Raised Dot Computing Newsletter: Exploring Microcomputer Applications for the Visually Impaired -- ISSN 0890-0019. January-February 1989 -- Volume 7, Numbers 72 & 73.

Published Every Other Month by Raised Dot Computing, Inc., 408 South Baldwin Street, Madison, Wisconsin USA 53703. Telephone: 608-257-9595.

Subscriptions: $18/year Print, $20/year Audio Tape, $30/year Apple II BEX data 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. Editors: Jesse Kaysen & Phyllis Herrington.

Entire contents copyright 1989 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 = (This Chapter) print page 1.

LASER LINES = Laser Lines from the Editor by Jesse Kaysen (print page 2).

INDUSTRY CHANGE = Changes in the Sensory Aids Industry: Ohtsuki Products Under New Distribution; TSI & VTEK Merge. (print page 2).

PC JUNK? = Seeking Feedback on MTR & PC-WRITE by Phyllis Herrington (print page 4).

BRAILLE LETTERS = Making Braille Letters with BEX by Jesse Kaysen (print pages 4-5).

KENNEL SCOOP = Scoop from the Kennel by Phyllis Herrington, includes Apple IIgs Control Panel, Grade One Translation, Printing to VersaBraille II Plus (print pages 5-7).

PHANTOM UNIDISK = I Never Told You There Was a UniDisk: Apple IIgs RAM Drive Mysteries by Jesse Kaysen (print pages 7-8).

JOY OF TRANSCRIBEX = Joy of TranscriBEX includes TranscriBEX 2.1 Improvements Disk Available; Fixing an Ellipsis Glitch in the Grade 2 Translator by Gloria Buntrock; Author's names after titles are centered, not blocked by Caryn Navy (print pages 9-10).

MULTI MEDIA READING = Reading Machines for the Blind: Why One Medium Isn't Enough by Harvey Lauer (print pages 10-15).

DOTS AND HARD DISKS = Using Hot Dots and Batch Files on a Hard Disk by Caryn Navy (print pages 15-16).

REMAP SMALLTALK KEY = Remapping the Keys of the SmallTalk Plus to the IBM Keyboard by Mark Dubnick (print pages 16-18).

DECODING ESCAPE = Deciphering Printer Manuals: No Need to Run Away from Escape Sequences by David Holladay (print pages 18-20).

APPLE FILE EXCHANGE = Transferring Data between Apple II and Macintosh with Apple File Exchange by Jesse Kaysen (print pages 20-22).

BULLETIN BOARD = Two VBs & an Ampro CP/M Computer for Sale; A2 Central Magazine on Disk (print pages 22-23).

AUTHORS = About the Authors (print page 23).

FAX ON FILE = The RDC Full Cell; Production Notes; Trademarks (print page 24).

Laser Lines from the Editor

The turn of the year is an appropriate time for change, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised at all the new things we're faced with.

The Queen Has Gone, Long Live the Queen

On February 1st, Becky Rundall made the big move: she's now in New York City, working for Robotron, Pty., manufacturers of the Eureka A4. While the Dots will most definitely miss her wit, wisdom, broad vocabulary, and general excellence, we're also proud that her three-and-a-half years here prepared her for this challenging new career. The truth can now be told about her middle initial. When Becky fell in love with the Bookman uppercase Q (the typeface used here in our headlines), she hungered to somehow include this attractive letter in her job title. Although "Quality Sales Manager" and "Expert Quandary Resolutionist" both fit her to a Q, her modesty prevented her accepting these highfalutin' monickers. Kristi came to the rescue by dubbing her Queen Becky. The hundreds of satisfied RDC customers who've benefitted from Becky's assistance will, I'm sure, join the Dots in sending a hearty "Hail Queenie!" to the Upper West Side.

... And In Rides Sue Murray

In mid-January, Sue Murray joined the RDC staff as Order Processor. We're sure she'll be rolling along in the right groove, as Sue purchased Becky's bicycle. A wealth of clerical experience, coupled with the special skills required to mother two teenagers and maintain one's sanity, prepares her for the important task of handling your questions and orders on the phone and through the mails. She likes playing with computers and is eager to learn more about them; she only wishes Apples sported her favorite colors, turquoise and black.

Sensory Overload Contest Time

Amidst the whirls of change, one thing is constant: April is time for our annual excursion into total silliness, otherwise known as the Sensory Overload Catalogue. The Sensory Overload board was gratified to learn that our catalogues are used as teaching materials in one Canadian province: as a test of their understanding of the aids available, teachers of the visually impaired must identify the real products parodied in our annual presentation. We welcome contributions from readers.

Changes in the Sensory Aids Industry

Ohtsuki Products Under New Distribution

Sharon Kelleher, President of Ohtsuki Communication Products, Inc. (OCP) has announced that as of January 31, 1989, OCP will cease its operations. Technol Eight Company, Ltd. of Japan, manufacturer of Ohtsuki products, has established a wholly-owned subsidiary in California. This subsidiary, Technol America, Inc., will be responsible for sales and service of the Ohtsuki Fast Talker TE-101 Cassette Recorder. OCP has turned the Ohtsuki BT-5000 Printer distributorship over to American Thermoform Corporation, manufacturers of Brailon duplicators and distributors of Braillo and Resus computer braille printers.

Kelleher, sole distributor of the Ohtsuki BT-5000 that can output both print and braille in several languages, acquired the rights after working with the printer's developer in Japan. She said, "The Ohtsuki Printer is a unique product and has earned a favorable niche in school and industry environments where it is essential to bridge the gap between sighted and blind users. I know that American Thermoform and Technol America will do an excellent job in marketing, maintenance, and customer support of Ohtsuki products. As for me, I'll always cherish the friends and experiences that came about because of my involvement in a special field."

