Raised Dot Computing Newsletter: Exploring Microcomputer Applications for the Visually Impaired April 1986 -- Volume 4, Number 39

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.

Sensory Overload, Inc. Presents: Items From Our Catalog

April 1, 1986--Madison WI: Following up on the tremendous sales generated from last year's announcements, we're certain that there's yet more unmet demand for the finest in sensory aids equipment. Sensory Overload, Inc. is dedicated to providing visually impaired people and their rehab counselors with something to do; in fact, their slogan is: "Right or wrong, we do stuff!"

Attention guide dog owners--are you fed up with hearing "Gee, I thought they only used German Shepherds!" from sighted people on the bus and on the street? Owners of Labs, Goldens, Boxers, Dalmatians, and all other equally useful guide hounds, weary of snappy comebacks--Sensory Overload has listened, again. The soft, flexible Rudolph-Shepherd Act is easily slipped over your dog's head and torso. The Rudolph-Shepherd Act instantly provides the Aryan look so many sighted people have come to expect. On rainy days, you will also appreciate its weatherproof all-latex construction. Manufactured by the same folks who have outfitted Santa's reindeer for 50 years.

How often have you waited endlessly when dining in restaurants? Have you had to rely on sighted others to grab the attention of serving personnel? Fume no more! Our low-cost device, the CAP-U-SERVE beanie, comes equipped with a blaze orange flag. Activated by an easily concealed trigger mechanism, CAP-U-SERVE guarantees to make you the center of attention.

Based on a proven design, SOI is now shipping a revolutionary new reading and writing system for the blind. The Slate'n'Stylus II applies the concentrated power of compressed air to one of 64 stainless steel dies, making excellent quality braille dots. The dies weigh a mere 18 ounces each; the portable air compressor (supplied with an attractive carrying case [simulated leatherette-like carrying handle available at modest extra charge] and recharger) is a feather-light 28 pounds.

For traditionalists who need to emboss Dymo tape, Sensory Overload also carries the original, Slate'n'Stylus Classic. Using the high quality teak and silver stylus, every braille cell can be quickly and accurately embossed through the intervention of smart fingers. Service contracts are also available.

Are you fed up with washing and scrubbing without any guidance or feedback? We now have a handy aid which attaches to mop, sponge, and squeegee. Speak and Span directs you to the closest stain, and announces when you have successfully removed it.

Many manufacturers have insulted the sensibilities of computer users with talk of their so-called "flat computers" and "flat screens." Now Sensory Overload introduces the Apple 2d, the truly two-dimensional computer. Tucked between the pages of a book, it is handy for traveling and also difficult for burglars to find.

Sensory Overload finally has the answer to your disk copying needs. Our new copying program will copy any disk. To avoid copyright violation, ReversiCopy copies each file backwards--it puts the last character first and the first one last.

Personal Restroom-Identifying Vibratory Yagi is the urgently needed device for the blind traveller on the go. Attracted to the smell of a broad range of commonly-used disinfectants, the PRIVY alerts you to the goal with a subtle twinge on your thigh. Upon entering into the throne room, however, the PRIVY's utility is not over. Clever voice output circuits allow you to locate the flusher handle and toilet paper roll. The Deluxe Model also reads the grafitti on the stall walls, allowing access to a wealth of information not available from your local agency for the blind.

Sensory Overload has been proud as punch to distribute the multi-media work processor BRAILLE-SHREDDIT for the past four years. We're even prouder to announce that, after several unavoidable delays, we're shipping the improved version: SHREDDIT-UP-XPRESS, better known as SHUX. SHUX does everything BRAILLE-SHREDDIT did, and more. SHUX can totally ruin regular print, large print, braille, audio and VersaBraille cassettes, and, of course, both 5-1/4" and 3-1/2" diskettes. SHUX has three levels: Lacerator, Obliterator and Mangler, to make learning work processing a joy. When your aim is to frustrate and annoy rather than conceal or destroy, several of SHUX's new features will delight you. "Contextual Erase" lets you trash characters selectively, based on their environment. Speedy typists will love the "Sloppy Chapter."

We hope you have enjoyed these selections from our catalog. Regrettably, we can not accept Purchase Orders at this time, since no items herein advertised are yet under production. Have a nice April.

