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, especially on diskette. All are subject to editing for style and clarity. All opinions expressed are those of the author. Editor: Jesse Kaysen
Copyright 1987 by Raised Dot Computing, Inc., All Rights Reserved
Table of Contents: the all-uppercase words name the disk chapters; the words after the equals sign are the actual article titles.
We know it's not April yet, but this year we think we'll need two months to tell you about the latest in vaporware from that most vaporous of corporations, Sensory Overload, Inc. That's because Raised Dot's totally rowdy "Let's Have Better Meetings" Committee has had--gasp--an idea. Yes, friends, it's what you've been waiting for:
Put on your thinking caps and start being silly! We invite you to submit your suggestions for the Sensory Overload product line. The top five (5) contestants will receive one box of 10 high-quality, double-sided, double-sectored 5-1/4 inch flippy disks. These disks are suitable for use in any 5-1/4 drives, and they're guaranteed not to play nasty tricks on you, (which is more than we can say for Sensory Overload). Here are the contest rules:
And now, in order to get you in the mood, we proudly present:
The technicians of Artificial Intelligence have invaded the domain of video high tech. The result is a voice output device, similar in size to a VCR, that also accepts a video input signal. The PlotBuster analyzes the video image and gives you a running commentary, allowing you full access to the subtleties of today's sophisticated TV programming. Included with this device is the remarkable SCAT (Soap Crisis and Adultery Totaller) screen review software that quickly provides you with a weekly summary of developments in your favorite afternoon or evening "adult dramas."
Last year, we introduced the PRIVY device which located public restrooms and then read the graffiti located therein. As evidenced by consumer complaints, the device was a flop. Further market research determined that there was only interest in its second feature. So, responding to public demand, Sensory Overload introduces the Stall Talk. A totally portable, self-contained device, Stall Talk can decipher both cryptic text and, with the optional braille display, graphics.
How many times has this happened to you: You're at a bus stop, movie theater, close-out sale, box office, or other event where sighted people are waiting in line. You get disoriented and blunder into the middle of the patient multitudes, engendering groans and grumbles. Sensory Overload has designed a complex electronic gizmo that helps you find the end of the line. Small enough to nestle softly in your ear, the Queue-Tip ensures that you will find your place.
1986 has been a very busy year for the introduction of new braillers, and Sensory Overload does not want to be left out. That's why we're announcing the Juliet brailler. Low in cost, enclosed in a sturdy case, it can be counted to make wonderful braille, with one exception. When the Juliet must share a balcony with a competing unit, the two braillers just spout iambic pentameter at each other.
Many people forget the device which established Sensory Overload in this field: the NursaBraille. With its mentholated dots, the NursaBraille was a leader in aiding people with vision impairments to cope with over-stimulation. Continuing our pioneering tradition, we're proud to be introducing a hard-copy version. The NursaPoint has the most soothing dots in the industry. In fact, we offer a full one-year guarantee: the NursaPoint will put you in a state of Bliss.
Sensory Overload's highest-priced product helps you serve your guests at your next social gathering. Mr. Cart is a computer-controlled, modularly-designed, mobile serving terminal. Mr. Cart can really give you a break at parties. Load it up with CHEX Party Mix and you have a cereal port. Stand back in awe as Mr. Cart serves everyone sitting on a couch--otherwise known as auto linefeed. The even parity feature ensures that no-one takes too much. The bawd rate monitor helps you pinpoint just who is telling those dirty jokes. Mr. Cart--don't stay home without it.
Pity the poor blind computer jock, stuck all alone at his IBM-PC. The problem with computer jocks is that they just don't know how to communicate with regular people. Wouldn't it be nice if someone came up with a translation package to help the benighted computer jock close the gap? Well, Sensory Overload has done it again, with Hot Dates, the software product for the socially impaired. The computer jock enters ASCII into his system, and Hot Dates swiftly and accurately translates this into a language understandable by his non-computer-cursed peers. But of course, one-way translation is not enough, since Hot Dates almost guarantees the widening of the user's social circle. That's why Hot Dates also features a back-translator, so humans can finally communicate with the computer-obsessed. (The censors won't let us describe Hot Dates' other main function, Global Embrace.)