For more information on the Ohtsuki BT-5000, contact:

Ms. Ruth Haggen

American Thermoform Corporation

2311 Travers Avenue

City of Commerce, CA 90040


For information regarding the Ohtsuki Fast Talker, contact:

Technol America, Inc.

2901 Tasman Drive, Suite 205

Santa Clara, CA 95054


Telesensory Systems, Inc. and VTEK Merge

Jim Bliss, President of TSI, is pleased to announce the planned merger of Telesensory Systems Inc. (TSI) and VTEK, two of the largest companies in the world supplying aids for visually impaired and blind people. "We believe this step will benefit both companies as well as the thousands of visually impaired people we serve. In 1970 and 1971, TSI, VTEK, and Apollo Electronic Visual Aids were founded. TSI focused on products for blind people, while VTEK and Apollo concentrated on products for people with low vision. In 1983, TSI entered the low vision business by acquiring Apollo, and VTEK announced its first product for blind people. Now, by combining the complementary strengths of TSI and VTEK, we can better provide a complete array of products for a wide range of users' needs."

Larry Israel, President of VTEK, says: "I am excited and enthused about the plans to merge, and about the benefits our customers will receive from the new organization. By increasing the volume over which product development costs are spread, it will now be feasible to develop more innovative products, maintain reasonable prices, and avoid duplicating efforts." Following the merger, which is expected to be complete in February, Larry Israel will join TSI's Board of Directors. Dr. Bliss will be President of the combined companies, and Bill Schwarz, TSI Vice President for the past eight years, will be VTEK's General Manager.

Larry Israel comments, "It has been a difficult personal choice for me to step away from day-to-day operating responsibilities of VTEK. This decision reflects some personal changes in my life. I want to continue to contribute to the lives of people with disabilities as an active board member of the new company. I am also eager to devote more time to my position as Chairman of the Assistive Devices Division of the Electronics Industry Association. The merger gives me confidence that the combined enterprise will be in the best possible hands to ensure a continuing contribution to a better world."

Jim Bliss concludes: "Both of us are delighted to be working together toward common goals. The two organizations will continue to operate as separate entities in their present locations. We will continue to use the same names that have earned your respect and appreciation for quality, service and cutting-edge technology. We are proud that this merger is creating the largest company in the world providing high technology solutions to people with visual impairment." Bliss and Israel concur that, "if you wish to talk with either of us for any reason, we would enjoy hearing from you."

James C. Bliss

Telesensory Systems, Inc.

PO Box 7455

Mountain View, CA 94039


Larry Israel

VTEK, Inc.

1625 Olympic Blvd.

Santa Monica, CA 90404


Seeking Feedback on MTR & PC-WRITE: Junk Disks? -- Phyllis Herrington

How many times have you looked inside your mailbox hoping to find a letter from family or friends and come up instead with a handful of junk mail? If you're like me, you toss it into the nearest wastepaper basket. What does the above commentary on junk mail have to do with disks?

Beginning with Hot Dots 2.0, when you register your program, RDC sends you two "thank you" programs: Model Tea Reader, a public domain screen access utility, and PC-Write, a shareware word processor. We at RDC are curious about these disks. We believe these programs to be very useful, but we would like some feedback from you, the user.

We don't want to send you "junk disks" destined straight for the "format" command. To help us determine whether or not we should continue providing Model Tea Reader and PC-Write to registered Hot Dots 2.0 owners, we'd appreciate hearing from you. Please drop us a print or braille note telling us what you think about these programs. We also welcome suggestions on similar utilities we could include instead. When you open our packages, we would like to think everything supplied therein will be helpful to you in your endeavors with the computer.

Making Braille Letters with BEX -- Jesse Kaysen

While formal braille transcriptions must appear on 11 by 11-1/2 inch paper, there are scores of other places braille fits in our lives. Here's how you use BEX to create braille letters to fit in standard business envelopes.

Whether you're printing or brailling, two BEX values determine how much stuff fits on one output page. When you configure a brailler, you generally specify a carriage width of 40 or 41, and a form length of 25. BEX's form length is measured in lines per page; an 11 inch page fits 25 lines of braille. BEX's carriage width is counted in characters per line. Thirty-one braille cells occupy around eight and one quarter inch horizontally: when you're brailling a letter on standard 8-1/2 inch paper, use a carriage width of 31. You don't have to reconfigure: you can use the BEX format command $$w31 to override the configured carriage width.

A standard business envelope (printers call it a "#10") measures 9-7/16 inches wide by 4-1/8 inches high. To get a braille letter in this envelope, you'll have to fold it in thirds. To prevent any of your braille cells from getting obliterated in the folding process, you can use BEX's "running head" format command to place folding lines for you. The syntax for the running head command is:

{ $$vh# [text] <CR>}

You replace the # in the running head command with a specific line number on the output page. You can have up to four running heads at any one time; in this case, you want two running heads that divide your 11-inch page roughly into thirds for easy folding. The "[text]" for a braille letter is actually the folding line--a series of dots 2-5, the digit 3 in screen braille. You could type 31 "3"s in a row, but there's a BEX format command that does it for you. The $$vrX command fills one output line with any single character: $$vr3 creates a solid line of "3"s.

If you're planning on writing more than one braille letter, it's a good idea to create a "dummy" letter chapter that has all the right commands. I have a dummy chapter like this on my program disk, which looks like this:

{ $$d $$w31 $$vh8 $$vr3<CR> $$vh18 $$vr3<CR> $$c Raised Dot Computing<CR> $$c 408 S. Baldwin $$np<CR> $$c Madison WI 53703<CR> Date Here<CR> Dear Name: $pStuff $pRegards, Jesse Kaysen, Newsletter Editor}

To save on typing time, I've centered my address at the top of the dummy letter. Notice that I've placed the $$np command to number pages at the end of the second line, my street address. When formatting text for a brailler, BEX numbers pages at the end of line 1. By delaying the $$np command until after line 1 on page 1, I suppress the first page number, but get all the rest.

