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
Entire contents copyright 1988 by Raised Dot Computing, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Nothing may be reprinted in any medium--print, braille, audio, or electronic--without prior written permission from RDC Inc.
Table of Contents: the all-uppercase words name the disk chapters; the words after the equals sign are the actual article titles.
READ ME FIRST = How To Read the RDC Newsletter on Disk
CONTENTS = Table of Contents (print page 1)
LASER LINES = Laser Lines from the Editor (print pages 2-3)
KJS FAREWELL = A Fond Farewell to Kristi Seifert (print page 3)
ANNOUNCING HD 2-0 = Announcing Hot Dots Version 2.0 -- Nevin Olson (print pages 3-5)
INLARGE ANNOUNCE = inLARGE: Macintosh Large Print Screen Access Utility Available from RDC (print pages 5-6)
BEGINNERS CORNER = Introducing the BEX Beginner's Corner; includes "What's an Automatic Set-up Sequence and What is it Good For?" and "When and how do you use the discretionary hyphen?" (print pages 6-9)
INTRO FOR 2GS = A Postponed Introduction to the Apple IIgs -- David Holladay (print pages 9-12)
MAC & BRAILLE = The Macintosh and Braille Output -- Jesse Kaysen (print pages 12-16)
JOY OF TBEX = Coping with Long Titles -- Caryn Navy; Establishing a Translation-Typing Group -- Gloria K. Buntrock (print apgres 16-19)
ABOUT PC-PURSUIT = PC-PURSUIT: A Telecommunicator's Dream Come True -- Olga Espinola (print pages 19-21)
BULLETIN BOARD = VersaBraille P2C for Sale; BEX Users Club in Alabama; Telefile: Inexpensive Computer Phonebook for IBM-PC; Portable Tone Indexer Available; Ultimate Banker Update Available (print pages 21-22)
PUBLICATIONS = Borland Software Manuals on Disk; The Latest "Talk-to-Me Tutorials"; Womyn's Braille Press Sponsors Teaching Materials for BUOC; Squeeze More Juice from your Apple with Apple Talk (print pages 22-23)
FACTS ON FILE = Names and Addresses Mentioned in the Newsletter -- Trademarks & Copyrights -- Who's Who at Raised Dot Computing (print pages 23-24)
This month is another double issue. We really do intend to publish the Newsletter monthly, but events keep conspiring against us. Your editor appreciates your patience and support.
Two errors crept in to last month's article about the new Code for Computer Braille Notation. Most importantly, print page 8 was omitted from the audio tape edition; it appears at the end of this month's tape. The first sample output on print page 7, demonstrating the use of the continuation indicator, is also incorrect. The caption claims to show a sample on a 40-cell braille line. However, the sample contains 36 cells on the first line, 42 cells on the second line, and 4 cells on the third line. The source of the problem? Your editor can't count. Here's a corrected version of the first full paragraph on print page 7:
Suppose your inkprint shows the uppercase letters from A to Z on one line, with one space between each one. If this was transcribed in set-off CBC on a 40-cell line, it would look like: ~ _a _b _c _d _e _f _g _h _i _j _k _& _m _n _o _p _q _r _s _t _u _v _w _x _& _y _z
This month also inaugurates a new column: the "BEX Beginner's Corner." One of BEX's strengths is its flexibility: any ten people have twelve ways to use it. Currently, Newsletter articles are biased by how RDC staff tend to use the program. We know that some folks are using BEX with elementary school kids, and others have found a place for BEX in the high school curriculum. We are eager to hear how you use BEX.
And finally, truth is stranger than fiction. Every April, the RDC Newsletter is proud to publish details about the latest excesses from the Sensory Overload product line. (Instructions for the 1988 Sensory Overload contest will appear next month.) In the March 1987 Newsletter, we cooked up the "PlotBuster." This device supposedly accepted a video signal input, analyzed the content of the TV program, and provided a running narrative of all the visual elements of a TV show. Imagine our surprise when we starting hearing about a real system that accomplishes the same task.
The brainchild of Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl and her husband Cody, "Descriptive Video Services" (DVS) is undergoing limited national testing with the Public Broadcasting Services' "American Playhouse" TV series. After thorough audio and visual review of a videotaped program, the Pfanstiehls prepared an audio narrative carefully timed to fit in to pauses in the programs' dialogue. The DVS blends this commentary for blind viewers with the original sound track, providing you with a timely audio description of the programs' visuals.
The DVS narrative "rides piggyback" on a stereo TV signal, taking advantage of the "Second Audio Program" feature that's part of stereophonic TV's design. All stereo TVs have an "SAP" button that switches between the standard signal and the supplementary audio information. In addition to DVS, the SAP signal is currently used to provide Spanish-language audio in some TV markets. A quick glance through a Radio Shack catalog shows that you can buy "magic boxes" for your existing TV that add stereo and SAP features--current prices range from around $150 up to $400.
WGBH Boston is in charge of this pilot project, and I spoke briefly with Barry Cronin, WGBH's Director of Telecommunications. WGBH was the first producer of captioned television programs for viewers with hearing impairments, and Mr. Cronin is hoping that WGBH can successfully launch DVS as well. The challenge now is (of course) funding; he'd love to talk with anyone who has deep-pocket corporate contacts. He's also eager to hear feedback from blind viewers in the nine-city pilot project, and says local stations will definitely pay attention to your letters and comments. Check Facts on File for where to contact him.
Regular Newsletter readers will remember that Kristi Seifert's love of animals helped her begin her work as RDC's Office Manager in January of 1985. (When Caryn's guide dog fell in love with Kristi during the interview, we knew she was the right sort of person for RDC.) And now Kristi's love of animals has guided her to a new career: on December 18 she left RDC to start veterinary assistant training.
For three wonderful years, Kristi lent RDC her administrative wizardry. Hundreds of RDC customers will, like all the remaining Dots, miss her telephonic demonstrations of encyclopedic knowledge. Kristi could leap even Canadian customs forms at a single bound. The human Dots came to depend on Kristi's problem-solving skills, and the guide dogs sorely miss her magic fingers. We wish Kristi the best of luck in her new career. Becky Rundall and Nevin Olson will attempt to fill the gap: feel free to address all your administrative and business questions to them.
RDC is now shipping version 2.0 of Hot Dots, the braille translation utilities package for the IBM-PC. In addition to a better Hot Dots program, and completely revised documentation, persons registering their Hot Dots 2.0 receive two bonus programs: the Model Tea Reader screen access program and PC-Write, the powerful "shareware" word processor. As always, the Hot Dots program contains four utilities tied together by a menu: a translator from print to Grade 2 braille, a back-translator from Grade 2 braille to print, a file-driven search and replace utility, and a formatter that creates formatted textfiles by interpreting embedded commands.
We've revised all four parts of Hot Dots; version 2.0 has more accurate translators, expanded formatting capabilities, and easier search and replace. The Model Tea Reader (MTR) screen access program offers you voice access to a wide range of PC applications. PC-Write has always ranked in the top ten PC word processors; its "shareware" distribution system allows blind users to try before they buy.
We've improved the accuracy and speed of the Hot Dots translators. When you enter the appropriate commands in your text, BT, the print to braille translator, can generate Grade 1 as well as Grade 2 braille. You can use other commands in your braille text to turn off BACK's back-translation of Grade 2 to print. Changes to the formatter have made it easier to create print and braille editions of the same file. For example, the $$np page numbering command places print or braille page numbers as appropriate to the format. The underlining commands work correctly now; BT uses the presence of $$ub and $$uf to place italics signs. When you name your files with the extension ".TXT", then the formatter uses print defaults, while a file extension of ".BRL" signals the formatter to use braille defaults.