And last, but certainly not least, Sensory Overload is ready to bust the educational market wide open with software aimed to serve the thousands of visually impaired children in the schools. Even kids with no computing experience can quickly learn how to make ContriVEX generate compelling excuses for missing homework and the like. ContriVEX supports large print and braille excuses, in your choice of literary or textbook format, providing mainstreamed visually impaired children educational equality with their sighted peers.
As many Apple users know, there are two Disk Operating Systems or "DOS"s that are widely used on the Apple: DOS 3.3 and ProDOS. BEX was written under the DOS 3.3 operating system. Actually, BEX creatively takes control of DOS 3.3 and makes DOS extremely friendly and easy to use by incorporating the most commonly used DOS commands within BEX menus. Obtaining a disk catalog, initializing a disk, killing chapters, and saving your chapters to disk are some examples. In addition, BEX has a number of features that make it possible to work with ProDOS files.
Being very comfortable with DOS 3.3, I was hesitant to tackle the ProDOS operating system. Within the past year, however, I have purchased two extremely powerful pieces of software that happen to be ProDOS-based. My two ProDOS programs are the Talking Sensible Speller, a spell checking program from Sensible Software, and an excellent terminal program from Microtalk called ProTERM+. The desire to use these new programs in conjunction with BEX forced me to both study ProDOS as an operating system and to examine BEX's talents for handling ProDOS files.
While ProDOS is quite different from DOS 3.3, it is not as difficult to learn as I feared. There are a number of resources available to assist one in this endeavor. Computer Aids Corp. of Fort Wayne, Indiana, has offered a free audio tape version of the ProDOS User's Manual as well as a talking version of the ProDOS User's Disk utilities. [Editor's note: Since Computer Aids is now including ProDOS utilities from within their programs (see FILE-TALK Review elsewhere in this issue) they are no longer distributing the tape and disk. JK] The American Printing House for the Blind has announced that they will soon be releasing a special version of this ProDOS User's Disk which was designed to be used with speech output. Another excellent tutorial on learning ProDOS is available from FlipTrack Learning Systems of Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Lastly, Microtalk of Louisville, Kentucky, provides good information on utilizing ProDOS in the documentation that accompanies their software.
After learning something about ProDOS, it is not difficult to use it in combination with BEX, thereby benefitting from the power of both operating systems. For example, I use my spell checking program to check the spelling of documents that I create with BEX. I utilize the BEX editor to write macro files to be used by ProTERM+, and I use BEX to read the ProDOS textfiles that are generated by ProTERM+. Reading ProDOS textfiles into BEX chapters is as easy as selecting option R at the Second menu and following the prompts. Turning BEX chapters into files that can be manipulated by both ProTERM and Sensible Speller involves a few more steps but is not difficult. Use option W on BEX's second menu to write your document into a DOS 3.3 textfile. Use the CONVERT program on the ProDOS User's disk to convert the DOS 3.3 textfile that BEX created into a ProDOS textfile.
The ProDOS Users Disk has the all-important CONVERT utility. CONVERT changes DOS 3.3 files to ProDOS files, and vice-versa. Unfortunately, the CONVERT program as originally designed is frustrating to use with speech. (Some sighted users have been daunted as well!) Understanding why it's tricky can yield some insight into the challenges of making software talk.
Since CONVERT was not designed to work with speech, the program does not tailor its prompts differently for screen and voice. When TEXTALKER is added to CONVERT, it simply talks out everything that gets printed to the screen. Unfortunately, the CONVERT utility makes heavy use of "inverted" text. For example, to show that you've selected a filename, CONVERT changes the normally light-on-dark screen display to dark-on-light. To make this change from regular letters to inverse letters, the program must reprint the filename on the screen using a different character set. Unfortunately, the program doesn't change just the selected filename: it reprints the entire screen. A sighted user hardly notices the quick flicker accompanying the screen refresh. However, with TEXTALKER speaking every letter before it's printed on the screen, the blind user must suffer through what seem like endless repetitions.
Using screen review with CONVERT takes some getting used to, since CONVERT displays its prompts on several different screen lines. Some information stays constant: line A shows where you are in CONVERT's menu structure, line B shows the direction that converted files will go, line C shows the current ProDOS date, and line D lists the prefix of the current ProDOS volume. The position of the input cursor is sometimes on line X, and sometimes it's scrolling between lines G and U. Hopefully, revisions of CONVERT designed for blind users will solve this frustration. In the meantime, however, I've developed a strategy that minimizes listening to CONVERT endlessly.