Those commands work well for letters that are up to four braille pages long--after that, the braille's too bulky to fit in a standard business envelope. Our disk mailers can fit an 8 inch by 5-1/2 inch sheet of paper. When I'm writing braille notes to slip into a disk mailer, I need one folding line and a slightly narrower carriage width. The "dummy" chapter starts out:

{ $$d $$w29 $$vh13 $$vr3<CR> $$c Raised Dot Computing<CR> ...}

When it's time to write a braille letter, I copy the "dummy" chapter to the name of my correspondent, and write my letter in the copy. I locate for the word "Date" and type in the date of my letter. I find the word "Name" and change it to whoever I'm writing. Then I insert the text of my letter where the word "Stuff" starts. Once I've written my letter, I translate it to Grade 2, emboss it, and it's ready to fold and mail.

Scoop From the Kennel -- Phyllis Herrington

Your friendly technical staff and their trusty dogs hope 1989 has been a good year thus far. As usual, we've been busy answering many technical calls and trying to troubleshoot difficulties people, including ourselves, encounter. I want to address three issues which I hope will eliminate some high level frustration.

The Importance of the Apple IIgs Control Panel

The Apple IIgs deserves its reputation as a wonderful member of the Apple II family. Its ability to operate faster than the IIe or IIc, to take advantage of both printer ports and expansion slots, and to easily access a tremendous amount of memory makes the IIgs a really neat computer. However, a feature unique to the IIgs can initially cause some confusion: I'm talking about the Control Panel, which tells the computer how to use the various ports and slots inside it. If you don't set the various Control Panel options appropriately, you can and will have problems.

Actually using the Control Panel to set your options is very simple, once you know you have to do it. If you are sighted, you enter the Control Panel by pressing open-Apple, Control and Escape keys at the same time. If you cannot see the screen, you must use the Echo-compatible "Talking IIgs Control Panel" utility written by Computer Aids Corporation of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Computer Aids generously put this essential utility in the public domain: It's on the back side of the QTC disk we'll send you when you register BEX 3.0.

The first screen in the Control Panel lists nine options (plus Quit): you use the up and down arrow keys to select an option, press <CR>, and you get that option's menu. Here you move to an option with up and down arrows; for each option, you cycle through the possible choices with the left and right arrows. You save your changes by press <CR>; you can always back out by pressing <Esc>.

The "Slots" option is of particular importance to BEX owners. Slot 3 must be set to "80 column text display." If you have a 3.5-inch disk drive, you need to keep slot 5 set for "Smart Port." Whenever you plug an interface card or synthesizer into the IIgs, you must use the "Slots" option to actually use the card.

For example, after you plug a Super Serial Card in slot 1, you enter the Control Panel, go to "Slots," press <CR>, arrow to "Slot 1", then press the left arrow key until it shows "Your Card." When you plug an Echo into slot 4, you similarly must set "Slot 4" to "Your Card." The Apple IIgs out of the box has "Slot 4" set to "Mouse Port"; if you don't change the Control Panel, the IIgs won't send signals to the Echo, and your software won't talk. Once these values have been established, press <CR> to save them and return to the main Control Panel list. Now arrow down to "Quit" and press <CR> again. These settings are stored in a battery-backed chip, and stay in effect until you change them with the Control Panel (or your battery dies).

BEX 3.0 provides a quick way to confirm that you've set the Control Panel slots correctly. Get to the Starting Menu and press W for What is in this computer. BEX lists your current configuration name, RAM drives available (if you have the memory), and then the slot number and how it's set in the Control Panel.

You can use the Apple IIgs' built-in "Printer Port" and "Modem Port" for printing with BEX, as long as you have a cable with the right connector on the end. However, you can't use them for Input through slot or VersaBraille transfers. Before you can actually send data to your printer, make sure the Control Panel's Slot 1 or Slot 2 settings say "Printer Port" or "Modem Port." To change the baud rate and other serial parameters, you use the "Printer Port" and "Modem Port" options.

Grade One Translation within BEX

Beginning with BEX 2.1, the grade 1 translator was incorporated into the grade 2 translator. You type special symbols, called translator controls, in your chapters that determine whether option G produces Grade 2 or Grade 1 braille. These symbols were documented in notes on disk for upgraders; let me take this opportunity to explain their use. (BEX 3.0 owners can refer to pages U9:12-13.)

Although you use the same option G - Grade 2 translator to create Grade 2 and Grade 1, you must alert the translator this is what you want. The translator always starts out producing Grade 2 braille. When you want material in Grade 1 braille, type space, underbar, lowercase o space in your chapter--we abbreviate this as (_o). When the grade 2 translator sees this control, it shifts gears and goes into grade 1 mode. To terminate grade 1 translation and to turn on the grade 2 translator, you enter the Grade 2 translator control: space, underbar, lowercase l, space (_l). Remember the Grade 1 translator control as o for "one;" the Grade 2 control is l for "literary."

If you want to have some parts of your text complete left alone by the translator, you can type space, underbar, hyphen, space (_-) to turn off the translator altogether. At this point, you're the translator: what you type is what will be in your "translated" chapter. When you want the translator to take over the task again, type (_l) after the last character you wish to have untranslated.

Printing to the VB II+ from BEX

We have received some reports that VersaBraille II Plus users have had difficulty getting material to print to the VB when it is configured as a paperless brailler. After scratching our heads and running into a few brick walls, we finally have hit upon a cause and solution.