Raised Dot Computing Seeking Documentation Specialist

RDC is seeking someone to assist in the preparation of all written materials originating from RDC. This full-time position involves working closely with the programming, technical support, and administrative staff. Working under tight deadlines as a member of a multi-talented team, the Documentation Specialist's varied duties include writing, editing, copy-editing, indexing, proofreading; some computer-aided layout and/or braille transcription are also possible. Successful candidate will possess: Previous documentation and/or technical writing experience; familiarity with microcomputers and word processing (experience with Apples a definite plus); attention to details; concise written and verbal communication skills; demonstrated ability to learn quickly and assume responsibility for own work; calm under stress.

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, April 15 1986. Please submit 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:

Documentation Specialist Search, Mail Slot 4

Raised Dot Computing, Inc.

408 S. Baldwin St.

Madison, WI 53703

Time Aprils On: Only 3 Months Left!

In the December/January Newsletter, we printed details about how current BRAILLE-EDIT owners could obtain BEX. We'd like to remind people that our two introductory offers for current BRAILLE-EDIT owners (Conversion or Dual Support) are only valid until June 30, 1986. "Current" BRAILLE-EDIT means version 2.45 or later--we no longer support versions numbered 2.44A or earlier.

Remember, if your BRAILLE-EDIT is older than Version 2.45, then you may not convert or obtain dual support. (Choose option U - Update date on the Main Menu to find out your version.)

Converting from BRAILLE-EDIT to BEX

Conversion means you no longer use your BRAILLE-EDIT. We no longer consider you a BRAILLE-EDIT customer, so you can no longer receive BRAILLE-EDIT technical support. BRAILLE-EDIT has three features that BEX lacks: "Talking the dots" in the Editor; the $$x format command; and using the asterisk as a shorthand to refer to the last chapter you edited. If you won't miss those features, then by all means, convert. Conversion costs $75 plus your BRAILLE-EDIT disk. This disk must be the most recent version of BRAILLE-EDIT, and it must be the same disk we shipped to you when you updated. Conversion does not include a Newsletter subscription. Conversion is only available until 30 June 1986.

Dual Support of BRAILLE-EDIT and BEX

Dual support means that you can continue to use BRAILLE-EDIT, and can continue to get BRAILLE-EDIT technical support. Dual support makes sense in several situations: if you are an institutional user and unable to "throw away" a program; if you have a large installed base of BRAILLE-EDIT users; or if you wish to have access to the BRAILLE-EDIT features that BEX lacks. Dual support costs $250, and includes the following items:

Complete BEX package

Latest BRAILLE-EDIT Version 2.50 disk

BRAILLE-EDIT User's Guide in your choice of print, braille, or audio

1 year RDC Newsletter subscription in your choice of print or audio

When ordering dual support, please specify medium for BRAILLE-EDIT User's Guide; and please specify if Newsletter subscription should extend an existing sub or start a new one, as well as which medium. Dual support is only available until 30 June 1986.


The cost of a new BEX is $400. This price applies to Purchase Orders and all MasterCard, VISA, or UPS C.O.D. orders. We do offer a $25 discount ($375 purchase price) for orders accompanied by a check or money order. All payments must be in US funds. When you order a new BEX program, you will receive the complete BEX package and a one-year subscription to the RDC Newsletter--your choice of print or audio.

Please remember that after June 30, 1986 BEX will only be sold at the new BEX program price. Orders for BEX Conversion or Dual Support must be received at RDC by that cut-off date.

Transferring Files between Small Talk and BRAILLE-EDIT -- Harvey Lauer

Small Talk is a talking notebook computer designed by Computer Aids and sold by Vtek. Before you attempt this interface, you should be thoroughly familiar with the Small Talk, the Apple, and BRAILLE-EDIT (or BEX).

Setting up the Equipment

For all applications tested, I used the Small Talk cable for interfacing with a DCE device. Small Talk's default settings are 4800 baud, no parity, eight data bits and one stop bit. I found that I had to set Small Talk to 7 data bits to get the interface to work.

On the Apple, establish a configuration with a "Download device". Give the slot number of the Super Serial Card or 2c port that you are using for transfers. How you set up the Apple 2c or Super Serial Card depends on your program. With BEX, simply answer "Yes" to the questions: "Is this a KRM?" which establishes 4800 baud and 1 stop bit.

With BRAILLE-EDIT and an Apple 2c, use port 1 (since you probably have a Cricket synthesizer in port 2). Use RDC's "2F" cable to connect the 2c port with the Small Talk Cable. To set the parameters on the 2c, you need to print a chapter containing control characters to the port. Print chapter "KRMPORT" (on the main side of the BRAILLE-EDIT disk) to slot 1. This sets the port to 4800 baud and 1 stop bit.