After the CONVERT title screen, you're presented with a five-item menu, allowing you to change the default transfer values or start the conversion. Lines B through D define which operating systems are in which drives, and which direction the transfer will go. The defaults are ProDOS in slot 6, drive 1, and DOS 3.3 in slot 6, drive 2. While the CONVERT utility isn't fussy about the DOS 3.3 disk, it requires a particular ProDOS prefix--the volume name on a floppy disk. When you boot the program from slot 6, drive 1, then the prefix is set to the volume name of the CONVERT program: /USERS.DISK. You can enter a different prefix by choosing P from the first menu, but there's an easier way. Format a ProDOS disk with the same name as the disk the CONVERT utility is on. You can then switch at will between the /USERS.DISK that has the CONVERT program and the /USERS.DISK that will contain your ProDOS files--the CONVERT program will never know the difference!
Check lines B through D to make sure that CONVERT is transferring files from DOS 3.3, S6, D2 to ProDOS. Be aware that CONVERT doesn't use the words "from" or "to"; instead it makes a little arrow with three dashes and a greater-than symbol.
Now you're ready to use the other great time-saver, the equals sign wildcard. Enter T to Transfer files, and CONVERT prompts you: "What DOS 3.3 files? (Press RETURN for a list of files)." DON'T press Return! Instead, enter the single equals sign character, and then press Return. The "=" tells CONVERT: "Find every DOS 3.3 file on the DOS 3.3 disk and transfer it to ProDOS without further prompting." You can sit back and think about something else as the program systematically processes all the files.
If you don't want to transfer all the files, the equals sign is still useful. It acts as a wildcard for any portion of a filename. Suppose you name the textfiles you plan to convert so they always begin with the letter P and end with the letter Q. Enter
and CONVERT merrily transfers them all without further instruction from you.
In conclusion, why not enjoy the flexibility and power of utilizing both DOS 3.3 and ProDOS based programs? Thanks to some slick programming from RDC, BEX will not only peacefully co-exist with ProDOS files but will allow one to work productively with both DOS 3.3 and ProDOS.
I was a very new user of a computer when Bill Loughborough of Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute Foundation (SKERF) came out to my home office for the Hadley School for the Blind with a new idea. I hadn't even heard of a Koala Pad touch tablet and didn't know then that its use has been confined primarily to graphics and games.
Mr. Loughborough had gained some familiarity with my work when he initially came out to help me connect my equipment. He knew that I had more than a hundred students for whom I wrote addresses on Hadley School return labels or envelopes and whom I often contacted by phone. I had a large file of brailled 5-by-8 cards containing information about the student's progress, and I had to frequently refer to the address and telephone number on these cards for the contacts I wanted. It was necessary, of course, to type the address each time and to dial the telephone number whenever I needed it. At that juncture of the school's telephone service, it was also necessary to punch in a 14-digit access number. Mr. Loughborough thought there was a better way.
He wrote the "Skerfiler" program that manages this information with a combination of an Apple, the Echo, and the Koala Pad. He designed a raised-line overlay for the Koala Pad that divides its touch-sensitive surface into an upper name-and-address grid and a lower command grid. The upper grid contains four rows of eight squares each. After typing in my students' names, addresses, and telephone numbers onto the disk, I can press the squares in the top three rows to hear the last names of the first twenty-four students. The fourth row of squares are "pages", each bringing up the next twenty-four names. All together, there's room for almost 200 entries.
The command grid is divided into three columns: the left has three boxes, the middle has two boxes, and there are four boxes at the right. Pressing one of the lefthand three permits me to add, edit, or delete names by typing on the Apple keyboard. The center boxes allow me to hear the full name and address or telephone number for any of the twenty-four squares at the top. The rectangles at the right govern speed, pitch, volume, and mode--words pronounced or spelled out. Actually each of these rectangles has two parts: the upper portion increases the value and the lower portion decreases it. There are two buttons above the pad. Once I've selected a name square by pressing it, the right-hand button causes a printer to type onto a label or envelope the indicated name. The left button sends the appropriate commands to an auto-dial modem that dials the telephone number for me.
