lee Kamentsky is proving to be an extremely useful tool in getting the IBM and the VersaBraille to work together. This program offers a grade 2 and a back translator, a lightning fast global search and replace feature, a text formatter which uses many of BRAILLE-EDIT'S and BEX's formatting commands, and outputs tailored to a number of Braille printers and one designed to work with most inkprint printers.
While I have encountered some bugs in working with an early version of the program, I have found that as soon as I bring them to Lee's attention, he applies his special programmer's bug spray and gets rid of them.
I feel very fortunate to have encountered Lee's program and Ron's solution as aids to making the IBM and the tape-based VersaBraille more useful partners than ever. I'll be glad to discuss any of this with anyone wishing to contact me: (and this time I hope my name is spelled correctly):
74 Lincoln Street
Watertown, MA 02172
617-924-5291 (evenings and weekends)
Editor's note: If you can't locate a copy of PC-Talk III at your dealer or through a user's group, you can write directly to:
PO Box 862
Tiburon CA 94920
The Ohtsuki printer has a very unique feature: it embosses hardcopy grade 2 braille and then underlines the braille with an internally-generated back-translation in print. This Japanese device has been on the U.S. market for only a few months, but it warrants very close attention from all of us who could use hardcopy braille output.
My evaluation is based on several weeks of using the Ohtsuki with an Apple 2e and BEX. I also spoke with five other Ohtsuki owners (which represents over half of its installed base in the US). They all reported excellent reliability, convenience and usefulness of the product. All mentioned that the underlining capability is much more useful than one would have originally thought. I must agree: when I bought the Ohtsuki, I was primarily interested in a reliable brailler. It's been a pleasant surprise how handy it is to quickly create one document that my co-workers and I can both read.
This table-top unit measures 520 mm x 270 mm x 155 mm, and weighs 12 kg. (For the Americans out there, that's 20" x 10-1/2" x 6", and 26-1/2 pounds.) The Ohtsuki comes with both a parallel and a serial port. Output speeds range from 8 to 40 characters per second, depending on the mode desired. The Ohtsuki has built-in grade 1 braille translators for US and Japanese braille codes, as well as a built-in back-translator that changes US grade 2 to print English. When embossing any braille code (grade 1, grade 2, or computer braille) the Ohtsuki moves at 13 characters per second (CPS). When both brailling and printing, it runs at between 9 and 10 CPS. The combination embossing/printing head embosses grade 2 braille on the first pass across the page and then underlines with back-translated print on the return pass. (Grade 1 and computer braille can also be underlined.) In all modes, the braille quality is excellent, certainly suitable for thermoforming.
You can also use the Ohtsuki like a normal dot matrix printer, with an output speed of 40 CPS. The dot-matrix output is not letter-quality, but it's certainly legible. The letters themselves lack true ascenders and descenders, which gives the print a very "computerese" look. There are two ways to select among the various output options: set dip switches or send Escape codes.
The Ohtsuki's paper is handled by a friction feed system. You can reliably print on either single sheets or fan-fold paper, and I have never used a device with such convenient, easy-to-alter paper-feed. I can switch between paper types in a second, because there's no need to fuss with aligning sprockets in holes. The Ohtsuki has a completely unique "ink roller" rather than a ribbon or cartridge. It is about the size of a lifesaver and takes two seconds to change, no threading, no mess. Amen to not hassling with ribbons!
The first time I tried the unit it worked fine. I simply took the parallel cable from my Epson printer and hooked it to the Ohtsuki. The manual is in braille and very well-written, with clear explanations of controlling the printer through Escape sequences.
There is one item to be aware of. The ASCII characters received by the Ohtsuki must be uppercase for the built-in back translator to correctly produce the print underlining. This is not a problem when using BEX, as the Ohtsuki Brailler is already on the list of supported braillers. When you configure, you specify class B for Brailler, brailler code 11. Ohtsuki Communication Products is very responsive to customer feedback and may therefore change this uppercase requirement if a need is demonstrated.
I defined the Ohtsuki in two ways in my BEX configuration. Printer 2 defines a set-up sequence "Escape Z B" which sets the Ohtsuki to braille only. Printer 3 defines the Ohtsuki for both grade 2 braille and print, with the set-up sequence "Escape Z O."