For BRAILLE-EDIT and an Apple 2 plus or 2e, you must physically establish the appopriate switch settings on the Apple Super Serial Card. Set the jumper block at "terminal". Set switch bank one as follows: down, down, up, up, down, up, down. Set switch bank two as follows: up, down, down, up, up, down, down. These switch settings are different from the "Standard Recipe." As far as cables go, the Small Talk's cable plugs in to the "tail" of the Super Serial Card.

Establishing the Appropriate Data Formats on Both Devices

It is possible to transfer any Small Talk file to the Apple, but you can't transfer every Apple file to the Small Talk. This is because, except for carriage returns, control characters cannot be entered or stored in Small Talk, nor can they be transferred to or from it. They are stripped from any file sent to Small Talk. That means that you cannot type your printer's escape codes in Small Talk. If you print directly from Small Talk, you cannot underline or do other things requiring control characters. To get around this limitation, I type BRAILLE-EDIT double dollar sign format commands in my Small Talk files, and transfer them to the Apple for printing. If, while you are typing into Small Talk, you want to give your printer a direct command, you can substitute an unusual character for the control character and then later have it globally replaced with the control character in the Apple. BRAILLE-EDIT files accept all ASCII characters. This is one reason why you should think of Small Talk as a peripheral to your Apple or IBM computer, not as a substitute for it.

After considerable experience, I found a Small Talk format that minimized formatting and editing problems on both devices. I use the following parameters on Small Talk: form length 55, left margin 0, right margin 66, top margin 0, and bottom margin 55. I use two carriage returns between paragraphs (instead of BRAILLE-EDIT's ($p) paragraph indicator.) This facilitates cutting and pasting in Small Talk. When the file is in the Apple, I use Global Replace to get rid of linefeed characters; change 2 <CR>s into space, dollar-sign, p, space; and then change single <CR>s into spaces.

Transferring from Small Talk to the Apple

On the Apple end, use Input from slot. (Option I on the Main Menu of BRAILLE-EDIT or the Second menu of BEX.) Provide a source chapter name (you can use the Zippy chapter in BEX), then press <CR> and pay attention to Small Talk. Long files should be sent with the Print Option. Turn on the printer port. Go to the Print Menu and then to the Parameters Menu. Set "S" for single-sheet printing. Go to the Print Menu. Type "D" for Device and "E" for External. Then give a "P" for Print and "G" for Go.

As the file is being received, you will hear a sound from the Apple speaker for each character. Low baud rates make clicks; the higher rates hum. If you are sending small pages, you can send more than one Small Talk page to one Apple page. If the pages are large, then change Apple pages with a "P" on the Apple each time before you give a "Y" command to Small Talk to get the next page sent. The reason for this routine is that I could not get the handshakes to work between the two machines. If you send more than 3,550 characters at a time, you will lose data as BRAILLE-EDIT automatically saves to disk, but Small Talk keeps sending data. When you're all done, hit a "Q" on the Apple keyboard so that BRAILLE-EDIT or BEX creates a directory file for the chapter.

Transferring Files from the Apple to Small Talk

You will use the Print option from the Main Menu of BRAILLE-EDIT. Print to the slot that you have connected the Small Talk. You will usually want to set the format of Small Talk so it will not change the format of the text you send. Otherwise, some lines may be uneven.

To allow Small Talk to decide where to divide lines, you want to suppress <CR>s at the ends of lines in the Apple, so enter the format command: $$l0 (lowercase L, zero) in your BRAILLE-EDIT or BEX chapter.

The Small Talk buffer holds about 16,000 characters. I found the system to be unstable when more than 15,000 characters were in its memory. The program was then prone to "lock up" or lose some of its data. If it locks up, you must push the reset button which purges all data. If you try to overfill it, you will find the buffer empty, and you will have to retransmit the file. If your Apple chapter is longer than 15,000 characters, use Partition chapters (in BEX) or Split chapters (in BRAILLE-EDIT) to make smaller chapters.

Initialize Small Talk's memory between transfers. I strongly suggest that before saving any file to tape, you examine its beginning, its ending lines and check its length. It takes a long time to load and save files on tape, so it pays to be sure you have what you want in memory before saving.