We've made a number of modifications to GLOBAL, the file-driven search-and-replace utility. To enter a control character into a rule, you simply press control-V (for verbatim) followed by the exact control character. This is a dramatic improvement over the previous system, where you had to enter a tilde followed by the hexadecimal ASCII value of the control character. We've also changed how GLOBAL processes a file, which makes it much easier to accomplish specific tasks. More details are provided in the revised Hot Dots Manual.
Model Tea Reader (MTR) is a public domain screen access program. MTR is actually "demoware"; it serves as an enticement for a very sophisticated screen access program known as HAL-16. Both MTR and HAL-16 are produced by the British sensory aids firm, Dolphin Systems for the Disabled. Although it's not as powerful as HAL-16, Model Tea Reader does provide workable screen access to many software applications. MTR works with the Echo GP, Echo PC, Votrax, and BOSS speech synthesizers.
Model Tea Reader operates in two modes: live and reading. In reading mode, all your keystrokes are interpreted as review commands. You can't make changes to or enter data for your primary application. MTR's live mode provides a clever "loophole" so you can issue commands to your primary application. Pressing alt-N tells MTR to allow the next command through to the primary application. Therefore, MTR's live mode is transparent, allowing free access to the editing capabilities of the application. Moving between the two modes is accomplished with a single keystroke.
MTR's easy-to-remember command sequences make reviewing by lines, words, or characters a simple series of keystrokes. In both modes, distinctive musical tones show your cursor position horizontally on the current screen line. You can define how punctuation is spoken, how capitalization is shown, and the amount of keyboard echo. Once you've configured the program for your particular speech synthesizer, you can use the IBM-PC function keys in the reading mode to control tone, pitch, and volume. MTR does have its limitations: You cannot define audio windows with MTR, although you can with HAL-16. MTR does not provide special routines to read highlighted text; you can't define macros with MTR. But for the price (MTR is completely public domain), it's great.
PC-Write was the first, and arguably the most successful, "shareware" program. You are free to experiment with PC-Write, and copy it and distribute it to anyone who could use it. If you want technical support, you send Quicksoft $89. In return you get two free updates, a bound manual and a year's worth of Quicksoft newsletters.
RDC has prepared two PC-Write disks. On the program disk you'll find an editor, the separate print formatter, a Quick Guide, and a Tutorial designed to get you up and running. The Tutorial exposes you to all of the editor's capabilities: moving around with the cursor; writing, deleting and copying text; searching out and replacing characters; and printing.
The utilities disk includes print control files, a spell-checking program, and the Quick Guide and Tutorial in formatted Grade 2 and Code for Computer Braille Notation files. You can use Hot Dots' print menu or the DOS print command to output the latter on your own embosser. You can gain audio access to the print version of these files with the DOS TYPE command.
PC-Write's simple command structure is enhanced by its ruler line, a screen guide where you set margins, tabs, and indentation. MTR's live mode gives the blind user complete access to the ruler line. PC-Write's sophisticated print formats can be controlled through embedded commands, providing the blind user with a clearer picture than a WYSIWYG formatter.
These three complementary programs provide a complete word processing package, giving the blind user full access to each program's features. Entering and editing text, translating, formatting, and printing material into braille or print hard copy--all of these features are now available to the IBM-PC user in one package.
All of these programs run on any IBM-PC, PC/XT, or 100% compatible system with at least 128K and one floppy disk drive. Each requires PC-DOS or MS-DOS version 2.0 or later.
When you buy Hot Dots 2.0, you get the Hot Dots program disk, the Hot Dots Manual in print, on audio tape, and as formatted braille files on disk, as well as a customer registration card. When you return your completed customer registration card, we'll send back the other pieces of the package: the Model Tea Reader disk and PC-Write disks.
The Hot Dots 2.0 package is available on both 5.25-inch or 3.5-inch disks, and still costs $300 U.S. Current registered Hot Dots owners may obtain an upgrade to version 2.0 by sending us your original program disk plus $75 U.S. (or a Purchase Order).
About the author: As RDC's Business Manager, Nevin Olson gets to talk on the phone a lot and play with a lot of different computers.
We are happy to announce that RDC now sells inLARGE, the large print screen access utility for the Macintosh. Designed and supported by Berkeley System Design of California, inLARGE provides transparent access to all Macintosh activities. After you have run the inLARGE application, you control a very flexible frame that magnifies everything--text and graphics--on the Mac's screen. (You can use the Finder's "Set Startup" function to automatically run inLARGE when you turn on the Macintosh, allowing partially sighted users complete Mac independence.)
All of inLARGE broad range of display choices are controlled with the Option key. (While many Mac programs combine the Option key with another character, no program uses the Option key alone. This helps minimize conflicts between inLARGE and the main applications you're running.) inLARGE runs on a 512K or 512KE Mac, Mac Plus, and Mac SE. (Minor Mac II conflicts are being fixed now, and we'll announce Mac II compatibility when it's ready.)
You control the size and position of the frame, and the degree of magnification within it. The enlargement factor ranges from two to 16 times normal size; you can set horizontal and vertical magnification independently. inLARGE can invert the Mac display to show light letters on a dark background; you can also change the Mac's cursor to a full-screen crosshair, which helps people with field defects to zero in on the cursor position. Generally, inLARGE's magnification window follows the Mac's pointer and insertion point. In a standard file dialogue, for example, inLARGE centers the magnification window on the insertion point where you type the file name.
This cursor-tracking quality helps the large print user stay oriented to all the information appearing on the Mac screen. However, there are times you want to position the pointer on one side of the Mac screen to control scrolling, but actually read material on the opposite side. inLARGE's "Lock" feature lets you do just that. You position the cursor where you want to read, press Option and then "L" to tell inLARGE your area of interest. You can then mouse over to the scroll bars; as soon as you stop mousing, inLARGE's window snaps back to your locked area of interest. For long reading sessions, you can tell inLARGE to scan across the screen at a steady rate, copying your mouse's speed.
inLARGE costs $95 U.S. (including shipping), and includes a friendly and thorough manual in three media: in 24 point type; in 12 point type for CCTV reading; and as a MacWrite file for reading with inLARGE. inLARGE's designers, Berkeley System Design, will provide technical support for all inLARGE purchasers, including folks who buy inLARGE from RDC.
We recently received a compassionate letter from Winifred Downing, suggesting that we establish a regular "Beginner's Corner" column in the RDC Newsletter. She writes:
"Much of what is now written in the Newsletter is beyond my comprehension, and I can only suppose that there must be others who are similarly inexperienced. There will always be ... people who just began using a computer and to whom much that all the experienced users take for granted is still unknown. I don't mind confessing my ignorance, but since there are many people who might feel threatened if they had to admit they don't know, perhaps the questions to this new column could be submitted anonymously."
Ms. Downing has identified one of the key weaknesses in the user group community: for a beginner, asking questions feels so intimidating that it's easy to just give up computing altogether. Your editor can remember that totally lost feeling when she first started using computers, and I deeply appreciate Ms. Downing bringing this issue to our attention. So without further ado, here are answers to some of Ms. Downing's questions. We urge other beginners to send in their questions as well--anonymity guaranteed!
Many interface cards, printers, and embossers come with "DIP" switches that control how they function. Flipping (not to mention finding!) these tiny switches can be a real pain. Usually, there's another way to control the device: externally, by sending it a specific series of characters. An automatic set-up sequence is one way to get those command characters to an interface card, printer, or embosser. BEX gives you the option of defining an automatic set-up sequence during the configuration process at the User or Master Levels.
Here's a true-life example. Both the original ImageWriter and the ImageWriter II dot-matrix printers have a wide range of features you can control by sending it "escape sequences." You can set a left margin on the ImageWriter with a group of five characters: the Escape control character, uppercase L, followed by a three digit number. The number corresponds to the number of characters you move from the left edge of the sheet: the escape sequence <Esc>L008 sets the ImageWriter's left margin at 8 characters.