Mr. Loughborough has kindly modified the Skerfiler program to accommodate my inexperience and increase the assurance of accuracy. When I add or edit, each key struck is spoken, including the spaces, and the printer is instructed to roll the labels up to just the right point so that I can print several in a row. Mr. Loughborough placed tape on the printer for me to use as a guide in inserting labels or envelopes to assure that the printing occurs where it should. Thankfully, the school has changed its telephone service, so the 14-digit access number has been replace with a single digit. There are ways to abort commands entered in error, and the allowed space for each entry has been increased from 80 to 100 characters.
I have enjoyed using this program and have found it a real help in keeping my files organized and in easily and accurately contacting my students. The Skerfiler program is now in the public domain; and it's available for $5 from SKERF. [Check the Facts on File section for the address and phone number.] That price includes the program disk and an overlay for the Koala Pad. The Koala Pad itself, which plugs into the Apple's game port, is not included; it's generally available for around $75. Mr. Loughborough says he will need to check with potential customers to get the exact specifications regarding printer model, label size, modem cards, etc. I'm grateful to Mr. Loughborough for his originality and for the patience he has shown in teaching me to use these materials.
Computer Aids Corp., has produced a talking database program that is truly head and shoulders above existing programs. Based in ProDOS, FILE-TALK works with Apple IIe, Apple IIc, and Apple IIgs computers equipped with a minimum of 128K of memory. It's also compatible with a wide variety of voice synthesizers. The program is quick, versatile, and handles an incredible amount of information, especially when used with a memory expansion card, RAM drive, and/or hard disk.
The basic unit of information in FILE-TALK, and other database programs, is called a "record". In a database containing a small business invoice, for example, each transaction could be one record. A record is further broken down into "fields," each containing a specific piece of information, such as the buyer's First name, Last name, City and state, Number of items sold, Price per item, Amount received for all items sold, Sales tax, and Total. In FILE-TALK, each field can be up to 999 characters long; each FILE-TALK record can contain up to 250 fields.
As with other Computer Aids programs, FILE-TALK is menu-driven; there are scores of sub-menus branching off its Main menu. However, the designers have pared the chattiness of the menus to the absolute minimum. In general, nothing is spoken unless you ask for it. Since the program is loaded into memory, the disk drives do not have to be accessed when moving from one menu to another. When you arrive at a menu, you only hear its one-word title. To get the list of choices, you press the spacebar. To find out what the choices do, you press H for Help and you're given information about that particular menu. At all menus, one letter moves you to another menu, the Escape key backs you up to the previous menu, and open-Apple Escape goes directly to the Main menu.
FILE-TALK uses a hybrid TEXTALKER program which makes use of the best of one program and the worst of another. It does have the any-keystroke-shuts-up-the-speech feature found in TEXTALKER 3.1.2. In fact, this feature can be turned on and off in a manner of seconds. But its word pronunciation ability is at least 2 years old. For example, it pronounces the letters M, N, and L in almost the exact same way. This means that it is almost impossible to look for spelling errors in certain proper names when you don't know whether the name in question is Leis, Meis, or Neis. Voice speed can be controlled, but pitch and delay between words cannot be changed. There is a form of screen review, but the non-standard commands are idiosyncratic to FILE-TALK and WORD-TALK.
Place the program disk in drive one, turn on the computer, and you're off. In 25 seconds you are at the Main menu. Press U and you are in the Utilities menu. Press C to move to the Create menu, and you're ready to set up a "file form," a kind of guide that will help you enter and search for the information in this specific database file from now on.
For starters, define the name of each field, how many characters it will contain, and one of five possible "field types:" Alpha, Date, Time, Number, or Compute. By defining a field type, you tell FILE-TALK what it is to do with the information in that field. The Alpha classification is the most general: you can enter any letter or number in an Alpha field, such as buyer's name, city of residence, etc. The Numeric type means that there will be numbers, such as Price per item or Sales tax, that can be added, subtracted, multiplied, divided, or some combination of all four.
A Compute field contains a formula which allows you to arithmetically manipulate data in the numeric fields. FILE-TALK automatically calculates this information and stores it in the Compute field. You may optionally designate one field as a "key field," so that FILE-TALK automatically sorts all your records as you enter them. When you define the Last name as the key, then your invoices database is always sorted alphabetically by Last name. You are still free to temporarily or permanently sort the data in a different way. Unlike other talking database programs, FILE-TALK lets you quickly modify this file form. You can change the field's name, length and type as often as your needs change.