I prefer to save all files to tape by naming them with the asterisk or wild card. Any file can be retrieved with an asterisk for its file name. I could usually save three files on each of the two tracks of a 30-minute tape. Using longer tapes is not recommended. One is saved at number 0. The second is saved at number 1,000. The third is saved at number 2,000. The total available space is about 3,200 units. Please note that a file of 15,000 characters requires a bit more space than 1,000 units on the tape counter, so for a long file, you must modify that routine.

When you transfer files, you must transfer from the memory and to the memory. You must use as your file name "COM1" without spaces. If you don't type it correctly, your tape will be accessed inadvertently. To keep from damaging files on your tape, you may want to leave the tape door open while you are learning to transfer files except when you intend to access the tape.


1. It may be expedient to test interfaces in Applesoft before transferring even short files. To do this, you must be aware of how to direct output to and from your Apple ports from the keyboard with "PR#n" and "IN#n" commands. You can type a few lines to Small Talk and send a two or three line test file into the Apple. You may only get one line and a syntax error, but if you get nothing at all, or if you get only garbage characters, you can be fairly certain that your files will not transfer. Even if you are successful, remember that the only true test of an interface is to send a long file in both directions and then read it to see if it is all there.

2. While establishing an interface, there is a high probability that you will create a file with garbage characters. These garbage files can cause strange things to happen. Small Talk can crash in the Editor or it can refuse to read files from its tape. Some operations can become very sluggish. Sometimes, pushing the reset button will correct the problem. This action will destroy the contents of memory. You must also reset most parameters. On some occasions, it was necessary to do a complete system reset by issuing a [email protected] sign from the system prompt. That means holding the control key while typing an @ sign. If you do that, you must reset the clock as well as all other parameters, and your data will be erased from memory.

3. Do not consider this document to be the last word on this subject. Interfacing computers is like finding a path through a wilderness. It grows easier with familiarity, and we can all benefit from each other's experience. So let us share our experiences with Computer Aids, Raised Dot Computing and Vtek.

Computer Training and Evaluation Center Offers Summer Courses

C-TEC is offering summer short courses for both Special Education Professionals and Rehabilitation, Employment and Career Planning Counselors. The Teacher Training will be held July 14-25, 1986 at the College of Notre Dame in Belmont CA, 25 miles south of San Francisco. It will provide special educators with instructions and experience in the use of computer access devices for blind and visually impaired persons. Teachers will learn how to set up, operate, and troubleshoot Apple 2e and 2c computers using a comprehensive assortment of special software and hardware. Making commercial software usable by blind students will also be thoroughly examined. A step-by-step instructional procedure will be developed so that each program participant will be prepared to teach their students the use of the Apple and applications software. Instruction on the IBM-PC and appropriate software will also be available to interested participants. Tuition for the two-week long course costs $300; three continuing education credits will be available through the College of Notre Dame. (Accomodations in college dorms are available for $280.)

C-TEC is considering offering two additional programs as follow-up practica for participants from the Teacher Training Program--please contact them soon if you're interested. The first is a supervised eight-day practicum in a computer camp for visually impaired teenagers July 30 through August 8; the second is a three-day practicum in a computer camp for visually impaired pre-teens August 12-22. The deadline for applications for these courses is April 30, so hurry up and contact C-TEC if you're interested.

The course for Rehabilitation, Employment and Career Planning Counselors is entitled "Computers for Employment and Training of Blind Individuals," and it's offered June 1 through 6 at the Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa CA. The course aims to prepare the professional to more effectively explore current and future employment opportunities for blind and visually impaired individuals. The course outline includes introduction to the world of microcomputing jargon; overview of access strategies; analyzing on-the-job barriers; hands-on demonstrations; on-site employer visits; and blind employees, vendors and employer representatives as guest speakers. The fee is $385, which covers tuition, room & board, and access to the recreational facilities at the camp. The application dadline for this course is May 16, 1986.

C-TEC, c/o Sensory Aids Foundation

399 Sherman Ave., Suite 12

Palo Alto CA 94306

415-493-5000, ext. 4375

RDC Conference Schedule

We receive many requests to exhibit and attend some of the hundreds of conferences and conventions held all over the US. The smallness of our staff prevents us from attending as many as we'd like. We are able to attend four of the larger conventions, and are eager to meet some of you there.