As it happens, when you just turn on the ImageWriter and start printing from BEX, the first characters on the line are very close to the left perforation. A left margin of 8 characters is more visually pleasing. BEX gives you three ways to establish this left margin: you can start out your chapter with BEX's $$ml8 command, or you can start your chapter with the <Esc>L008 escape sequence, or you can define an automatic set-up sequence of <Esc>L008 when you configure the ImageWriter. (Please note that you can't put BEX's $$ commands in an automatic set-up sequence.)
The big advantage to the automatic set-up sequence method is that you only define it once. Whenever you use that configuration, BEX always remembers to send the <Esc>L008 characters to the ImageWriter, so you always get a nice left margin. And when you set the ImageWriter's internal left margin, you don't have to recalculate the values for any other BEX $$ commands. As far as BEX is concerned, the ImageWriter line always starts at position zero; BEX doesn't know or care about the ImageWriter's left margin.
Suppose your ImageWriter is connected through slot 1 on your Apple. Here's one way you could answer the configuration questions with BEX 3.0 (the wording is slightly different with earlier versions, but the keys you press are the same):
Printer ONE description
Enter printer slot: 1 <CR>
Enter printer class: G <CR>
Enter carriage width: 72 <CR>
Enter form length: 58 <CR>
Do you want pause after form feed? N <CR>
Do you want auto linefeed? N <CR>
Establish an automatic set-up sequence for printer ONE? Y <CR>
Type it EXACTLY. Press Delete key to end sequence: <Esc>L008
Printer TWO description ...
Unfortunately, BEX wants you to be perfect when you're typing the automatic set-up sequence. Every key you press becomes part of the sequence, so you can't use the left or right arrow keys to correct mistakes. To enter the Escape character in your set-up sequence, you press the key labelled "Esc" once. Control characters don't appear on the screen; in the above sample, the only thing you hear or see is "L008"; the <Esc> character and the character are silent and invisible.
The discretionary hyphen is a control character that gives BEX permission to start a new output line in the middle of a word. When your writing contains many long words, it's possible for your print output to have a very ragged right edge. Imagine you're writing a paper about 19th-century Anglican church politics, and you use the word "antidisestablishmentarianism" often. Especially when you're using large print output, the chances are good that this 28-character word could only fit at the very beginning of the output line. So the previous output line might be only half full. In this situation, adding characters at the right spots in the word makes for more visually pleasing output.
Although the character is a control character--ASCII character number 31, to be exact--you don't have to use control-C to type a in BEX's Editor. Just depress the control key, then press the hyphen key, then release both control and hyphen keys. (However, when you want to find the character in the Editor, you must type control-C control-hyphen to enter the in your locate string.) On the screen the looks like an S in a backwards L; the Echo pronounces it as "ASCII 31" when you arrow over it.
With our jawbreaking sample word, you could place several discretionary hyphens:
The trickiest part about the character is knowing where to place it: hyphenating English correctly is almost as hard as spelling it right. The Chicago Manual of Style provides wonderfully terse and accurate guidelines. When your text contains a bunch of long words, you can write a transformation chapter that finds the plain word and replaces it with the same word plus characters in the appropriate spots.
Some inkprint printers use the control character in their command sequences, so it's possible that you don't want BEX to interpret as a discretionary hyphen. When you want to have s work, you must place the $$sd format command at the start of the list of chapters you print. The $$sd command (remember it as Set Discretionary) tells BEX to interpret as a discretionary hyphen. BEX's default value is to pass on to your printer. If you neglect to include the $$sd command, then BEX passes the control character on to your printer (which may start hiccupping).
The doesn't force BEX to move to a new line; when the word containing the fits in the current line, BEX ignores the character. But when BEX needs to break the line at a , it prints a hyphen, then moves to the next line. Here's a before-and-after sample. With a carriage width of 50 and no discretionary hyphens, you could have output like:
The most famous advocate of
antidisestablishmentarianism was Professor
Mustache, third Duke of Drywall.
The first line has only 27 characters, while the second line contains 42. When the s shown above are included, the output improves noticeably:
The most famous advocate of antidisestablishment-
arianism was Professor Mustache, third Duke of
Now the second line is only three characters shorter then the first. In addition to remembering to place $$sd in your BEX chapters that contain s, there's one more caution about their use. BEX's Grade 2 translator treats all control characters as spaces, including the character. You should delete characters from your chapters before you translate them: use Replace characters to change control-hyphen to nothing.
BEX also has a discretionary line-break character, the is ASCII 30. Just like the , the gives BEX permission to move to a new output line in the middle of a word. But unlike the , BEX doesn't print a hyphen when it executes the character; it just moves to a new line. For inkprint, you can type characters after hyphens, dashes, and slashes. For example, when writing about the "Thanksgiving-through-Christmas sales season", you could type:
Thanksgiving-through-Christmas sales season
Without the characters, that word is 30 characters long; but when you add the s, you give BEX more choices and get better-looking output.
You type a with control-6; on the screen it's an R in a backwards L; the Echo says "ASCII 30" when you arrow over the . Just like the , you enter $$sd in your inkprint chapters to tell BEX to execute as a discretionary line break, instead of passing the character to your printer. Again, you should delete the characters from inkprint text before you translate it. As it changes inkprint to braille, the Grade 2 translator adds characters after hyphens and before and after dashes. You don't have to add the $$sd command to braille chapters. Because the translator automatically places characters, the $$sd function is built in whenever BEX is sending text to a device configured as a "brailler."
The October 1986 article "RDC Avoids the Cutting Edge" forcefully stated my feelings about new technology: I said 12 to 18 months would pass from the introduction of a new product to the time RDC supported it. Here it is, 13 months after the introduction of the Apple IIgs, and RDC is finally supporting it in BEX version 3.0. For those of you who quietly waited, thanks so much for your patience! And now, let's talk about the wonderful new technology.
The most recent addition to the Apple II family, the Apple IIgs is a very sophisticated, flexible, and powerful computer. The Apple IIgs has some similarities to both the Apple IIe and the IIc, and some features that make it unique. Unlike all earlier Apples, the Apple IIgs comes in at least two pieces: a large rectangular box houses the central processing unit, motherboard, and expansion slots, while the keyboard is a separate item, attached with a five-foot coiled cord. Devil-may-care computerists can finally lean back in their chairs and put the keyboard in their laps!
On the back of the IIgs, there is a power switch and jacks for the keyboard and power cord. In addition, there are ports for monochrome or color monitors, a "smart" disk port for various size disk drives, a joystick port, two serial ports, and a headphone jack. These connectors can lead you to believe that the IIgs is like an Apple IIc.
Like the IIc, the Apple IIgs serial ports use an Apple-specific cable connector. I think Apple has decided to go into the cable business in a big way, because the IIgs cables establish yet another "standard" Apple connector: it's a circular, 8-pin jack. Apple sells an "Apple IIgs Adapter Cable," which plugs into the Apple IIgs port on one end and provides a female RS-232 25-pin jack, just like the "tail" on an Apple Super Serial Card. Once you have the adapter cable plugged in, you can pretend that you have a SSC when deciding what cables to get.
BEX 3.0 can generate Large Print output directly from a IIgs port. This means you don't need to buy a Super Serial Card for BEX large print, or any other printing interface to a printer or embosser. But BEX 3.0 can't use the built-in IIgs ports for tape-based VersaBraille transfers or Input through slot. You need a Super Serial Card or SlotBuster Modem Port for these functions.
In addition to the ports, the Apple IIgs also has six expansion slots, like the Apple IIe. Here, you can plug in interface cards like the Apple Super Serial Card; speech synthesizers like the Echo IIb or SlotBuster II; regular-slot memory cards like the Apple Memory Card; or disk drive controller cards for 5.25-inch or hard disk drives. You may be wondering how, with both slots and built-in ports, the Apple IIgs decides which to pay attention to.