Once you create a file form, you are ready to enter data. Simply follow the guide you have created and fill in the appropriate information. If you have a key field set up, each new record is sorted and saved to the computer's memory in about one second. Records can also be saved to disk either from within a particular record, or at the end of record entry.
When you search for and find a record, the first field is the only one spoken. Throughout the program, FILE-TALK supplies you with minimal spoken output--but you can always get more on request. You can toggle keyboard echo off and on with a single keystroke from anywhere in the program. When you move to another field, the line you arrive at is always voiced. When you move to the next record, the line spoken is the same line the cursor was on in the previous record.
An impressive array of edit commands are available as you enter and subsequently modify your data. You can delete characters, words, the remainder of a line to the right of the cursor, or the entire field, as well as insert characters anywhere on the line. Control-T takes you to the last character in the field and Control-Y takes you back to the first character. Control-G lets you Go to any field by simply typing in enough of the field name to be distinctive.
An elegant time-saver is FILE-TALK's ability to define "default strings"--a different one for every field in the record. Suppose you were entering records many of which contained the words "Madison WI". You assign them to a default string, and press open-Apple-D in those records where you wish the default string to appear.
Once you've created a number of records, you can start to really have fun. You can delete records, find records that match specific search criteria, and globally or singly replace information in particular fields. Press R to get to the records menu. Press L to Load the file into memory. My file containing 550 names, addresses, and phone numbers takes about 25 seconds to load.
When all records are loaded, press F to arrive at the Find Form. Surprise! It looks just like the file form you designed when you set up the database. To find all invoices for people in Milwaukee, move the cursor to the field named City and write in part or all of the word Milwaukee. Press control-F and you're at the first of the records that match your search criteria in about one second. You are then free to edit and save as before, or you can press control-F once again and go to the next record that meets your search criteria. Just as when adding records, you can explore the record a line at a time with the arrow keys, or enter control-S to have the entire record read. An even greater range of cursor movement is available with open-Apple-arrow combinations.
Every field in the Find Form record can contain search criteria. Suppose you want to find all the people named Bill who live in Milwaukee. You've already entered the "Milwaukee" criterion; now go to the Name field and type in Bill. Press Control-F and all records that meet both criteria are presented for your inspection.
FILE-TALK also allows you to do logical searches, using the greater-than, less-than, ampersand, and asterisk symbols as codes. To find all invoices with totals greater than $1000, for example, enter greater-than 1000 in the "Total" field on the Find Form. An asterisk placed before a find string locates those characters embedded within the field. You can find all records from Texas by entering "*TX" in the "City and State" field. An ampersand placed before a find string gives you all entries that do not match your search criteria.
You can also find a range of values, such as all records where "Total" is between $1000 and $5000. FILE-TALK assigns each record a unique number, and allows you to limit your search to a certain range of record numbers. So you would sort the records by "Total," check to see which record number starts the $1000 entries and which record number ends the $5000 entries. You can then define the upper and lower limit on the record numbers to be used as a search criteria.
FILE-TALK also makes it easy to systematically change information in your database. Press R from the Record menu and enter the Replace menu. You are presented with--surprise!--your Replace Form. The data you enter in any field can then be substituted for the information in that field in a specific record, or globally in all records. The replace function can be limited by any or all of the search criteria listed above.
FILE-TALK records can be printed to voice, screen, braille or ink print printer, or to disk. There are two types of printing. There's a straightforward "screen dump" printout which presents the file form or field names along with all of the data from the record or records being printed. There's also a special format-controlled printing in which specific fields, as well as constants, can be directed to any line or column position on the page. You can limit the records printed with the search criteria discussed above. To use all the power of the formatted printing, you need to use a word processor program. FILE-TALK makes it very easy to use files from Computer Aids' own word processor, WORD-TALK. However, it's also possible to use BEX or ProWORDS to help design printer formats.
Press P from the Main Menu and you are in the Print menu. From the Print menu, Press S for printer Setup, and you can chose from three general printing formats: Labels, Reports, or Templates. FILE-TALK can print standard one-across mailing labels, and also label sheets with two labels on a line.