Even though you have never heard of Ohtsuki Communications, they have been making a braille-and-print typewriter for many years in Japan. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Ohtsuki who also owns two other Japanese companies. I am confident in the support behind the combination brailler-printer and its reliability.
So, how does one get all this good stuff and for how much? The price is approximately $5,000, below the Theil and above the Cramner and Personal Brailler. (There are rumors of at least two other braillers on the way to the marketplace.) For me, $3,000 or $5,000 are both awfully tough numbers to swallow. Keep in mind, you are getting a brailler and a printer in one package. For schools and businesses with more than one blind person, there is no question of this unit's superb value. For an individual, if you can swing it, the Ohtsuki will be as invaluable an addition to your system as it is for mine. The U.S. distributor is:
Ohtsuki Communication Products
1399 Ygnacio Valley Rd., Suite 24
Walnut Creek, CA 94598
Despite the proliferation of braille printers, speech devices, and special software designed with the blind in mind, the visually handicapped still face major obstacles to utilizing the wealth of information available to the sighted on computer disks. A well-known problem is that many commercial software developers design their programs in such a way as to make them difficult to copy, which limits output to a voice synthesizer. Had that been the only problem, the blind would still have had abundant material to use since there is so much informative, educational, and recreational material in the public domain. Public domain (PD) software is free for the asking; anyone with a blank disk and a suitable computer can make copies. For a variety of reasons, however, few PD programs are suitable for use by the blind. There are at least four major barriers:
1. The quality of PD disks varies widely. Some are excellent, and others leave much to be desired. It can be very frustrating to attempt to modify a program to work with speech, finally run it, and find out that it's so full of bugs that it's not worth using.
2. PD disks are designed for the general public; their authors spend much time and energy making their programs visually appealing through the use of graphics. A lot of the material is so visually oriented that blind people can't use it: the voice synthesizer can't pronounce it and printing it to a braille printer yields unintelligible results.
3. Many programs are written in languages, such as Logo, which are less suitable for the blind. The user must interact with a graphically oriented screen, so it's hard for some and impossible for others to use such programs.
4. Finally, many PD programs use a menu structure that's very frustrating. The user must move a pointer or highlighted block through their choices with the arrow keys, then press return to activate that choice.
These problems combine to put the bulk of PD software beyond the reach of the blind. I have worked with almost 100 PD disks and I've discovered that only 30% are suitable for use by the visually impaired. The material that most lends itself to use by the blind includes programs about typing, music, Morse code, general math, social studies, language arts and some games.
Having worked with a large number of PD programs, I now have a better understanding of what's involved. I start out with brand new disks, and initialize them to test their reliability.
I have a master disk that contains five files: a HELLO file that loads speech, TEXTALKER.RAM, TEXTALKER.OBJ, INTEGER BASIC, and finally a textfile reader like READ TEXTFILE or APPLE READER. I use a whole-disk copy to place these five files on my new disks. These five files ensure that I'll be able to handle all four Apple file types: A for Applesoft, B for Binary, T for Textfiles, and I for Integer BASIC.
Once I've duplicated the voice programs, I can no longer simply copy an entire PD disk, since this would erase the five files I need for voice access. I use FID to copy various programs one at a time. You can use the equals sign wild card, and specify no prompting: FID will copy every file on the disk while you do something else.
At some point you do need to discover the exact names of the files you're working with. If I had a dollar for each time I heard the Apple say "FILE NOT FOUND," I'd be able to retire right now. I CATALOG the disk, then enter TEXTALKER's Line Review mode to discover the exact filenames, letter by letter. The Apple rebels if you misplace a space or a comma when requesting a file.
I have access to a hard copy brailler, which makes this part of the task easier. I use the Fingerprint Plus card which lets you print whatever is on the screen without affecting the program in memory. Before I got this card, I would control-RESET, then direct output to my braille printer in slot 2 with PR#2, then type CATALOG. The results are in computer braille, but believe me, at that point, any braille is welcome. Once I know what the file is called, I LOAD it into the Apple's memory, then LIST it to see what it does.
While placing the five voice-access files on every disk does make for more work, I think it's worthwhile. Having voice programs on each disk makes it easier for students to use the PD programs. Even if the children inadvertently reboot the disk, the speech is still there.
Having discovered firsthand how difficult it is to adapt existing materials for use by the blind, I now have even greater respect for the dedication and commitment of those who have been willing to tackle the task of developing programs specifically for use by the visually impaired. I am as eager to learn from others as I am interested in sharing what I've learned on my own; and I've developed quite a library of modified PD software. For more details, please inquire by mail.