Good question. Built in to the Apple IIgs is a program called the Control Panel. As its name suggests, the Control Panel lets you set a variety of functions for the Apple IIgs, including choosing whether you want to use slots or built-in ports. Any changes you make with the Control Panel are stored in a battery-backed memory chip, so you don't have to reset the Control Panel every time you turn on the IIgs. To quote the Apple IIgs manual, "Each of the ports on the back of the IIgs impersonates a particular slot with an interface card. The IIgs assumes you want the ports to be active unless you activate a particular slot by using the Control Panel."
When you install an Apple Super Serial card in slot 1, you must change the Control Panel setting for slot 1 from "Printer Port" to "Your Card." When you install an Echo synthesizer in slot 4, the Apple IIgs won't acknowledge that it exists until you specify that slot 4 is "Your Card" and not the "Mouse Port." BEX's Starting Menu option W - What is in this computer provides information about the contents of your slots. When you use BEX 3.0 on an Apple IIgs, then What is in this computer tells you how each slot is set in the Control Panel.
You use the Control Panel to set how fast the IIgs operates. Whenever you can, you want to use the fast speed--the IIgs runs two and one-half times faster than the Apple IIe! You can change the speed at which keys repeat; you can have loads of fun adjusting the colors displayed on a color monitor.
If you're sighted, you get to the Control Panel by simultaneously pressing the open-Apple (or Command) key, the Escape key, and the Control key. Unfortunately, the Control Panel is incompatible with a speech synthesizer. Fortunately, Computer Aids Corporation has written a nifty "Talking Control Panel" program that lets Echo users set all Control Panel functions. Even more fortunately, Computer Aids has placed the Talking Control Panel program in the public domain: it's completely free and copiable.
We've started to place the Talking Control Panel program on the back side of our QTC disk. (QTC is our shareware ProDOS utility that copies BEX chapters and DOS 3.3 textfiles to ProDOS textfiles. When you send in your registration card for BEX 3.0, we send you an evaluation copy of QTC, which also contains the Talking Control Panel program.) When you use BEX 3.0 on the Apple IIgs, you must set some of the Control Panel functions. The BEX 3.0 documentation provides step-by-step instructions.
While we're on the subject of slots, there has been some confusion about which Echo speech synthesizers are compatible with the Apple IIgs. Street Electronics has manufactured a variety of different circuit boards with the Echo name: first the Echo ][, then the Echo Plus, and currently the Echo IIb. For all these devices, the TEXTALKER software is what makes the Echo able to speak any characters a program sends it. Street Electronics (with help from Larry Skutchan of APH) has continuously improved TEXTALKER, so it's kept up with the variety of Echo hardware and Apple hardware. These improvements have always maintained "backward compatibility." This means that new versions of TEXTALKER always work with all the Echo boards.
One of the big plusses of the Apple IIgs is its speed. Earlier versions of TEXTALKER could not operate at the higher speed, while TEXTALKER 3.1.2 and later work well at the IIgs's "Fast" speed. As long as you have version 3.1.2 or later of TEXTALKER, you can use any Echo board in an Apple IIgs: the Echo ][, the Echo Plus, or the Echo IIb.
If you've seen an Apple IIgs demo at your computer dealer, you may be thinking "Why is he blathering on about the Echo? The IIgs has wonderful speech built in!" Unfortunately, that speech demonstration has misled many people. TEXTALKER has unlimited "text-to-speech" rules--it can pronounce absolutely anything. The Apple IIgs demonstration speech is canned speech: it's like a computer version of a tape recording. While what you hear sounds great, it's also just about all you can hear. A blind computer user must have a speech synthesizer to get meaningful access to the Apple IIgs.
BEX 3.0 is currently shipping with TEXTALKER 3.1.2; QTC is currently shipping with TEXTALKER 3.1.2P. Older software with earlier versions of TEXTALKER may not talk on the Apple IIgs. You may be able to simply use FID to copy a newer version of TEXTALKER (from your BEX disk or Echo/Cricket Training Set disks) on to older programs.
But then again, this strategy may not work. Some programs use specially modified versions of TEXTALKER. If you copy a different version of TEXTALKER on a program like this, then the program may not work at all, much less work on an Apple IIgs.
You can use both 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch disk drives on the IIgs, and they can be connected in two different ways. When you use 5.25 or 3.5-inch disk drives that connect to an actual disk controller card, you must plug that card into a slot, and set the Control Panel so that slot is "Your Card."
Newer 5.25 and 3.5-inch disk drives may be daisy chained. These drives come with DB-19 connectors and a plug in the back (a good example is the external disk drive for the Apple IIc.) You plug one of these drives into the IIgs's "smart" disk port, and subsequent drives are plugged into the back of the previous drive. The important rule to follow is that 3.5-inch drives are plugged in first, closest to the computer in the daisy chain. Any 5.25-inch drives must be at the end of the daisy chain. Set the Control Panel so that slot 5 is "smart disk port."
The maximum capacity for the smart disk port is two 3.5-inch disk drives plus two 5.25-inch disk drives. Even though all the drives are physically connected in a line, the Apple IIgs refers to these drives as if they were in two different slots. The 3.5-inch drives are treated as though they are connec- ted to slot 5, and the 5.25 drives are treated as though they were connected to slot 6. To use BEX 3.0 with an Apple IIgs, you must have one 5.25-inch disk drive.
The Apple IIgs comes with 256K, twice as much as a 128K Apple IIe or IIc. Most of the extra memory is used to support the emulation of the Apple IIe inside the Apple IIgs. BEX 3.0 uses some of this memory to expand the Ready (formerly Zippy) chapter to 20 pages for the IIgs. When you install a memory card in the Apple IIgs memory expansion slot, BEX 3.0 creates super-fast RAM drives. BEX 3.0 sets up a RAM drive no matter what size you give the ProDOS RAM drive in the Control Panel.
BEX's braille keyboard mode does not and cannot work with the Apple IIgs keyboard. It is a hardware limitation. If you plan to make extensive use of BEX's braille keyboard, do not use an Apple IIgs. An Apple dealer can perform a board-lift on an Apple IIe that turns the older machine into a IIgs. In our tests, this updated machine functions exactly like an Apple IIgs with just one exception: you still have the Apple IIe's keyboard, so you can use BEX's braille keyboard mode on a board-lifted IIe. You can't use the Apple IIgs built-in serial ports for tape-based VersaBraille transfers and Input through slot. Finally, with 40-column HI-RES screen in the Editor, nine BEX characters look tipsy: legible but awkard.
In November 1986, I got an Apple IIgs in my office. It had one 5.25-inch drive, one 3.5-inch disk drive, a color monitor, and a megabyte of expansion memory. I booted BEX 2.2 and was disappointed. Even after I had mastered the Control Panel, I found that I had a limited system. At the Master Level, BEX 2.2 did not let me have a Zippy chapter. I had a one drive system since I could not use the 3.5-inch drive. BEX could not make use of the expansion memory. I also found out that the "H" and "B" screen modes were virtually unreadable on the IIgs. This was frustrating to me since the "H" screen mode was my favorite.
What a difference a year makes! The screen display problem is 99% fixed. With BEX 3.0 I have an eight drive Apple IIgs system, with access to just under 2 megabytes of data. The expansion memory is divided into five separate 752-sector RAM drives. The 3.5-inch drive is divided into two 1,500 sector drives. I still have one 5.25-inch drive and a 20-page Ready chapter. A year ago, I rarely used the IIgs with BEX since it worked so much better on my Apple IIe. Now it seems painful to run BEX on anything except an Apple IIgs.
About the author: David Holladay collects gimmicky digital watches. When he's not reading the instructions for a new watch, he writes software and does technical support for RDC.
I've used the Apple Macintosh for all RDC's print materials in the past two years. For large print readers, the inLARGE utility provides effective Macintosh access. Recently I've fielded many inquiries about Mac braille production: it seems the time is ripe to address these questions in the Newsletter.