The Report selection prints data in table format, where selected fields from each record are presented on one row. Numeric information is right justified and a total of all numeric fields can be computed and placed on the last line of the printout. Titles, running headers and footers, and page numbers can be either left or right justified, centered, or staggered from one page to the next.
The Template format can be a powerful mail merge. You can freely intermix text that's always printed and varying information from your database. For example, you could set up a form letter template that prints your name and address and several stock paragraphs. You position the field names, surrounded with special merge markers, where you want FILE-TALK to supply data from your database.
Before there was FILE-TALK, there was INFO, Computer Aids Corp's DOS 3.3-compatible database. It is possible to convert INFO files to Apple DOS 3.3 textfiles, and then to use the DOS 3.3 to ProDOS conversion program (supplied on the FILE-TALK disk) to convert these files to ProDOS. The DOS 3.3 to ProDOS conversion program also makes it very easy to move information between BEX and FILE-TALK; you Write BEX chapter(s) to a DOS 3.3 textfile, then use this program to convert the textfile to ProDOS.
FILE-TALK files can also be converted to ProDOS textfiles (which BEX can read directly) in one of two ways. Specific FILE-TALK records can be printed to disk using any or all of the search criteria and printer formats discussed above. Alternatively, the entire file, one line per field, can be "exported" to disk in a matter of seconds. This same one-line-per-field format can also be "imported" from a ProDOS text file into FILE-TALK. As long as you place your <CR>s at the end of each field, you can do FILE-TALK data entry in any DOS 3.3 or ProDOS word processor, and then "import" the data into a new or existing FILE-TALK file form.
The FILE-TALK manual is well organized, concise, and quite easy to read. The program comes complete with a print, a cassette, and a disk version of the manual. A data disk containing numerous database files and printer formats is also included. The manual makes numerous, helpful references to this information.
The FILE-TALK manual provides a thorough explanation of ProDOS utilities, and that's something that, up to now, has been hard to come by. In addition, FILE-TALK's ProDOS Utilities program has the clearest screen and voice instructions I've come across--a real improvement over FILER. You can format disks; copy and rename volumes; copy, rename, lock, unlock, and delete files, and more.
In summary, I'm really excited about FILE-TALK. It's a powerful, well-thought-out program with features that I am already using daily. Not only does it provide a functional working environment, but it has handy bridges to other programs I use.
FILE-TALK costs $195. For a limited time, INFO owners can get reduced-price updates to FILE-TALK.
It's called "The Word Processor," but it's not really a word processor. In fact, the only thing that's the least bit misleading about it is its name. It's really a wonderful tool which harnesses your computer's processing power to study God's Word.
With the Word Processor program, you have the Bible in a data base or concordance plus a study guide at your fingertip keyboard commands. It's available for around $200 from Bible Research Systems of Austin Texas. [See Facts on File section for the address. JK]
While the Word Processor has been available for five years, it deserves to be better known. If you are a Bible student, a scholar, or a clergyman without a computer, you should have someone demonstrate this program to you. If you have a computer, you can buy the demo disk which has the Gospel of John and the entire program.
If you are a blind person like me who uses the Bible, the program will be difficult to resist. Your braille Bible fills a bookcase or a steamer trunk, and your cassette Bible is terribly awkward to reference. Your computer-based Bible can be on six to eight floppy disks or one hard disk, and you can locate passages by numbers or by words and phrases. If you use an Echo or Cricket speech synthesizer with an Apple, you may have speech. If you have an IBM-PC or a clone thereof, the same is true with most speech-access programs for MS DOS. The program speaks from a Commodore 64 if you have 64 Reader from Eric Bohlman of Wilmette, Illinois.
If you have a manual disability and use a computer with a special input device such as puff and sip controls or mouth stick along with a hard disk, you can load the program and the text onto your hard disk. You may then forget about turning pages or changing disks to access references.
I use the Echo speech board from Street Electronics in both an Apple II plus, and the IIe. I use the Cricket in an Apple IIc. The older versions of the Word Processor work only with the older TEXTALKER programs and do not permit screen review with the Echo speech. The new versions of the Word Processor work with the latest TEXTALKER version 3.1.2, written by Larry Skutchan, available from the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky. 40-column screen review works in most circumstances. While the program allows you to choose 80-column screen, you can't use screen review in this mode. 40-column screen is better for display to a group, anyway.