June 28 -- July 5

Knoxville Tennessee

American Council of the Blind

June 29 -- July 4

Kansas City, Missouri

National Federation of the Blind

July 7 -- 11

Chicago, Illinois

AER -- Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired

October 23 -- 25

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Closing the Gap

Series 400 Kurzweil Reading Machine Interfacing Update

We've recently received a number of calls from frustrated users who are trying to interface Apples with the Series 400 Kurzweil Reading Machine. They bought a cable from us, and when they hook it up they can't get any data. Thanks to Mary Harrington, Systems Analyst at Kurzweil Computer Products, we now understand the source of the problem.

RDC designed our cables to meet the specs that Kurzweil supplied to us: pin 2 was used to receive data; pin 3 was used to transmit data; and pin 7 was ground. At some point, Kurzweil switched the data lines.

Starting with serial number #38053 (approximately), all Series 400 KRM serial ports use these pin assignments: Pin 2 is used to transmit data; pin 3 is used to receive data; and pin 7 remains ground. These newer Series 400 KRMs also now support hardware handshaking. To enable "Clear to Send" and "Request to Send" handshakes, press Set, followed by Special Command 66.

If you have already ordered an interfacing cable for the Series 400 from RDC and it doesn't seem to work, please contact Mary Harrington at 800-343-0311 (or 864-4700 when calling within Massachusetts).

Whenever you attempt an interface with a Series 400 KRM, please check the serial number. It's located at the bottom of the machine, near the A/C power plug, or inside the machine when you open the door on the disk drive side. If the serial number is above #38053, then the cables we've listed in our Interface Guides and on the Price List no longer work. When connecting one of these higher serial number Series 400 KRMs to an Apple Super Serial Card or CCS 7710-2 Card, you need a "6M"; to hook up an Apple 2c, you need a "2M". Connecting one of these higher serial number Series 400 KRMs to a Model B tape-based VersaBraille requires our "3M" cable adapter; for a Model C or D tape-based VersaBraille, it's the "3F".

Maintaining Your Disk Drives by Nevin Olson

For those of you who bought a computer for a 'trouble-free' way to get your work done, I've got news. Underneath that smooth plastic exterior is a delicately-tuned and vulnerable electro-mechanical system. Each part of the computer can be thrown out of whack by the hostile environment and abusive treatment that we call "every day life."

Next to your printer, the disk drives contain the most moving parts, and they can be susceptible to troubles. Total disk drive failure is very frustrating, but marginal performance by your disk drives can be even more maddening.

When you are experiencing disk drive problems, you have to go through some testing to find out the source of the trouble. As with any electro-mechanical system, your best safeguard against problems is routine maintenance. Because we use our Apples all day long, we send our disk drives to the Apple dealer to be cleaned and adjusted twice a year. I'd urge you to get a disk drive tune-up at least once a year--it only costs around $25 and can save you a lot of headaches. (It's also possible to clean and adjust your disk drives yourself--the January 1986 issue of inCider magazine contains step-by-step details.) I'll discuss some tips for self-diagnosis of your drives, to know when you can use the time-worn folk remedies and when you need the specialists.

The Right Ecology

Computers of ten years ago lived in climate-controlled rooms. Materials, manufacture, and design have improved since then, but thermodynamics has not changed. Electro-mechanical disk drives generate heat when they operate and excessive heat can burn out components. Moisture combined with oxygen in air causes corrosion on metallic connectors. And dust is one of the best insulating materials for trapping heat in electronic components. To keep your disk drives in top working order, provide them with the right environment.

Make sure that air can freely circulate around the drives--don't cover up any vents on the disk drives. For Apple 2c and Cricket owners, there's an additional warning: NEVER place your Cricket on top of either the internal or external disk drive. The radio-frequency energy generated by the Cricket can seriously scramble the data on your disks. As a general rule, never confine disk drives to quarters that would suffocate your guinea pig. And try to clean the place up once in a while.

The Right Disk

As disks spin in their jackets, some of the ferric oxide coating, (the magnetic storage media) is worn off. On good quality disks, the oxide stands up to repeated use and friction. As they retrieve and store data, the read/write heads on your drives almost touch the surface of the disk. The distance between the head and the disk is so small that ferric oxide coating begins to build up on the read/write heads. This leads to erratic disk drive behavior. Under normal conditions, heads should be cleaned once a year.