Before I can explain how the Mac could communicate with a braille embosser, it's important to understand how any computer controls a braille embosser. In many ways, a braille embosser is like a daisy-wheel printer. For a computer program to create braille output, it must be able to send a stream of ASCII characters to the braille embosser.
Like any other printer, computer-driven embossers have a certain amount of "smarts" built in. When an embosser gets a carriage return, the embosser knows enough to move to the next braille line. The embosser controls the spacing between braille lines; the driving computer program only needs to send a carriage return at the appropriate spot. When a computer program sends the embosser a form feed character, then the embosser moves to the top of the next braille page: again, this location is determined by the embosser itself.
Some braille embossers have even more intelligence: on the Thiel and VersaPoint, for example, you can set a "word wrap" function. When you do, then the embosser generates its own carriage return after it's received 40 to 42 braille cells. After this "soft" carriage return, subsequent runover lines are indented two cells. This "word wrap" feature is handy when the computer program doesn't know about braille format rules. When you're creating program listings, for example, each program line can occupy several braille lines; the indent on runover lines makes it much easier to find the start of each program line.
But most braille readers are not interested in program listings: they want books, articles, reference materials, and other formatted braille documents. So when we talk about generating readable braille with a computer, we need software that can conform to the braille format rules. Some braille format rules are complex, and quite different from the kinds of format you need in inkprint.
For example, the braille codebooks say you should skip one braille line both before and after a major braille heading. Sometimes that skipped line before a heading would be the bottom line on the braille page. When this is the case, and you have a running head on line 1, then you must skip both the bottom line on the braille page and line 2 on the next braille page, starting the major heading on line 3.
In addition to braille format, there's also the issue of braille translation. To get properly contracted grade 2 output on your embosser, you must send it the right characters. The "computer braille" system maps one braille cell onto each printable ASCII character. For example, lowercase a maps to the braille cell dot 1. The digit 4 maps to the braille cell 2-4-6, also called "dropped d." The plus + sign maps to the braille cell dots 3-4-6.
(Last month's "An Introduction to the Code for Computer Braille Notation" article explains computer braille in great detail; a complete computer braille chart appears on the BEX Thick Reference Card.)
In grade 2, the word "adding" is represented by three cells: dot 1, dots 2-4-6, dots 3-4-6. If you want the word "adding" embossed in grade 2, then your software must send the embosser the ASCII characters "a4+" (without the quotes). Few braille readers will tolerate an entire book in computer braille, where the word "adding" is represented by six cells: dot 1, dots 1-4-5, 1-4-5, 2-4, 1-3-4-5, 1-2-4-5. There are a variety of braille-literate software tools, ranging from those that require you to do all the work, to those that do most of the work for you.
In the hands of a good transcriber who's familiar with computer braille, just about any word processor could be used for braille transcription. If you can set the characters pe line between 40 and 42 and the lines per page at 25, and if you can translate from inkprint to contracted grade 2 braille in your head, then the braille-literacy resides in your head, not the software. When you want the grade 2 word "adding", you type "a4+" on the computer keyboard. The screen display would be in computer braille characters, of course, not dot patterns. If the word processor is smart enough to break text into output lines, so much the better. In terms of the major heading rule we mention above, the word processor must have a "what you see is what you get" display. That way you'd see the braille page breaks on screen, so you could manually add carriage returns to juggle headings between pages as required.
For experienced braille transcribers, a word processor that lets you do braille data entry is much easier. A program like Bob Stepp's ED-IT turns the Apple IIe or IIc into an electronic braillewriter. Your data entry uses six keys and the spacebar; the screen display is in dots. When you want the grade 2 word "adding", you braille dot 1, dots 2-5-6, dots 3-4-6 on the Apple keyboard. ED-IT does provide a few format tools, but the bulk of the formatting is the transcriber's responsibility.
At the highest level of sophistication is software like RDC's TranscriBEX. TranscriBEX contains a grade 2 (and 1) translator, so your data entry can be in inkprint: to get the grade 2 word "adding" you type "adding", then process your data through the translator. TranscriBEX breaks the braille text into output lines, and is well-informed about some of the hairier braille formats. For a major heading, you enter the commands$s\\hd in your text, and TranscriBEX makes sure that the skipped lines appear where they should.
To summarize, to produce braille with any computer, you need a word processing program that can output ASCII characters. It must let you set 40 or so characters per line and 25 or so lines per page. It's nice if the word processor is WYSIWYG, or if it includes a variety of conditional page breaking commands. And finally, either the computer program or you must know how to translate from inkprint to contracted grade 2 braille.
With this background, we can begin to answer the question "Can you use the Mac to produce braille?" As of this writing, I know of no single program on the Macintosh designed for the task of braille transcription. There's no software at TranscriBEX's level of sophistication: no grade 2 translator, and no "braille-literate" formatter. However, an integrated braille transcription program is possible on the Macintosh, and RDC is thinking hard about what would be involved in creating one.
The only braille-specific tool I currently know of is a braille-cell font for the Macintosh. The designer, Mr. Koichi Oda, is distributing a group of four braille-cell fonts as "shareware." You can purchase these braille fonts directly; get the address from Facts on File and send him $5 plus one 3.5-inch disk plus a self-addressed stamped envelope. It's important to understand why this braille font does not mean that you can magically produce braille with a Mac.
One fundamental Macintosh feature is the ability to represent text in a variety of different typefaces; Mac programs refer to each typeface as a "font." Almost all Mac word processors are WYSIWYG. When you want to print your document in 18 point Times Roman, for example, then the Mac's screen also displays 18 point Times Roman. That's one reason why the Mac is a natural for partially sighted computer users.
But this correspondence between the screen display and the paper output can erroneously lead you to the assumption that the Mac stores its text as pictures. If it did, then it would be impossible for the Mac to send text to a braille embosser. Fortunately, the Mac stores its text as ASCII characters plus program-specific commands that define what font to use when outputting that text. Suppose a Mac word processor document consists of an 18 point New York sentence: "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy red dog." Because of the Mac's file structure, it's a snap to change how text appears. You simply select that sentence, then mouse around to change its font to, say, 24 point bold Geneva. Only the font information has to change; the text is unaltered.
Once you have installed Mr. Oda's braille cell font in your System file, you could change our hypothetical sentence to braille cells. However, displaying text in a braille cell font is not the same as translating text into braille. You can't send pictures of braille cells to an embosser: you must send ASCII characters. Only when the ASCII characters are:
,! qk br[n fox jump$ ov] ! lazy r$ dog4
do you have a recognizable, grade 2 braille sentence. If you sent the ASCII inkprint version to a braille embosser, the resulting computer braille would be quite confusing. Most braille readers would scratch their heads and say, "what's this crazy not-quite grade 1?"
I don't know of any software that turns the Mac's keyboard into a Perkins-Brailler-style keyboard. This type of utility is impossible for any of the Mac SE or II Apple keyboards. (The hardware in Apple's new keyboards just won't allow you to press several letters at a time: the same limitation applies to the Apple IIgs keyboard.) It's technically possible to program a six-key system for the older keyboards that came with the original 128K Mac, 512K Mac, and Mac Plus, but I don't know of anyone who has done it.
Currently Macintosh braille data entry requires you to know the computer braille for each cell. When you want an "ar" sign, you press greater-than; for a braille period, you press the digit 4; and so forth. Mr. Oda's braille-cell font can help you learn which keys to press.
Once you've figured out how to do your braille data entry, you're not out of the woods yet: there's still the formatting issue. The ImageWriter and the LaserWriter both require some left margin, so most Mac word processors make it tricky to request absolutely no leading spaces at the start of a line. Mac word processors generally measure margins and so forth in inches, not characters. That's a problem, because braille indents and runovers are always specified in multiples of braille cells.