Fareed Haj, Ph.D.
Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resource System--South
12333 South West 32 Terrace
Miami FL 33175
The Center for Special Education Technology is pleased to announce TECH-TAPES, a telephone-based information service for educators and parents interested in technology for handicapped children. TECH-TAPES messages are designed to anticipate the questions often asked by educators and parents about technology and special education.
The current menu has 17 topics and over 100 individual messages. Anyone with a touch-tone phone can call the Center's toll-free number: 1-800-345-TECH, and use TECH-TAPES. Callers will first hear an introductory message that explains how to use the system and can then select the message of their choice from the TECH-TAPES menu.
The TECH-TAPES system is available toll-free, seven days a week. The only exception is on weekdays between the hours of 1 and 6 P.M., Eastern time. During those hours, callers will reach the Special Education Technology Hotline and can talk directly with a Center staff member.
Virginia residents can use TECH-TAPES by calling 703-750-1276 between 1 and 6 P.M. Eastern time, Monday through Friday, as the toll-free number isn't available in Virginia.
The Center for Special Education Technolgy is funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education and operated by the Council for Exceptional Children in collaboration with JWK International Corp. and LINC Resources. To receive a TECH-TAPES menu or to learn more about the other services of the Center, call the Special Ed Technology Hotline (1-800-345-TECH) or write the Center at:
Council for Exceptional Children
1920 Association Drive
Reston VA 22091
The National Technology Center of the American Foundation for the Blind is looking for users of computer equipment and aids that are useful to blind and visually impaired persons. If you are interested in serving as a resource person and/or possible evaluator for the Center, please contact us by phone or mail.
Information will be stored in our database about the equipment you use, experience with it, training and employment. You may be contacted by other users of the Database in order to share your experiences. You will be an invaluable resource to consumers, educators, and employers.
As an evaluator, you may be requested to evaluate new and existing devices. Reports of results will be published. All personal data will be kept confidential.
The National Database will be the nation-wide source of information about commercially available products for blind and visually impaired persons--ranging from canes, braille watches to sophisticated computer systems; courses available; training centers; names of users; funding sources and previous product evaluations performed. The value of our database depends on the response we receive from the field.
National Technology Center
American Foundation for the Blind
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011
I am proud to announce the latest in our product line: Utility Talk. It's a collection of utility programs designed for blind users with Apple computers and the Echo 2, Echo Plus or Cricket speech synthesizers. The disk contains nine utility programs and nine useful EXEC files, and costs only $25.
MENU READER: Did you ever want to read all of the textfiles on a disk without searching the CATALOG for each file name? Wouldn't it be nice to select the textfiles by name from a menu without having to type each name in? This is exactly what Menu Reader can do for you. The program reads any DOS 3.3 disk catalog into memory, selects all the textfiles, and places the names of these files in a menu. You scroll through the list using the up and down arrows, and simply press return when the desired title is heard. Menu Reader even remembers the last textfile that was read. After reading a textfile and returning to the menu, the next file name is presented first. In this way, all of the textfiles on a disk can be read in sequence.
READER: Similar to Menu Reader, but you type in the name of the textfile you desire read. Both Reader and Menu Reader can read any sequential textfiles, whether or not they contain carriage returns. If the file does not contain carriage returns, the programs will insert them at any line length you specify.
TEXT MANAGER: This utility program lets you manipulate and modify textfiles. Using the load and save options, you can combine several files into one or break large files into several smaller parts. The reformat option lets you change the line length of any lines. The modify options (presented on a separate sub-menu) let you remove blank lines and spaces on up to 500 lines of text in memory, maximizing disk space.
CATALOG to TEXT: This utility reads any DOS 3.3 disk catalog into an array, and allows this information to be written to disk in a textfile.
DISK INFO: presents information about the disk in either drive. The information includes the slot, drive, and volume number of active disk, number of files, and number of sectors used and sectors available. The number of files is broken down by file type, and the number of deleted files is reported.
CATALOG FORMAT: allows you to customize the way DOS catalogs a disk. You can define any message to replace the words "DISK VOLUME." You can also modify how many digits appear for the volume and sector numbers, or even eliminate these numbers altogether.