Check the Speed

The Apple disk drives are designed to read and write properly with as much as a ten percent fluctuation in speed. This is fine for simple, non-copy protected software. Most copy-protected software (and sadly, BEX is no exception) won't work if your drive spins too fast or too slow. Drive speed can begin to change through use. You can use Diversi-COPY as a quick test. When Diversi-COPY is writing, the bottom lines on the screen show any variation in disk drive speed. If your drives are slightly low or high, there probably won't be problems. But if the Diversi-COPY readout fluctuates between high and low on the same disk, it's time you get the drives adjusted.


It's vital that the cable from the disk drives to the Apple be securely connected. This cable serves two important functions: it transmits and receives data and it also supplies the power to operate the external drives. If you move your computer around or switch its position, make sure to check that the cables are firmly in place before beginning again. If you stack and store books, notebooks, or other objects around your computer, periodically check cable connections and cables that may become frayed or worn by falling or sliding objects.

Your Drive is Trying to Tell You Something

Apple disk drives make a marvelous symphony of noises during normal operations. For people accustomed to other computer systems, it can even seem like something is seriously wrong when everything is going smooothly. But if you hear a new sound, don't ignore it. The Apple manuals refer to a particular disk drive noise as "rattling." If you have an Apple 2c, you know that noise: We call it "gronking," 'cause that's what it sounds like is happening to your disks. Actually, the noise is the read/write heads making many attempts to find readable data, and your disks are not being damaged. If the drive repeatedly gronks, do check the alignment of the disk in the sleeve--very carefully. If the movable "hub ring" in the center of the disk gets pushed too far to one side, the drive may not be able to read. It is also possible, though very embarrassing, that you are trying to read an uninitialized disk.

Another problem that can lead to this gronking is more insidious. If your disk was copied on a drive with speed problems, it's usually not possible to read data from the disk, even if your drive speeds are just fine. It's even possible that, if you have speed problems with your drives, you will be able to write data to disk but not read it.

Troubleshooting Problems with Booting

A fascinating variety of situations can prevent a program from booting. If you try to boot a program and the disk spins endlessly, then it could be that the disk in drive 1 does not contain DOS. On an Apple 2c, you get the "Check the Disk Drive" message if DOS doesn't boot within 5 seconds. Open and close the disk drive door a few times, as this may reseat the disk more comfortably in the drive. Another cause can be a DOS earlier than DOS 3.3 (most of us upstarts won't have that problem.) If you boot a disk and the drive just spins and keeps spinning, stop and think: "What is suppose to happen with this program?" We've received disks with redundant HELLO files that send the Apple into an endless loop: the program just repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats...

If you try to boot a program and the drive does not even spin, check the cable connecting the drive to the Apple. Another symptom of a loose connection is when the drive just spins and you get an error beep and an I/O ERROR message. These are both indications that the drive is not reading the data or program from the disk. Turn off your Apple, and make sure that all the cables are firmly seated. As long as you have the cover off, check and make sure that your disk drive controller card is in the right place. For most applications, place the drive controller card in slot 6. (Never place the drive controller card in slot 3 if you have any card in the auxilliary slot on an Apple 2e.) When all the connections are snug, try to boot again.

With a 2-drive Apple 2e or 2 plus, it's possible to test one drive against the other. Turn off your Apple, and switch the two connectors on the disk controller card so that drive 1 becomes drive 2 and vice versa. Now try to boot. If it works now, then your original drive 1 has trouble. If it still won't boot, try another test. Boot a program that you have used on this system recently that has worked. If the program boots, then there is something wrong with the previous disk. If it still won't boot, then you should have your system checked.

The last category are those instances where a chip or mechanical part just plain fails. It does not happen often, but things don't work when it does. These repairs are for the truly bold or skilled. If at any time you notice one of the above problems and it is accompanied by a sickly sweet burning smell, you may have fried some of your chips or electrical components.

To sum up, keep it clean! Routine maintenance is your disk drive's best friend. If you do have problems, try to isolate them using the steps I've outlined. If you ever have intermittent problems, take your entire Apple system to the repair shop. In my experience, it's possible for a particular combination of disk drives, disk controller card, and cables to generate problems. They'll have a better chance of reproducing and diagnosing a problem if they have all the pieces of the system on the repair bench.