The Macintosh has a well-deserved reputation as an easy-to-use computer. Apple Computer, Inc. made a lot of decisions early in the Mac design process that helped ensure this simplicity. If you have ever spent a lost weekend trying to establish communications between a cranky computer and a new printer, you know that printer interfacing can be horrible. When Apple introduced the Mac, it was designed to work with exactly one printer: the Apple ImageWriter. A year later, Apple added one more device to the list of Mac-supported printers: the Apple LaserWriter.
This unitary strategy circumvented the whole printer-interface nightmare. Other Mac software developers, however, realized that people would want to connect other manufacturer's printers to their Macintosh, so special programs to let Macs communicate with other brands of printers quickly surfaced. Why were special programs required?
In Apple's grand design, the Mac doesn't send ASCII characters to the ImageWriter. Instead, it sends "bit-mapped" graphics, or pictures of the letters. When you set up your document with the 18 point Geneva font, for example, then you get nice big letters as ImageWriter output. Some of the special "printer-driver" programs convert the ImageWriter-specific graphics information into the appropriate commands for a different brand of dot-matrix printer.
Other printer-driver software changes the nature of the printer output entirely: instead of printing graphics at all, your word processor sends out ASCII characters, so you can connect a daisy-wheel printer to your Macintosh. Since a braille embosser requires the same kind of ASCII characters as a daisy-wheel printer, these printer-drivers hold the key to getting braille output from a Macintosh.
Once you've typed in your braille text on the Mac, you can't use the Mac's "normal machinery" to output the text to your braille embosser. Fortunately, there are some alternatives. You may be able to use the "Draft Printing" feature built in to the ImageWriter driver, or the "Serial Printer" drivers supplied with Microsoft Word. When all else fails, you can use a terminal program and pretend you're uploading a textfile to your embosser.
The simple answer to the question "Can I make well-formatted grade 2 braille with a Macintosh?" is "Only if you want to swim upstream." If you've seen the pretty braille dot patterns in RDC's TranscriBEX manuals, you may wonder how we did it. It wasn't easy. After extensive trial and error, we developed this method: we tell BEX to send formatted grade 2 to the Mac, and use a Mac terminal program to capture that text on disk. Once the ASCII characters are in the Mac, we use a PostScript program that prints ASCII characters as computer braille dot patterns. If you have any further information about braille tools for the Macintosh, please write or call.
But in the long term, braille production on the Mac is possible. When computers first produced braille, some thought the solution to the format and translation challenges was simple: braille readers should be content with untranslated, unformatted computer braille output. RDC, along with Duxbury, Computer Aids, Microtalk and others, have faced that challenge squarely: we've enabled Apples and IBMs to make "real braille." I'm confident that "real braille" will be available from the Macintosh as well.
About the author: Jesse Kaysen, RDC Publications Manager, loves to learn about languages and codes--typesetting, braille, and ASL are her current fascinations.
This regular column provides tips and techniques for users of RDC's TranscriBEX program, which adds Library of Congress-quality braille transcription capability to BEX. Contributions are always welcome.
When the title of a book is more than 33 characters in braille, you must abbreviate it to fit in the braille running head at the top of each page. However, the first text page of each braille volume must begin with the full title instead of the abbreviated version. While page 10-4 of the TranscriBEX Manual explains how you do this for the title page, it doesn't address how it's done for the first text page of the second and subsequent braille volumes. Let me fill in the blank.
The basic technique is to delay the TranscriBEX command that defines the running head until you've typed out the full title. Begin text pages, in either literary or textbook format, as if you were not using any running head. In textbook format, begin with \\textbookformat \\setnumber# \\pp [print page number]. In literary format, begin with \\bookformat \\setnumber#. Follow with \\hd and the first line of the full title. Begin each succeeding line of the title with <CR>\\c. After finishing the full title, type <CR>\\runninghead [abbreviated title]$s.
Here's a textbook format example. You are beginning the second volume of the book THE HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION: A TEDIOUS APPROACH on print page 56 and braille page 85. The first BEX chapter of this text starts out:
\\textbookformat \\setnumber85 \\pp 56 \\hd THE HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION: <CR> \\c A TEDIOUS APPROACH <CR> \\runninghead HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION$sIn the beginning, ...
When you preview this chapter, the first braille page won't have a runninghead, but the second and subsequent pages will.
About the author: Caryn Navy is one-half of RDC's programming staff, as well as Poet-in-Residence.
[Editor's Note: This article is reprinted with permission from the National Braille Association's quarterly Bulletin, Fall 1987, Vol. 23, No. 4. See Facts on File for subscription information. JK]
Two years ago we realized the need to expand production of our volunteer services, but training one braillist for textbook work takes well over a year and volunteer transcribers are getting harder to recruit. Besides, our braillists were doing more and more technical work such as mathematics, foreign language, spellers, workbooks and other materials that require a braillist's careful formatting. There was still a great need for more "straight" materials such as history, literature and other less complex texts.
It was in the Spring of 1985 that I attended an NBA workshop on the relatively new BETTE (Braille-Edit Textbook Transcribing Edition) program. This was exactly what we were looking for--a computer program that could be utilized to a great extent by typists not trained in braille. We set about getting funding for the program as well as an Apple IIe computer and the following is a brief history of how our particular translation typist section functions after two years of trial and error.
We chose to use the BETTE program (now converted to TranscriBEX), but the same principles would apply to whatever translation program you choose. I have found in reviewing the various ones available for the Apple and IBM that there are really more similarities than differences, and it is truly a matter of equipment available to you.
Typist recruitment was easy--we offered an opportunity to learn computer literacy, a word processing program and improve typing skills. A simple notice in the "Helping Hand" column of our local newspaper brought 25 applicants! Many of our original typists went back into the job market, using our TranscriBEX group as a reference. Word of mouth or occasional publicity keeps our needs current. Our typist pool now numbers about 10, including print proofreaders.
Typists work in two ways. They all begin by coming in to the "office" (my home) to work in 2- or 3-hour shifts. When they are sufficiently comfortable with the program and equipment and we are confident they are self-sufficient, they may work at home, checking out our portable Apple IIc computer. The training is on-going, and even the first session is productive. Each typist is provided with a TranscriBEX Mini Reference Manual that we have developed, listing a 2-letter code to correspond to the various commands. It explains exactly how each command is to be typed. For example, if the typist comes across the notation "mh", she finds it in the alphabetically arranged manual and reads as follows:
mh Minor Heading (blank line above only
cell 5 on braille page)
Minor headings are usually those NOT in the Table of Contents.
Follow capitalization in print.
No italics or boldface except to set off words for emphasis.
We have also developed a companion manual for our braillists using the same 2-letter codes and referring them to the Textbook Format Guide. This allows our braillists who do the structuring to use the same method whether preparing material for translation typists or braillists.
Even the first session is productive for the typist because all mistakes are easily corrected in the editor. It has been very exciting for the volunteers and they are eager to come back the next week--regardless of the subject matter they are asked to type!
Our typists and print proofreaders have become an integral part of our group. They meet with the braillists 2-3 times a year, receive awards and participate in all fund raising activities. They feel very much a part of the total organization.
What makes this project worth exploring? First of all, it can add the equivalent of at least one trained braillist to your group without the year of more of training. It is not designed to replace volunteer textbook braillists, only to expand your existing production. There are definite types of materials that are most time-effective for translation programs. Although most formats CAN be handled by the translation programs, the understanding of the program needed by the typist increases greatly with the complexity of the materials involved.
In order to make this type of program work for your group, you MUST have a certified braillist who is willing and able to give up some of her production time to learn the word processing/translation program and supervise the production along the way. Here is a breakdown of the time needed for a volume done by translation versus line-oriented computer-assisted brailling versus totally manual brailling with a Perkins:
Task: TranscriBEX; ED-IT; Manual.
Structuring (by braillist): 0.5; 0.5; 0.5.
Typing/brailling (including proofreading and correcting): 8.0; 20.0; 30.0.
Formatting (by braillist): 2.0; --; --.