You may also get speech output with the Slot-Buster Card. The SCAT Program makes that card run much like the Echo. It is available from the Card's manufacturer, RC Systems of Bothell, Washington. Alternatively, you may direct output to a peripheral slot with a "PR#" command before running the program. The program will then faithfully send its output to a terminal device such as a VersaBraille or an outboard speech synthesizer. In this way, you may read both menus and text.
I put the Echo speech program on the program disk and added the following line to its "HELLO" program.
Now it comes up speaking. I also installed ProntoDOS from Beagle Brothers of San Diego, California on the program disk, which greatly speeds up all the disk access. Any owner can do this, but I hope Bible Research obtains a license to install ProntoDOS on its Apple program disks.
Bible Research Systems tells me that several speech-access programs and several devices work with the Bible disks on IBM. Check with them before buying to see if they know whether your software and hardware combinations have been tried. They are willing to supply their manual on IBM disks to blind users who request it. [Editor's note: Harvey's article originally stated that Bible Research is moving to the Mac for their manual production, and they'd have no objection to someone making the manual available for other computers. RDC's Phyllis Herrington, another happy Word Processor user, called Texas offering our services to convert the Macintosh files to Apple disks. The very next day, Bible Research called her back, saying that they had already created the Apple textfiles of the manual. Now that's service! JK]
No matter what computer you use, the program is on one disk. The prompts are friendly and easy to learn. Speech users will appreciate the fact that the menus are not wordy. The Apple version of the Bible text comes on eight double-sided disks. The Commodore version has seven text disks, and the PC DOS (IBM-PC) version has six text disks. If you use a hard disk, you can find a passage anywhere in the Bible within seconds. Even with the floppy-disk-based versions, it's much faster than working with textfiles. After you tell the program the range of Scripture you wish to access, it tells you which disk to insert. You may locate texts by chapter and verse or by words or phrases.
Bible Research Systems also sells indexes of people and concepts in Scripture. You may also create your own indexes to use with courses of study. Then you may have the program present a series of passages in a desired order. Passages can also be printed out or sent to a braille printer, a VersaBraille or another computer. The company sells an ASCII utilities program (around $50) that lets you write standard textfiles to disk from passages you select. Then you can use them in writings you create with your word processing program. You could translate them into Grade 2 braille. They also have a program that uses a split screen to let you add commentary to Bible texts, but it does not work with speech.
The company has been expanding its offerings for five years now, so you should check with them if you don't see what you want on their list. They have the King James Version and the New International Version. Computers supported are the Apple II series, many that run PC DOS, several computers running CP/M, the Commodore 64 and the TRS 80, Models 3 and 4 running TRS DOS. For some computers, they have a Greek transliterator and a Hebrew transliterator. They also have a number of educational Bible games that don't work with speech. People tell me those are fun and challenging.
There were three steps. First, they had to find the Bible in machine-readable form. It had been typed in for printing with an computer-based typesetter. If the Bible were stored in standard Apple textfiles, it would take forty-two disk sides, and access would be cumbersome. The second step, therefore, was to design a code that would permit contraction of the text to eight double-sided disks. (The eighth data bit, not used in textfiles, came in handy here.) The text was converted to binary files which also speeds up access. The third step was to write a friendly database program to make the text useful to novices and professionals alike. The fact that this great work was done in an open, trusting manner made it easy to access with our special devices. For instance, this was the first truly sophisticated and useful Apple program that I was able to add speech to without other modification.
The Word Processor can be a very portable Bible system. You just put the Bible into a disk box. Then you can carry it with an Apple IIc, and a Cricket in a big attache case. If you work with a group of sighted people, you can silence the Cricket's speaker by using earphones for your speech and plug in someone's screen for the group. By the way, does anyone need a large steamer trunk?
We've heard from many readers who appreciated the IBM-PC to Apple article in last month's Newsletter. We've also heard from several readers who feel that the Apple emphasis of the Newsletter stinks. We would be delighted to publish more articles about the IBM-PC (and its clones). There's just one catch: who will write them?
The answer is: YOU. Please send us your articles about the IBM-PC world: hardware and software reviews, interfacing notes, and anything else is very welcome. You may submit articles in print or on IBM disk as PC-WRITE or ASCII files.