First, the cause. When BEX "prints" to a paperless brailler, it does no formatting. It's similar to using the "turn off all format" $$z command: every $$ command arrives as-is in the VB II+. Since BEX is spewing your data with no calculation time lost in formatting, the data moves quite briskly. It seems that the VB II+ has difficulty handling this rapid movement of material at 9600 baud. Ironically, the VB II does not have this problem; it seems unique to the VB II+. You also won't have problems when you print to the VB II+ as if it were an ordinary printer, since BEX does have to perform formatting duties, which is a little slower than dumping everything as is.

Now, the solution: In order to print to the VB II+ as a paperless brailler, you need to slow the baud rate on both the Apple and the VB to 4800 baud. On the VB II+, you use the CCP menu to change the baud rate from 9600 to 4800. When you're using an Apple Super Serial Card with RDC's Standard Parameters, you can set the slower baud rate with an "automatic set-up sequence." The BEX configuration dialog goes like this:

Enter printer slot: {2 <CR>} or wherever your SSC is

Enter printer class: {P <CR>}

Establish an automatic set-up sequence for printer TWO? {Y <CR>}

Type it EXACTLY. Press Delete key to

end sequence: {control-I 12 B <CR> }

When you're using the same SSC for Input through slot, or to print with other devices, you can move at a full 9600 baud. To ensure that the SSC's set at the correct baud rate, define an automatic set-up sequence of {control-I 14 B <CR>}. (As a shortcut, you can press {control-Reset} then type RUN immediately before you want to use the SSC at 9600 baud. Control-Reset restores the SSC to its switch settings.)

I Never Told You There Was a UniDisk: Apple IIgs RAM Drive Mysteries -- Jesse Kaysen

Those lucky BEX 3.0 owners who have an Apple IIgs with more than 256K memory and also use ProDOS software may have encountered a truly mysterious error message. Just before you arrive at the Main Menu, BEX presents a copyright announcement for something called "AmDOS" and then complains, "There's no UniDisk drive in that slot!" I was certainly perplexed when I saw that message: my Apple doesn't have a UniDisk attached, and my configuration doesn't claim that I do, so what was BEX complaining for?

As is my habit, I wandered down the hall and pestered David for an explanation. Then I sidled next door and pestered Caryn for a solution. I'm happy to report that David and Caryn came through: let me tell you why it's happening, and how to stop it.

As Phyllis explains elsewhere in this issue, the Control Panel utility built-in to the Apple IIgs determines how the computer sends information through its slots and ports. When you connect a 3.5-inch "UniDisk" to an Apple IIgs, you use the Control Panel to set slot 5 for "Smart Port," then plug the drive into the appropriate jack on the back. BEX users with 3.5-inch disk drives know all about these details, explained in full in Master Level Section 3. When you boot BEX, it checks to see how the Control Panel is set. When slot 5 is assigned "Smart Port," then BEX assumes you have a 3.5-inch disk plugged in. So when you move to the Main Menu, BEX loads the "AmDOS" software that lets you read and write DOS 3.3 data from 3.5-inch disks.

Here's the catch: the "Smart Port" has another function. When you're running a ProDOS program, you can set the Control Panel so ProDOS automatically creates a RAM disk. In fact, that's exactly what we advise you to do in the pixCELLS Manual. By setting the "RAM Disk" option to larger than 192K, and by setting "Slot 5" to "Smart Port," you can use pixCELLS' "Install program" option to copy the software to RAM drive.

The upshot is, while you've set "Slot 5" to "Smart Port" because you want a ProDOS RAM disk, BEX thinks you've done it because you have a 3.5-inch disk drive. And because BEX thinks you have a 3.5-inch disk drive, it loads the AmDOS operating system when you move to the Main Menu. Then it sends a signal out slot 5 to confirm that the drive is there--and if you don't have one, you get the mysterious "There's no UniDisk in that slot!" message. If the only artifact was this message, you could simply ignore it. However, once the AmDOS operating system is loaded, you can only initialize 3.5-inch disks. When you only have 5.25-inch drives connected to your Apple IIgs, you can't initialize them.

Making AmDOS Optional

So much for the explanation: here's the fix. Please note that what I'm about to describe is only useful for people with BEX 3.0 and an Apple IIgs with the Control Panel set to Smart Port. What you want to do is prevent BEX from automatically loading AmDOS. Then you'll be able to initialize 5.25-inch disks. To make AmDOS loading optional, you only have to change two program lines in the BASIC program for BEX's Main Menu. Follow these three steps:

1. Boot BEX and get to the Starting Menu. Place the Main side of your working copy of BEX in drive 1. Press {Q} to Quit BEX, click down the Caps Lock key, and type the following exactly, pressing <CR> at the end of each line.


2. Now you're ready to type the two new lines for the program that's in memory:

{888 GOSUB 8530: END

8522 RETURN}

3. Finally, you want to save these modifications on your BEX Main disk, so type:


Once you've modified the MAIN program, put the Boot side of BEX back in your drive and type {RUN START,S6,D1} and you're ready to go. Every time you use this disk, BEX won't automatically load AmDOS when your Control Panel's set to Smart Port. If you make a mistake, you can load the unmodified MAIN program from your Master BEX disk and save it back to your working copy.

If you win the lottery and buy a 3.5-inch disk drive, you need AmDOS in order to save DOS 3.3 data on the 3.5-inch disks. Fortunately, it's easy to do. Follow these three steps to load AmDOS:

1. At BEX's Main Menu, press {Q} for Quit.

2. At the BASIC prompt, type {RUN 888 <CR>}

3. BEX loads the AmDOS software, and you'll see the AmDOS copyright message, followed by the BASIC prompt. Type {RUN <CR>} and you're back in BEX.

Now you have AmDOS loaded until you turn off the Apple's power. If you're a real hotshot, you can save these keystrokes in an auto chapter named "LOAD" on your program disk.

The Joy of TranscriBEX

This regular feature explores tips and techniques for users of RDC's braille transcription module. Contributions are always welcome!