MEMORY SCAN: cause any consecutive range of the Apple's memory to be examined in either direction. Individual characters, words, or ASCII values can be displayed. You can use this to read a binary data file that contains text data. You just choose the "words" option, specify the starting address of the BLOAD-ed file, and start reading.
DATA POKER: allows any machine language routine to be turned into DATA or POKE statements. If you select to have line numbers in the file, you can use the EXEC command to add this routine to your Applesoft programs. Without line numbers, the EXEC command can POKE the routine back into memory.
CATALOG CMMAND CHANGER: the command "CATALOG" can be changed to anything you like, up to seven characters long. This comes in handy when cataloging many disks.
EXEC FILES: There are nine EXEC files on the Utility Talk disk. The POKES used in these files have been around a long time, however, messages have been added to make them easier to use.
'Poke N' allows any number to be poked into two consecutive memory locations. This could be handy for making the ampersand or reset jump to machine language routines at other locations. 'Error' tells you the line number and nature of the last error which occurred in a program with an "ONERR GOTO" statement. 'List' allows any Applesoft program to be turned into a textfile for printing or editing. 'Memory Info' gives information about "LOMEM" and "HIMEM," along with appropriate messages. 'Binary Info' tells you the starting address and length of the last BLOAD-ed file. 'And List', 'And Catalog', and 'And Run' cause the ampersand to perform the named function. 'And Off' is used to disconnect any program from the ampersand vector.
Utility Talk costs $25, postpaid, when payment accompanies the order. Overseas orders should add $5 for airmail shipping. Agencies and schools should add $2 for invoicing, and we will expect all invoiced orders to be paid within 30 days! We can not accept invoicing for overseas orders.
All checks should be in US funds, and should be made payable to Jeff Weiss.
3015 South Tyler Street
Little Rock AR 72204
Recently, we have gotten a number of phone calls about interfacing an Apple computer to some new sensory aids devices. These interfaces are thoroughly described in the BEX Interface Guide. Here are the appropriate details for BRAILLE-EDIT users. Any Super Serial Card should be set at the "Basic Recipe:" 9600 baud, 2 stop bits, no parity, auto linefeed, and hardware handshakes. To set the Super Serial Card to the standard values, set the jumper block to "terminal". Set switch bank one to: OFF OFF OFF ON OFF ON OFF. Set switch bank two to: OFF OFF ON ON ON OFF OFF.
The Ohtsuki should be ordered with the Apple cable. This cable connects the brailler to an Apple Parallel Card. The Apple Parallel Card has to be purchased separately, but is generally available at all Apple dealers.
The MBOSS-1 can be ordered with either "parallel" or "serial" interfaces--order the serial version. The switches on the MBOSS-1 are already set by the manufacturer to match the Super Serial Card's "Basic Recipe." Use a straight male-to-male cable to connect the MBOSS-1 to the Super Serial Card. (Available from us as a 6M cable.) To connect the MBOSS-1 to the Apple 2c, use a straight male-to-male cable, available from us as a 2M.
Use a straight male-to-female cable to connect the Personal Brailler to the Super Serial Card. (Available from us as a 6F.) Use a 2F cable to connect the Personal Brailler to the Apple 2c. We have received a field report from the Prose and Cons Brailling Group. They recommend using 100 pound tag paper, as they had some tearing problems with 90-pound paper. They also had better results with the following internal switch settings:
Use a straight male-to-female cable (our code 6F) to connect the Microbrailler to the Super Serial Card. Use a straight male-to-female cable to connect the Microbrailler to the Apple 2c. You can use the ImageWriter to 2c cable, or you can order a 2F cable from us. Connect it to the DTE port on the Microbrailler. Set all the switches on the Microbrailler's DTE port to ON.
For several years now I have been transcribing literature for the Baha'i Service for the Blind. Transcribing has given me a great amount of joy, but that joy has always been overshadowed by the sadness of how slow the process is and frustration over having to re-do material because of errors. As with most people I have to hold down a full time job in order to support my brailling habit. Thus my transcribing is limited to evening hours and weekends.
When I first began to read about computer-generated braille through the use of a home computer, I began to hope that maybe there was some way out of my frustrations. After a reasonable investigation of some of the different systems available, I decided to buy BRAILLE-EDIT. I have since upgraded to the BETTE program. I have been using BETTE for a year now and have made some observations that I would like to pass along to other transcribers using this program or to those thinking about purchasing this program.