Open-Apple Magazine Volume 1 Available on Disk

"Open-Apple" is a monthly magazine published by Tom Weishaar, the veteran Apple programmer and enthusiast. When Open-Apple arrives at the RDC offices, there's always a mad rush to read it. Mr. Weishaar has made the disk text available to SPEECH Enterprises in Houston, and they are now selling Volume I, January to December 1985 as a set of 6 flippies. One important warning: the disks are "straight" DOS 3.3 ASCII textfiles; not a disk-based magazine like AppleTalk, so you must use other software to get access to the files. The cost for the 6-flippy set is $30 plus $3.50 for shipping, and that's a real bargain.

Open-Apple's articles cover a wide range of topics; there's something for the expert programmer and the enthusiastic beginner. The November 1985 issue was devoted to "Solving Printer Problems"--it's clear, informative, and funny. The December issue contained a strongly-worded editorial on the dismal state of software warranties; letters about different DOS 3.3-ProDOS

CONVERT utilities; controlling AppleWorks with EXEC files; instructions for installing different types of Apple II drives in the same system, and much more.

To order the disks, contact:

SPEECH Enterprises

10622 Fairlane Drive

Houston, TX 77024


To subscribe to the print edition, send $24 to:


P O Box 7651

Overland Park KS 66207

TALL TALK Screens: A Review -- Cathy Mack

TALL TALK SCREENS is a new large print and speech pre-boot program from SPEECH Enterprises. It works on the Apple 2 plus, 2e and 2c, and with the Echo 2, Echo Plus, and Cricket. A "pre-boot" program loads certain instructions into the Apple's memory--in this case, Echo speech and large letters on the screen. You can then use Applesoft BASIC or load another application program. With many non-copy protected DOS 3.3 disks, TALL TALK SCREENS will provide speech and or large print to the screen or both.

When you boot TALL TALK SCREENS, you are first asked if you want speech only, large print only or both large print and speech. If you choose one of the options that includes speech you may select the volume and set the Echo speed. Then you are asked about your preference for keeping or eliminating a clicking cursor. If you elect to keep the clicking cursor, it will click repeatedly whenever the computer is waiting for a response from the user. This may be helpful information or it may drive you crazy!

If you choose one of the options that includes large print, you select the line spacing you want: single space, double space or one and a half line spacing. Then you are asked if you would like to keep these settings so that the next time you boot the disk you will go directly to the main menu.

The main menu offers four choices:

Choice 1--Continue with your disk--is the choice to use if you want to try to get an application program to come up with speech and/or large print. If the application program is one that you can use the Echo with by BRUNning TEXTALKER.RAM, then TALL TALK SCREENS is most always successful in bringing up those programs with both speech and large print.

The Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) has an extensive collection of educational software. I tried TALL TALK Screens with 15 randomly selected MECC disks and TALL TALK Screens successfully brought up three of them with speech and large print. Only 3 out of 15 may seem like a low success ratio, but it's nothing to sneer at. Blind and partially sighted students now have access to three programs they had no access to before.

Choice 2--Exit to BASIC--lets the user program in large print, with speech or both.

Choice 3--Change settings--lets you change the Echo volume and speed, turn the clicking cursor on or off and change the line spacing of the large print.

Choice 4--New character set--lets you select one of four different large print fonts.

Once you are in your application program with large print and/or speech, you have a variety of options to select with control characters. You can temporarily turn off the large print and see what the regular 40 column screen looks like, you can permanently turn off the large print, you can enter the Echo's line review mode, and you can control the various features of the Echo speech. TALL TALK SCREENS seems to be quite resilient; you can even safely enter control-Reset and regain large print and voice.

TALL TALK SCREENS is based on an operating system called Diversi-DOS, which is compatible with but faster than DOS 3.3. If your application program already has a TEXTALKER file on it, TALL TALK Screens overrides it with its own TEXTALKER. TALL TALK Screens can be very useful for accessing programs in large print. It can also be very helpful as a simple test of the accessibility of a program. It is so quick and easy to use that it can be taken into a computer software store or to an Apple user's club to test software to see if it can be made accessible through speech and or large print.

TALL TALK Screens costs $45, and is available from:

SPEECH Enterprises

10622 Fairlane Drive

Houston, TX 77024


Love at First Print by Jesse Kaysen

It's been a whirlwind affair, and my husband is beginning to get suspicious, but I've got to tell the world about "Laser Love." It began last October, when a cold and grumpy Friday turned golden: the UPS driver arrived with a large package from Apple Computer that contained the Apple LaserWriter. I never thought I could have such deep feelings for a piece of technology. Basically, the LaserWriter works like a photocopier, electrostatically printing on paper following a computer's instructions. The slightly-larger-than tabletop (18-1/2" x 11-1/2 x 28") white box has been a constant companion ever since.