Printing: 2.0; 2.0; 0.0.
Proofreading braille copy: 4.0; 4.0; 4.0.
Correcting (by braillist): 1.0; 1.0; 2.0.
Total time: 19.5; 27.5; 36.5.
Braillist's time: 3.5; 21.5; 32.5.
The above estimates are based on a simple textbook averaging about 80 braille pages per volume. It is also assumed that your typist is above average in speed and accuracy. The real key here is "Braillist's Time."
There are several factors to be CAREFULLY considered before jumping into translation typing:
1. SOME braillist must give up a considerable amount of time to learn and supervise the program. These computer programs are powerful, but they are complex, and you get out of them what you are willing to put in. Working with them on a regular basis and constantly reviewing the manuals is very important to quality output.
2. Certified textbook braillists are not being replaced--merely relieved of routine materials so they can concentrate their considerable skills on more specialized texts that require their unique understanding of interpretation.
3. Textbook work appropriate for translation programs should be carefully considered. Materials that require illustrations should not be considered for a translation program. Also, material that requires a great deal of transcriber's notes or picture descriptions is best left to the braillist.
4. Braillists should not be converted to typists. It is not an efficient use of skills. However, if a braillist can no longer devote the necessary time to braille because of a job or added family responsibilities, this is an excellent area in which to still utilize her skills as a proofreader, structurer or possibly a typist.
5. Be sure you stress the importance of accuracy. Each typist must proofread and correct his/her own work. Typed input presents new kinds of errors, for example typing the letter "l" for the numeral "1"; imagine what the translator does with "l984" instead of "1984"! [Editor's note: you get l#ihd instead of #aihd JK]
6. Expect some frustration, especially in the beginning. Any new venture has problems--just be prepared to deal with them and work them through with patience.$p New developments continually make these programs more desirable as an addition to our existing transcription services. As with any computer-produced braille, we, as certified transcribers dedicated to providing quality textbooks for visually impaired students, should never compromise our standards of quality for faster production.
Go into translation production with the same dedication and commitment to quality that you maintain in your existing braille group. "Anything worth doing is worth doing right!"
About the author: Gloria K. Buntrock is the Coordinator of the Naperville Area Transcribing for the Blind braillist group. A board member of the National Braille Association, she currently serves as Chairman of Computer-assisted Transcription. Luckily for RDC, Gloria is a confirmed computer hacker (her first computer program was DOS 3.3 AppleWriter on an Apple II Plus!) and she has served as a rigorous beta-tester for TranscriBEX. As a postscript, Gloria adds that the National Braille Association offers Continuing Education Seminars on a variety of topics, including computer-assisted transcribing. Contact the NBA through the address in Facts on File.
For years you've been hearing about all the wonderful databases and bulletin boards available through your computer. Just a phone call away are the Washington Post, encyclopedias, extensive libraries of articles on just about any subject you can name, shopping catalogs, etc. Eagerly you set up your computer with a smart modem and telecommunications software. With trembling fingers, you dial into your first bulletin board.
After a short time, you discover that most of these boards require a user's annual fee, some have hourly rates and some even have rates beyond that for special items within them. Your phone bill suddenly skyrockets and you begin to realize that maybe this wasn't such a hot idea after all.
Telecommunications with speech or braille is naturally slower than it is for a sighted person. Once again, the high cost of technology has stopped you from enjoying the absolutely staggering wealth of information that is available.
It's bad enough, though understandable, to pay for using many of the boards but to have to pay exorbitant long-distance charges as well is beyond most people's means. Even with the alternative long-distance carriers, toll charges can quickly go out of control. It's very easy to forget how long you've been online when you're reading something exciting or doing an important bit of research.
Enter PC-PURSUIT. What? Another computer game? No, it's a service that opens up a world of low-cost telecommunicating for any type of computer with terminal capabilities. It's comparable to the low-cost voice telephone services like "WATTS": PC-PURSUIT is a flat-rate window into literally thousands of other bulletin board systems. You pay a one-time registration fee of $25. After that you are charged a flat rate of $25 a month. You are allowed to make as many long-distance computer connections and "talk" for as long as you want without fear of escalating toll charges. There are time restrictions: You can use it between 6:00 PM and 7:00 AM local time on weekdays and from 6:00 PM Friday through 7:00 AM Monday as well as major holidays. If you were to use the service during business hours, you are charged a high hourly rate. But during the times just mentioned, you have free rein.
If you make extensive use of telecommunications, even with other computer friends who have modems around the country, this is an excellent way to cut down your phone bill. (When two individuals both subscribe to PC-PURSUIT and live in supported areas, they can direct connect over the phone lines. Imagine the savings for communications between deaf-blind people!) Yes, you'll still have to pay the charges that individual boards require, but at least your phone bill won't be the worse for it. You can find out more about PC-PURSUIT by firing up your terminal program and calling 1-800-835-3001.
You get a free ten-minute introduction and are given a chance to register online via credit card. In ten days or so, you receive a User ID and Password and a quick description of how to sign on. There are toll-free numbers for customer support and there is a bulletin board in Virginia that contains an online User Guide to PC-PURSUIT. For the blind, any online documentation is a gold mine.
Briefly, here's how the service works. You access PC-PURSUIT by calling a local TELENET number. After you log on to the system, you can "dial" 25 major area codes around the country. These include cities like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago. Once you're connected to a specific area code, you can reach any phone number in that area code. So, for example, if you connected into the Boston area code, 617, you could then reach your friend anywhere in the 617 dialing area. This includes not just Boston but a huge region, most of the state of Massachusetts, in fact. The service is expanding further at the beginning of the year and already accesses about 17,000 boards around the country. To get a listing of these boards, use your computer to call 305-627-6969.
So you can see how valuable the service can be. Anyone wishing more information about this service may call the 800 number mentioned earlier or can contact me through RDC. ENJOY!!!
About the author: Olga Espinola is a long-time friend of RDC, and frequent Newsletter contributor. She is a programmer and develops tutorial software for teaching different computer systems to users.
We're happy to publish brief announcements from our readers at no charge. Just send us your 10 to 50 word announcement in print, braille, or on disk!
James Elekes is selling a tape-based ("Classic") VersaBraille P2C. It's recently been refurbished with new key pad, internal battery, and powerpack, and he's asking $1500 or best offer. Call him evenings in Eastern time at 301-379-4162.
Daniel Miller writes from Jacksonville, Alabama: "I'm considering starting a 'User Club', similar to what general Apple owners, or Corvette owners, have. It could be a forum where we could come together and discuss common problems or discoveries, and just help one another out." If you live in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, or Mississippi, why not write Daniel L. Miller, Coordinator; Office of Postsecondary Programs for Sensory Impaired; Jacksonville State University; Jacksonville AL 36265. Telephone: 205-231-5093
Paul Henrichsen, a Hot Dots user, writes: When I used Apples, I really took advantage of the public domain PHONE LIST program that came on the DOS 3.3 System Master disk. [BEX owners can find it on the DOS 3.3 Utilities disk in the BEX binder. JK] When I switched to the IBM-PC, I couldn't find an adequate program that worked well with speech, so I wrote one. "Telefile" allows storage of 300 numbers in each file--you can create separate files for your bowling league, client contacts list, software stores, or whatever. You can define numbers, names, and categories, and search on any one of those field types. You can edit or delete entries, and create a new directory from an existing one. It's a simple program, but I've found it very useful. I'm selling it for $20; write Paul Henrichsen; 3862 North Renn; Fresno CA 93727
Your editor knows from grim experience that it's hard to find a good tone indexer, so I was pleasantly surprised at the following notice: Ann Morris Enterprises, Inc is selling a portable Tone Indexer for marking pages or notes on any tape recorder. The tone is audible during fast forward or rewind on any player with a "cue/review" function. The unit, complete with battery and your choice of print or braille instructions, costs $44.95 shipped to your door; write Ann Morris Enterprises, Inc.; 26 Horseshoe Lane; Levittown, NY 11756
Peter Scialli writes about his latest version of the "Ultimate Banker" check-writing software: "I've rewritten the program in machine language, so it runs about 20-30 times faster than previous versions. For example, I was able to search through my entire disk record of 1987 transactions in about 15 seconds. In addition, the Ultimate Banker now uses the most current edition of TEXTALKER so that it shuts up immediately with any keystroke,. Not only are menus now optional, but with a fast trigger finger on the next command key, it is unnecessary even to listen to prompts.