First off--PATIENCE! Patience with yourself in learning the program. There is a great deal of material to learn and it takes awhile to become really comfortable with it. Secondly remember that there is no such thing as a perfect program. No program--BETTE or any other--will do everything or won't have some drawbacks. I am still learning different things about the program and how best to achieve what I want. For the most part I can get the correct format, but sometimes I can't always get EXACTLY the right format--but I can come very close. Close enough that I don't worry if it doesn't conform to exact Library of Congress format. It conforms closely enough that the braille reader has no trouble understanding it.
Personally, I enter my work in print and then translate it. Even though I am not a very good typist, I can still do a braille volume a week in my limited time for transcribing. Naturally like all good braillists I tried brailling in the material using the keyboard as a brailler. Frankly, the braille mode is uncomfortable and using the keys on the bottom row is awkward (Stepp's ED-IT program uses the middle row and is much better). Also the electronic keyboard is so sensitive that misformed letters are common. This opinion is held by blind friends as well.
Typing in the material for translation does present its own challenges too. Don't think that you can just type away, hit the translator button and--hoorah!--instant braille. You can, but it won't be perfect braille--readable, but not perfect. Not transcriber quality. Print is not the same as braille and you must enter material with this in mind. First of all, you cannot get good quality transcriptions from BRAILLE-EDIT alone. You can with BETTE and I don't recommend anything else (except Stepp's program) for the transcriber. (I haven't had a chance to really check out the Duxbury translator yet. Others seem satisfied with it.)
On occasion we at Baha'i Service for the Blind have had non-braillists transcribe for us. We quickly discovered that if we didn't give a lot of instruction first, we got braille in print format.
Even though Baha'i literature is quite straight forward and we do it now in textbook format, it still presents some problems that need addressing--such as: footnotes, poems, italics, foreign language braille, etc. All of these are easily handled by BETTE once you know how to enter it. As a result we found it necessary to write a manual explaining braille formats and how to enter this into BETTE to have it come out right. This manual represents the results of our own trials and errors. It cannot possibly address all the problems that can occur, but it does touch on the most common. It also speaks to the BRAILLE-EDIT user on occasion to explain what you can and cannot do. We have also included a short list of words that don't translate right. We are happy to make this manual available to anyone who feels that it might be helpful. If you would like a copy of this manual (in print only--braille to come soon), it is available for $10.00 from:
Baha'i Service for the Blind
P.O. Box 463
Ludington, MI 49431
By the way, we also have a Thiel embosser and are willing to do disk output work. Please inquire as to prices.
Recently, the Houston Independent School District, my regular employer, purchased the Super Cranmer Graphics Package for my use. Immediately, I set about finding HI-RES images to print out.
After printing out the sample HI-RES pictures on the SCGP disk, I starting wondering about printing Printshop Graphics from my software collection. Unfortunately, Printshop graphics are stored as 4-sector ".PIC" binary files. How could those 700-odd images be printed with SCGP?
Part of the answer came from RDC. In addition, I found that the Beagle Bros.' Minipix Disk #1 will load Printshop graphics. From the Minipix Editor mode, you switch to Screen Mode and save up to four images as a single HI-RES image. This file is 33 sectors, which is the SCGP's magic number, so the SCGP can print the HI-RES picture on the Cranmer.
Moreover, I learned that in using two other Beagle Bros. programs, Apple Mechanic and Apple Mechanic Typefaces, I could print out any message in a variety of type fonts in a raised format. First I use the XTYPER program from Apple Mechanic, which allows me to choose a type font. I can select a font from the original program or from Apple Mechanic Typefaces. I type my message using this font, or I can switch fonts at any time. Finally, I save this message as a HI-RES screen. The SCGP can handle it from there. [Editor's note: Mr. Ellzey sent a sample message that filled two braille sheets, and showed four different type styles. JK]
The educational possibilities here are limited only by your imagination. A teacher could instruct a congenitally blind child in the appearance of print letters. Many pictures could help the child become better acquainted with parts of the environment which are otherwise inaccessible.
Since I am still learning about raised graphics myself, I would appreciate hearing from readers who might have some of the answers I don't. Good luck with your graphics!
John Adam Ellzey, II
Computer Brailling Center
430 Omar Avenue
Houston TX 77009