Before I go totally overboard, let me tell you the bad news. The LaserWriter retailed for $8000 when we bought ours. (It's since been replaced by the upgraded LaserWriter Plus, at $6975.) It weighs 77 pounds, and its fan hums constantly when it's on.

Now for the good news. I regularly use the LaserWriter through three interfaces: two on the Apple 2e, and one on the Apple Macintosh. (The Macintosh software is not designed for use by the visually impaired.) All that's involved in selecting between these three interfaces is the position of one switch on the back of the LaserWriter, and running the appropriate software on my computer. For all three interfaces, I have a practically silent, super-fast, excellent quality printer. All three interfaces are relevant to the visually impaired.

There's a lot of power built in to the LaserWriter; in fact, it contains Apple's most powerful single computer. A Motorola 68000 chip and 2 Megabytes of memory are dedicated to making the output look wonderful.

LaserWriter in Diablo Mode

The Diablo 630 Emulation mode is one of the LaserWriter's built-in features. The actual interface is quite straightforward: using a Super Serial Card set to the "Basic Recipe," and a straight-through male-to-male cable, the only tricky part is the matter of handshaking. I include "control-I X <space> E" as part of my set-up sequence in BEX to turn on software handshakes in the SSC. Only Apple 2c's that have undergone the recent ROM upgrade will support software handshakes, so at present the LaserWriter just interfaces with the Apple 2e.

Once the interface is established, printing itself is a breeze. In Diablo mode, almost all of its memory is available as a printer buffer. The average BEX 4-page chapter takes around 20 seconds to go from the Apple to the LaserWriter, so the Apple is almost immediately freed up for more editing. The LaserWriter's output speed is listed at 8 pages per minute, but is more realistically 6 pages per minute, around 270 characters per second. The print in this mode is 10 pitch Courier, and it's uniformly dense, even, and straight.

9600 Mode

9600 is short for 9600 baud, and in this mode, any computer terminal can communicate with the brains inside the LaserWriter, called the PostScript interpreter. "PostScript" is a programming language that allows you to completely describe the printed page. While it's possible to communicate interactively with the PostScript interpreter, the language itself is designed to be written by computer programs, not used by live humans. It's structure is "post-fix," using a counter-intuitive upside down stack, similar to FORTH.

The PostScript interpreter, in turn, uses the type fonts that are built in to the LaserWriter. Our unit has Times Roman, Helvetica, and Courier; the LaserWriter Plus has seven more fonts.

BEX contains a limited PostScript driver. BEX can send enough PostScript code to get print that looks like the BEX manual. Right now anyone with BEX, an Apple 2e, and a LaserWriter can produce serviceable large print (as well as all the other kinds of output BEX supports). You must define the point size and line spacing in your configuration, but you can change between roman, bold, and italic print.


"AppleTalk" is Apple's low-cost networking system. At present, you can hook the special AppleTalk cable to any Macintosh, and to some PC's and clones through special interface cards. Unfortunately, this type of card is not yet available for the Apple 2e. The big advantage to AppleTalk is speed--information flies along at 230,000 bits per second. My Macintosh software uses AppleTalk to communicate with the PostScript interpreter inside the LaserWriter. I use the PageMaker software (from Aldus Systems) to produce the Newsletter--you can judge the print quality from that.

Implications for the Visually Impaired

Two things are of interest about the LaserWriter: its operation and its output. Mechanically, the LaserWriter handles paper and produces images just like a photocopier. There is no top of form to mis-set, no paper to misalign, no buttons to push. Unfortunately, the only status indicators are 3 lights, but they would probably be discernible with a light probe. It takes around 1 minute to learn how to load paper into the input tray, which holds 100 sheets. The LaserWriter refuses to print with an empty tray, so if the machine stops whirring in mid-print, a blind person would know to load the paper. I doubt that any conventional letter-quality printer is this easy for a blind person to use.

More relevant for low-vision people is that the large print output from the LaserWriter is beautiful. The 300 dots-per-inch output is not as sharply defined as true typeset print, but at "large" point sizes--14 to 18 point--it's difficult to tell the difference. Any group involved in making large print documents should consider the LaserWriter as a relatively low-cost alternative to typesetting.

I could go on about Laser Love forever. Anyone who's interested in more details about its operation, please write.