TranscriBEX 2.1 Improvements Disk Available

We're happy to offer TranscriBEX owners the TranscriBEX 2.1 Improvements Disk at no charge. Thanks to continuing comments from scores of TranscriBEX users, we've learned even more about the requirements of the Code of Braille Textbook Formats and Techniques. This knowledge has led us to modify some of the instructions from the first edition of the TranscriBEX Manual. We've come up with several new \\ commands, and we've figured out new techniques to ensure proper output of print page indicators. Thanks to new transformation chapters, TranscriBEX can at last output doublespaced braille correctly. Finally, we've tidied up the Wisconsin Garden Guide and the sample table chapters, correcting some errors that crept in to the originals.

The Improvements Disk contains copious documentation, ready to print or braille. To get your copy, please drop us a note, with your name, address, and BEX serial number.

Fixing An Ellipsis Glitch in the Grade 2 Translator -- Gloria K. Buntrock

I've found a minor translation problem in BEX's Grade 2 translator (both versions 3.0 and 2.2). It's not creating the right result when an ellipsis follows a closing quote. Instead of placing the dots 3-5-6, a space, and then three dot 3s, the translator takes out the space and puts an open quote, (dots 2-3-6) with the three dots 3s jammed next to it. Here's a sample of the problem as it would appear in Heading test:

{"fat" ... is "fat" <CR>

8fat8''' is 8fat0}

Fortunately, this problem is easy to fix. You only have to delete one entry in the translator table, stored as chapter ZQFOR on the Main side of your BEX disk. While the procedure is very simple, making an error can destroy BEX's braille translation abilities. Before you even think about changing the translator table, copy the ZQFOR chapter from your BEX disk to a data disk, so you'll have a backup. Put a data disk in drive 2, and proceed like this:

Main Menu: {C}

Copy chapters

Drive or chapter: {1ZQFOR <CR>}

Drive or chapter: {<CR>}

Target chapter: {ZQFOR SAVE <CR>}

In the unlikely event that you make a mistake, you can restore BEX's translator to normal by copying the ZQFOR SAVE chapter back to the name ZQFOR on your BEX disk.

Now you're ready to edit the ZQFOR chapter. If you have a placed a write-protect tab on your BEX disk, remove it. The three files that make up the ZQFOR chapter are locked, and you can't save changes to a locked chapter. Here's how you open up the ZQFOR chapter for editing:

Main Menu: {Q}




] {RUN <CR>}

Now press {E} for the Editor, and supply the chapter name {1ZQFOR}. BEX tells you there are two pages; press {2 <CR>} to edit on page two and your cursor is at position 0 of the second page. At this point, what you do depends on your version of BEX. (If you are in any doubt about your BEX version, stop everything! Quit the Editor, go to the Starting Menu and press {U} to discover your version.)

For BEX version 2.2: Press {control-A 3351 <Space>} to advance your cursor to the initial Q of the problem entry. To delete the eleven characters {Q" ...E8'''} plus the <CR> that finishes the entry, press {control-D 12 <Space>}. Press {control-Q} and you're done.

For BEX version 3.0: Press {control-A 3187 <Space>} to advance your cursor to the initial quote of the problem entry. You want to delete the ten characters {" ...E8'''} plus the <CR> that defines the end of the entry. All you do is press {control-D 11 <Space>}, and then press {control-Q} to Quit and save the change.

Now when you use Heading test, you see:

{"fat" ... is "fat" <CR>

8fat0 ''' is 8fat0}

the closing quote, space, and ellipsis are where they're supposed to be. Be sure to copy your improved ZQFOR chapter on to any BEX backups you have made.

Author's names after titles are centered, not blocked -- Caryn Navy

In Section 16 of the TranscriBEX Manual we erred in our advice regarding placement of author's names. The Code tells you to center the author's name under the heading, not block it in cell 7. Use the \\c command to center the author's name when it follows the title.

Here are revised versions of the three samples, showing the placement of the \\c command:

Single level poem, from page 16-2

{$s\\hd Ozymandias <CR>\\c by Percy Bysshe Shelley $s\\poem I met a traveller ...}

Multi-level poem with line numbers, from page 16-4

{$s\\hd Regeneration <CR>\\c by Henry Vaughn $s\\poem \\3level \\numberedlines ...}$p Prose-form poetry, from page 16-5

{$s\\hd Neutrality Loathsome <CR>\\c Robert Herrick $sGod will have all or none; serve Him or fall > Down before ...

Reading Machines for the Blind: Why One Medium Isn't Enough -- Harvey Lauer

[Author's Notes: Since 1964, I have used, tested and taught nine reading machines for the blind. In a sense, this article is an update and add-on to our 1980 article on the state-of-the-art of reading machines. I can supply a copy of that paper for those interested in a deeper understanding of the subject.]


"Is the Optacon a needed tool?" "Why can't the Optacon present its output in braille characters?" "What happened to the Stereotoner?" "Can OCR machines replace the Optacon?" "Do reading machines for the blind have a future?"

Such questions are still asked by the bewildered observers of the new communications technology for the blind. Engineers and researchers are no less perplexed. Only their questions are more sophisticated. This paper addresses some questions of professionals who are working in our behalf and consumers interested in making appropriate use of communications technology. This article addresses reading aids or reading machines. My colleague, Leonard Mowinski and I have written a companion article on computer access called "Communication Media for the Visually Impaired." [This appeared, in somewhat shortened form, in the September-October 1988 RDC Newsletter. JK] We hope these papers spur discussion and action in this neglected field.

What Is the Value of the Optacon?