We recently received a sampler cassette of the TALK-TO-ME TUTORIAL series by Doug Wakefield, president of Talking Computers, Inc. of Virginia. This tutorial is a thorough and friendly introduction to MS-DOS computers that any IBM beginner would find helpful. The three-hour cassette series is team taught by Mr. Wakefield and his "Mechanical Max" talking computer. By combining DECtalk and human narration, the listener is gently introduced to some of the quirks of mechanical speech.
Topics covered in the TALK-TO-ME TUTORIAL include: touring the keyboard; formatting, copying, and preparing working diskettes; advanced file management; creating and using DOS directories on hard disks; using EDLIN to create AUTOEXEC.BAT files; and an index of important DOS commands. The tutorial sells for $69 retail; quantity and agency discounts are available, and a sampler cassette will be sent free if you ask for it. Mr. Wakefield has several years of experience as a consultant, and is the author of the Hadley School's COMPUTERS IN CAREERS--and he seems to know just what information a beginner requires to feel comfortable working with an MS-DOS computer. By combining the right information with a friendly, matter-of-fact approach, he has made the TALK-TO-ME TUTORIAL an ideal introduction for the blind or visually impaired computer user.
I'm putting my Apple on the block: it's an Apple IIe with a dual disk drive and monitor, as well as games, checkwriting software, and BEX. The whole package goes for $1000. Call me in California at 213-677-2346.
Quik-Scrybe is a quick and convenient way to have your documents prepared in hard-copy as well as thermoform braille. QUIK-SCRYBE uses high-speed Thiel printing. We accept documents for Direct Data Entry from your printed pages, or, you may use our run-out service from IBM or Apple diskette.
For Raised Dot Newsletter readers only: if you mention the Raised Dot Newsletter when placing an order for a brochure, or for services from QUIK-SCRYBE, we will give you 10% off on purchases totaling $100 or more. For a free brochure, in large print or braille contact:
333 N. Berendo Street Suite 333
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Several people have called us concerned that Street Electronics is no longer answering the phone. We want to assure people that Street is very much alive. They're so lively, in fact, that they packed up from Carpinteria and are now in Santa Barbara. You can contact them at:
1470 East Valley Road
P O Box 50220
Santa Barbara CA 93150
We've recently been made aware of two quarterly publications written by and for teachers of blind students. There's relatively little overlap between them: taken together, they are a great resource for people in this field. The current issue of The Communicator focuses on adapting physical education for the visually impaired. The editors claim that each issue contains teacher hints, reviews of adapted software, major articles on teaching the visually impaired and articles on computer technology for this population--all for $6 a year. The Communicator Publishers also distribute educational software that's been adapted to work with Echo speech.
Microcomputer News for Teachers of Blind Students, also a quarterly, has a more specific focus. The current issue of this quarterly contains a "Braille Printer Checklist of Features," a handy-dandy chart that helps you choose among the raft of newly available affordable braille printers, as well as information on new tactile graphics software. The quarterly MNTBS is available in print for $5/year, large print for $7/year, or Apple diskette for $16/year.
The Communicator Publishers
Rt 4, Box 263
Hillsville VA 24343
Microcomputer News for Teachers of Blind Students
c/o Catherine Mack
517 Jasmine Rd
St. Augustine FL 32086
American Printing House for the Blind
P O Box 6085
1829 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206
Beagle Bros. Micro Software
3990 Old Town Ave.
San Diego CA 92110 Phone: 619-296-6400
Bible Research Systems
2013 Wells Branch Parkway, #304
Austin, TX 78728
Wilmette IL 60091
Computer Aids Corp.
124 W. Washington Blvd., Suite 220,
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Phone: 219-422-2424 or 800-647-8255
FlipTrack Learning Systems
999 Main Street
Glen Ellyn IL 60137
337 S. Peterson Ave.
Louisville KY 40206
RC Systems, Inc.
121 W. Winesap Rd.
Bothell WA 98012
Phone: 206-672-6909 Noon-6 pm PST
Sensible Software, Inc.
210 S. Woodward, Suite 229
Birmingham, MI 48011
Mr. Bill Gerry
Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Foundation
2232 Webster St.
San Francisco CA 94115
Talking Computers, Inc.
6931 N. 27th Rd.
Arlington VA 22213