The Ultimate Banker is now going to be available in ProDOS only. But you don't have to know about ProDOS; the program runs itself. In addition to being available on standard 5.25-inch floppy disk, the program is available on 3.5-inch "micro" floppy disk.
Features of the program which are essentially the same as in previous editions include keeping track of check number and memo as well as automatically updating your balance with compound interest in interest bearing accounts. In addition, the Ultimate Banker warns you of impending service charges and overdrafts before they occur! Check-writing is easy with up to three different check formats on either single feed or tractor feed checks.
The Ultimate Banker costs $50. Sorry, I cannot accept any invoicing; payment must accompany each order. Current owners should contact me for upgrade details: Peter Scialli; 630 Park St. Apt. X; Charlottesville, VA 22901; Telephone: 804-296-1527
Borland International is making the manuals for their MS-DOS programs available on disk to visually impaired users at no charge. If you are a user of Turbo Lightning, Turbo Pascal, or any of the other programs produced by Borland, you can contact them about availability.
The person to contact is: Jeanina Martin; Borland International; 4585 Scotts Valley Drive; Scotts Valley, CA 95066; Telephone: 408-438-8400, ex. 210
Talking Computers Inc., has updated its Talk-to-Me Tutorials for MS-DOS and PC-DOS. The three tutorial tapes still include the mellifluous voice of Doug Wakefield and his trusty DECtalk, Mechanical Max. They explain the basics of the IBM's Disk Operating System in a friendly and patient fashion. What's new are two primers focussing on screen review programs.
The Artic Primer is applicable for users with either Artic Vision or Business Vision; the VERT Primer is appropriate for both VERT+ and Soft VERT users. Each Primer is one cassette: the first side helps brand new users get their speech access device up and running. Once the IBM is talking, the user can follow along with the Talk-to-Me Tutorial tapes that orient new users to a variety of different IBM keyboard layouts and explore basic DOS functions. The revised Tutorial includes instructions on using DOS commands to create an easy-to-use, quick access phone directory.
The second side of the VERT and Artic Primers moves into more advanced speech commands, as well as describing how to make the most of the HELP facilities built into these screen review tools. The package of the DOS Tutorial plus one Primer costs $75. Further discounts are available when other TCI products are purchased at the same time.
In addition to background information like the DOS tutorial, TCI also publishes tutorials for specific applications. Current titles include Go-WordPerfect and Go--1-2-3; a tutorial for dBASE is currently in production. While more sophisticated voice and braille access technology seems to sprout up everyday, getting access to manuals has been a frustration for blind users. TCI's goal is to close the accessible documentation gap. For more details, contact: Mr. Doug Wakefield; Talking Computers, Inc.; 6931 North 72th Road; Arlington VA 22213. Telephone: 800-458-6338 or 703-241-8224
Do you use an Apple computer with an Echo speech synthesizer? Are you interested in learning more about programming? Do you enjoy finding ready-to-run programs that work with speech? Do you like to play computer games? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, have we got a deal for you!
Apple Talk is a quarterly magazine for Apple computer users with speech synthesizers. This magazine will be on computer disks and will be published in February, May, August, and November of 1988. The magazine will include articles about programming; PEEKs, POKEs, and CALLs; notices about computer products and software; EXEC tricks; games; and utility programs. Apple Talk also maintains a disk library of public domain programs which work with speech output. These programs are available to all Apple Talk subscribers for a $5 copying charge. The issues will also contain resource materials as well as lists of recorded and brailled manuals and computer books.
All four issues of Apple Talk can be kept by the subscriber. The cost is $15 for the 1988 issues--this price is good in U.S. and Canada. Overseas air mail subscriptions are $32. All checks or money orders must be payable in U.S. funds drawn on a U.S. bank. Please make your check or money order payable to Jeff Weiss. Payment must accompany your order--absolutely no invoicing will be accepted! Apple Talk; 3015 S. Tyler St.; Little Rock AR 72204
The September 1986 RDC Newsletter included an article about the "Braille User-Oriented Code" (BUOC). This article was excerpted from the Womyn's Braille Press Newsletter, Vol. 6, Issue 1, Summer 1986; it explained how the BUOC system provided braille users with a code that's easier to write, read, and teach. Rebecca Maxwell, the developer of BUOC, has created a volume of supplementary teaching materials for BUOC. It's a complete course for teaching the code to yourself, or to someone else who knows grade 2 Braille. You will have an active learning experience through exercises in reading and writing in each section of the code. There are plenty of helpful hints and aids to memorization sprinkled in along the way. You will be able to readily achieve success at learning BUOC as you go and at the end of the course you will be a proficient reader of BUOC. Please send check or money order for $15 U.S., payable to "WBP": Womyn's Braille Press; PO Box 8475; Minneapolis MN 55408; Telephone: 612-872-4352
Barry Cronin; WGBH; 125 Western Avenue; Boston MA 02134. Telephone: 617-492-2777
Intelligent Information Technologies Corp.; P.O. Box 5002l; Station A; Champaign IL 61820
until April 1988: Koichi Oda; Department of Psychology; New York University; 6 Washington Place, #966; New York, NY 10003.
after April 1988: Koichi Oda; Department of Education for the Visually Handicapped; National Institute of Special Education; 2360 Nobi, Yokosuka, Kanagawa; 239 Japan
National Braille Association; 1290 University Avenue; Rochester NY 14607; Telephone: 716-473-0900.
The RDC Newsletter is produced with a delightful array of Apple products: written and edited with BEX on an Apple IIgs; file transfer with BEX and ASLtalk DA to a Mac Plus; wherein we do spellchecking with Spellswell; page layout with JustText, and finally output the offset master on an Apple LaserWriter Plus. The audio edition is recorded on APH 2/4-track recorder, then duplicated on Recordex 3-to-1 high speed duplicators.
BETTE, BEX, TranscriBEX, and Hot Dots are trademarks of Raised Dot Computing, Inc. Apple, Apple II+, Apple IIe, Apple IIc, Apple IIgs, ImageWriter, ImageWriter II, LaserWriter, LaserWriter Plus, Macintosh, and Super Serial Card are trademarks of Apple Computer, Inc. ED-IT is a trademark of Bob Stepp. Echo ][, Echo Plus, Echo IIb, Cricket, Echo GP, Echo PC, and TEXTALKER are trademarks of Street Electronics Corporation. Model Tea Reader, HAL-16, and BOSS are trademarks of Dolphin Systems for the Disabled, Ltd. inLARGE is a trademark of Berkeley System Design. IBM-PC is a trademark of International Business Machines Corporation. PC-Write is a trademark of Bob Wallace and Quicksoft, Inc. PostScript is a trademark of Adobe Systems, Inc. SlotBuster is a trademark of RC Systems, Inc. Ultimate Banker is a trademark of Peter Scialli. VersaBraille and VERT are trademarks of Telesensory Systems, Inc. Word is a TM of Microsoft Corp.
1987 has been an interesting and challenging year for us. All of us look forward to coming to work in the morning, and you're the reason why. Your enouragement, support, and suggestions make it all worthwhile.
Phyllis Herrington -- Technical Support
David Holladay -- Programming
Jesse Kaysen -- Publications Manager
Caryn Navy -- Programming
Nevin Olson -- Business Manager
Becky Q Rundall -- Sales Manager