At first, the Optacon was oversold. Some thought it would do away with transcribing. Some even said we didn't need talking reading machines. [Editor's Note: Manufactured by Telesensory Systems, Inc., the Optacon interprets signals from a small scanner to present a tactile image of print on a small vibrating array. JK] The unwarranted optimism gave rise to a backlash of disillusionment. It was discovered that the number of people who can learn and will use the Optacon as it now exists is limited, and that only a few users can achieve the top speeds.

Then, several years ago, the computer revolution upstaged it. The advent of personal computers has altered the need and motivating factors for learning to use the Optacon. The main motivation of many early users was to read typing and computer outputs. Now, due to the use of computers for word processing and the evolution of braille and speech access, the Optacon is not the first choice for those tasks. Many advisors now totally, and wrongly, ignore it as a tool. In some circles it is considered passe'.

The Bright Side of the Optacon

I believe the Optacon has a useful function now and that it will make a big comeback if and when it is made an integral part of a more powerful reading system. From the beginning of our research with reading aids, we have seen that as the greatest potential value of such a device. In 1988, a step in that direction was taken. The Optacon was repackaged in a modular fashion, christened the Optacon II, and a computer interface connection has been added.

The Optacon is used efficiently by some people for personal reading and notably by typists and programmers. It is highly versatile. Many users read their mail with it. Until recently, most mail couldn't be read with Optical Character Readers (OCR machines), and, as yet, few users have the newest ones available to them. Experienced Optacon users can read a wider variety of print styles than can be read with any OCR, and they can handle formats no computerized OCR has been programmed to track.

The Optacon is used by some people to read computer screens, and it has been suggested as an output medium for the Macintosh computer. TSI is working with Berkeley Systems Design on such an interface. We approve of this type of effort only as the Optacon is used in combination with speech output or as a last resort for intermittent use.

Some wonder why the Optacon doesn't present braille characters, since braille is easier to read than vibrating letter shapes. The reason is that the Optacon does not identify characters. It "sees" or recognizes contrasts on the page and turns that information directly over to the user in the form of vibrating patterns. That's why we call it a direct-translation reading aid. It takes a powerful computer to identify the characters as such, and that brings the price up by many thousands of dollars. Of course, if a computer sent braille characters to the Optacon, they could be read more easily than the character shapes can now be read.

Why The Optacon Isn't Enough

While an Optacon can be used for reading a computer screen, there are serious drawbacks. An illustration will underscore these points. Several years ago, researchers here at Hines studied facets of reading in several media. We searched exhaustively and are certain that we found the fifteen fastest Optacon users in the Chicago area. We were able to test ten of them. Two of these people were programmers who used the Optacon to read computer screens. One user also had speech and braille access and said he welcomed the Optacon for intermittent use and as a last resort. The other user had no other method of independent screen access. We played for her a tape on which a programmer demonstrated his speech-access system. Her tears of desperation conveyed better than words her need for more efficient computer access.

For most candidates, learning to read with the Optacon is equivalent to learning a new language. It's harder than becoming a skilled typist, but easier than becoming a skilled musician. For large-quantity tasks, the Optacon is slower than other methods. Furthermore, a majority of people are unable to learn the skill. It's efficient for identifying materials, monitoring formats and controlling quality. People read their personal mail, tables of contents, articles, etc. Occasionally, someone reads a book for practice or for sport. Most users' reading speeds are between 10 and 40 words per minute. The curve has a tail up to around 90 words per minute.

Unless it is neglected by teachers and counselors, the Optacon will continue to be needed. It will serve best for small-quantity reading tasks and as part of future reading machines with choices of several outputs.

What Happened To the Tonal Output?

The VA has done much research on audible-output direct-translation reading aids. Most of them translated character shapes into tone patterns. The work was never finished; here is what happened.

The last of these instruments to have been evaluated was the Stereotoner. Several people including Mr. Lauer use it to date. The results were: (1) The best users could perform on a par with the best Optacon users. 2) Fewer people in the population could learn it than could learn the Optacon. 3) A few people could make better use of the Stereotoner than the Optacon.

After the Stereotoner was evaluated, we found that its optical system was somewhat superior to that of the Optacon, but its photo-sensitive elements and its vertical resolution were very inferior. We found that a 20-tone code is better than the Stereotoner's 10-tone code. We discovered this by testing prototypes which were built to our specifications. They add the tonal output to the Optacon. We christened the new combination Optaudicon. The fidelity with which they rendered the printed character shapes in audio form was very much improved over the Stereotoner. The testing we did led us to suspect that the tonal code may be of equal value to the tactile code of the Optacon. This calls the Stereotoner evaluation into question. The work done also suggests, but does not prove, that the tonal output would be a worthwhile add-on to the Optacon and to a combination direct-translation and OCR machine.

We found that some people who can learn to use a direct-translation machine cannot use the tactile output, and some do better with the audible output presented as tone patterns. The evidence also suggests that many users experience a complementary effect with the bimodal approach; that is, using both outputs. For example, the tactile code has a wider window for tracking; it's better for vertical resolution; but the finger loses sensitivity (feels numb) more quickly than does the ear. The tonal code is better for reading dense horizontal data and descenders, etc. Hearing is not as susceptible to such loss of sensitivity or negative adaptation as is touch. The additional cost of an audible output would be low--perhaps $150.

We failed to garner support to finish the work. The reasons would fill a chapter. To begin with, we lacked Ph.D. degrees and computers with which to compete in the research environment. We therefore turned from our main endeavor to implementing computer access which we ourselves badly needed. That's how we became involved with companies like RDC. Further research is needed to test the value of the tonal code and the bimodal approach. Such details as were published can be found in our 1980 article on reading machines; the rest is in unpublished documents. At this point, however, we are free to be a resource to accomplish this work, either inside or outside the VA.

Why Use the Optacon When We Have OCR?

That story also has two parts--high cost and limited effectiveness. Now, after years of promises and claims, the cost is coming down and the value is going up. OCR machines are getting better. Now $10,000 to $12,000 buys you the Kurzweil Personal Reader which is a better OCR with speech or ASCII output than the Models III or IV Kurzweil Reading Machine (KRM) which sold first for $30,000 and then for $20,000. I feel that the maker promoted the early models far beyond their value, so we need to examine the new ones very closely before fully endorsing them.

According to a review in the July, 1988 "Personal Computing," if you don't need to read typeset (proportionally-spaced) materials, $2,000 to $3,000 plus a PC to host the OCR will do. The Ad Hoc Reading System is such an arrangement. It has the added advantage of having been customized for blind people. It was evaluated at the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center and found to be good for reading typed material but not typeset printing, and there were problems reading columns.

Kurzweil Computer Products (KCP) has a much-improved commercial model, and their model for the blind (the Personal Reader) is offered with choice of automatic and hand scanning. This is a step in the right direction. A simple tonal output was added to its hand-scanning option. Our brief experience with it leads us to suspect that it is only a modicum of what is possible and desirable. Furthermore, our research experience suggests that both audible and tactile outputs for a hand scanner may have value. Such a machine should have an interface to drive the Optacon's tactile output.

The rest of the story is that OCR's can't handle all the print traffic now nor in the foreseeable future. There is good reason to believe that the most successful reading machine will have both types of outputs. Users of the Kurzweil Machines (which talk) use their Optacons to preview material and read unusual and degraded print. Don't look for such a machine in the near future. The designers gave up. They need to be remotivated by informed consumers.

Is There a Future for Special Reading Machines?

Current reading aids require small computers, but the real need can be efficiently met only by a system with a more powerful computer. The current computerized reading machines designed for personal use store information at three levels. At the first level, they store a few character shapes which the user never examines as such. At the second level, they store several paragraphs or pages of identified characters which are presented to the user as text. Finally, they store several pieces of information about formats. Other improvements are planned, but at best, they have limited format-handling capability owing to the weak interface between the computer's "tunnel-visioned" camera and its data processing capability. Another limitation is the huge variety of type styles and degradations found in print.

These limitations might be overcome if a large computer could store an entire page in memory. I think the future holds a multi-dimensional page memory reading system--a "team of robots" that could fully meet our OCR needs. The page would have to be stored in several integrated dimensions in order for the human user to retrieve the stored data after a manner approximating the efficiency of reading with eyesight.

To begin with, character shapes would need to be stored in several gradations of color and contrast. The other dimensions are processed or identified characters or graphemes, words, sentences, paragraphs and format characteristics. Format characteristics include variations in print style, italics, underlining, columns, footnotes, illustrations, etc. All these dimensions of information would have to be integrated with each other so that the user could choose among the following alternative levels of access:

1. Have the material presented in spoken language, in braille or in large print.

2. Have portions of the material spelled and/or punctuated.

3. Query the computer for a "format report" (in one of its output media) of salient characteristics. For example, the user might need to know headings, paragraphs, columns, footnotes and print-style changes.

4. Scan the memory of character shapes and format information by hand using as input a graphics tablet, mouse or joystick and receiving output in tones and/or vibrators and/or large print on a CRT.

To my knowledge, this type of project has never been proposed, probably for two reasons. First, designers were too optimistic as to the value of their proposed solutions to consider integrating them with other approaches. Secondly, until recently, computers available for personal use have not had sufficient capacity to accommodate a multi-dimensional page memory. However, since the trend is toward smaller-sized, lower-cost, and more powerful personal computers, I believe a worthwhile project could be launched by implementing this proposed system in a large computer. If human engineering and programming requirements are thus discovered soon, time could be gained later in implementing this advanced concept as the hardware becomes available in a form appropriate for a personal reading machine; that is, multi-megabyte personal computers and better scanners.

The trouble with current solutions is that they are of two unintegrated types. One type (OCR machines) provides rapid access but only to simple environments like high-quality print or text screens. Because it uses speech, braille and large print, training is minimized. The other type (direct-translation aids) provides slow access to more complex environments, but it requires higher aptitude and more skill. The proposed reading system could be modular. It could provide access to computer outputs including complex video environments. To access the more complex environments would require training in the direct-translation outputs.

I see several advantages. One is that users might be better motivated to develop skill in using an integrated system with a high payload. Another is that users could tolerate higher error rates in character recognition because they could read character shapes whenever they wished. That is, they could "zoom in" and examine material as if through a microscope or a straw and then "zoom out" to read with speech or braille. A third advantage is that the system would meet the reading and computer-access needs of more people and thus be less costly per unit.

Navigating the Highways, Byways and Jungles of Print

To all of us but the most scientifically-minded and spiritually-perceptive humans, the world about us appears as a bewildering array of highways, byways and jungles. According to old sages, most of us are caterpillars in the process of growing up to be butterflies. Then we shall see fuller meaning and purpose to life and the world around us.

If our reading machines with their caterpillar-like, evolving artificial intelligence could reflect upon this matter, they would perhaps categorize the world of print as composed of highways, byways and jungles. By contrast, the printed world is easily comprehensible to intelligent, physically-sighted humans. People do not need categories like highways, byways and jungles to describe it.

We blind people now face, or should I say interface, with machines by which to traverse the world of print. Our OCR machines serve as automobiles to motor down the print highways of books and magazines. Our hand scanners and direct-translation aids--Optacons and Optaudicons--are bicycles for the byways of cheaply-duplicated and carelessly-printed documents. For the jungles and junkyards of handwriting and badly-damaged print, where "a machine cannot go", we shall need the help of our sighted friends. Such will be the case until our reading robots can be metamorphosed into butterflies.

Using Hot Dots and Batch Files on a Hard Disk -- Caryn Navy

Knowing a few MS-DOS commands makes it easy to install and use Hot Dots on a hard disk. The first step, of course, is installing the software. With your Hot Dots disk in drive B, here are the commands that would load the files into a directory named BRL on drive C:


{MD} is the DOS command for "make directory."

To use the various Hot Dots program files in directory {C:\BRL}, some people have tried issuing commands like {C:\BRL\GLOBAL}, {C:\BRL\BT}, {C:\BRL\FTEXT}, etc. This does not work for the commands {BT} and {BACK} (the forward translator and back translator commands), because Hot Dots also needs to find the appropriate translation table file. When you use {BT}, Hot Dots looks for the file {TRANS.TAB} in your default directory and in whatever path you might have specified with the {PATH} command. When you simply issue the command {C:\BRL\BT ...}, you get the message

{BT: Failed to open the file "TRANS.TAB". This file must be in the current directory on the current disk for braille translation to operate. Program exiting...}

To ensure smooth sailing, issue the commands:

{C: CD \BRL}

and follow the usual directions for using Hot Dots. To return to the root directory on drive C, issue the command

{CD \}

{CD} is the DOS command for "change directory." When using this approach of making {C:\BRL} the current directory, many people keep their data files in directory {C:\BRL} as well to avoid having to use pathnames.

As an alternative, you can issue the command


which also lets Hot Dots find the files it needs, including {TRANS.TAB}.

Automating Processing with Batch Files

MS-DOS lets you write "batch files," or little scripts to automate routine tasks. Here's a sample batch file that accepts an inkprint file and outputs it on your embosser:


You'd save this file with the name {BRAILLE.BAT}. (The extension {BAT} makes a file a batch file.) To use the batch file, you type {BRAILLE} followed by a filename without any extension. The batch file looks for a file with the name you specify plus the extension {.WP}; I arbitrarily chose this extension for my word processor files. For example, to process a file called {REPORT.WP}, you issue the command {BRAILLE REPORT}. {REPORT} then takes the place of the {%1} variable wherever it appears in the batch file.

Here's a lowdown on what the commands in this batch file accomplish. The first two lines set the stage: {ECHO OFF} suppresses showing each line of the batch file on the screen (and your voice synthesizer), and {CLS} clears the screen. The next line copies your word processing file {REPORT.WP} from your current directory to the {C:\BRL} directory. The next two lines ensure that Hot Dots can find itself: {C:} sets your default drive to C, and {CD \BRL} makes BRL the current directory on that default drive. With the file in place, the remaining batch file commands go through the standard HOT DOTS routine.

The first processing step uses GLOBAL with the {FIXTEXT.RUL} rules file to create a {REPORT.TXT} file in directory {C:\BRL}. Once GLOBAL has stripped out return/linefeeds and multiple spaces, you no longer need the {REPORT.WP} file, so the next line deletes it. The line beginning with {BT} is a pipe: it translates the file {REPORT.TXT} into braille, and then uses FTEXT to create a braille format file with carriage width 40 and form length 25. The formatted result is stored in file {REPORT.BFM} in directory {C:\BRL}, for use later if necessary. The next line uses {VANILLA} to print the braille formatted file {REPORT.BFM} to your embosser. Finally, {CD \} changes your directory on drive C back to the root directory.

Remapping the Keys of the SmallTalk Plus to the Apple or IBM Keyboard -- Mark Dubnick

One of the few advantages to the onrush of technology, and the rapid rate at which things become obsolete, is that we bargain hunters can pick up some really good deals in the used equipment market. Such is the case with my recent purchase of a SmallTalk Plus. This device is an electronic notebook which talks. It is based on the Epson Geneva laptop computer, and has been equipped with a speech synthesizer and adapted ROM by Computer Aids Corporation. I purchased it to make my notetaking at biology and computer science seminars easier. I reasoned that its nearly full ASCII keyboard would be a welcome improvement over the highly "personal" technical braille code I made up as I went along. When I tried the little computer out, I soon discovered that the punctuation and special symbols were on different positions on the keyboard than those on IBM and Apple keyboards. A number of the marks struck by the shifted numeral keys were rearranged, the left and right parentheses being particularly notable and troublesome in this regard.

I have come up with a techno-fix for this inconvenience which I think will be of interest to anyone who is facing a strange keyboard. I use the global replace function of Hot Dots to remap the SmallTalk keys. This allows me to type at my usual lightning speed, using the keyboard of the SmallTalk exactly as if it were that of my trusty IBM. When I come back to the office, I dump the material from the SmallTalk into the IBM, then use a special global replacement rule table to correct the punctuation. This scheme works surprisingly well, and makes the computers do the work of translation. Of course, the idea will work just as well with BEX on an Apple as it does with Hot Dots on the IBM.

To give you a concrete example, I include the following chart of the special marks and punctuation keys.

The Original SmallTalk Punctuation Keys

Shifted characters are in angle brackets following unshifted ones.

Top row

{1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 - [ ] \}



Home row

{; :}

The SmallTalk does not have a tilde/grave accent key at all. Since I rarely use these marks, this is no great inconvenience. In fact, my replacement rule table makes use of the accent as an unambiguous flag character in the data conversion, since it cannot possibly be entered using the SmallTalk keyboard.

I wish to remap the punctuation positions from those given above to a semblance of the IBM keyboard. I leave the left and right brackets, and the backslash (as well as their shifted counterparts, which are the same on both keyboards) where they lie on the SmallTalk, since there are more keys on the uppermost row of the SmallTalk than the IBM. However, I remap the equal sign and the addition sign to the key which lies to the right of the 'P' key. (Equal sign is unshifted; addition sign is uppercase.) The desired conversions are as follows:

{" to @

& to ^

' to &

( to *

) to (

_ to )

= to _

+ to :

: to '

* to "

@ to =

^ to +}

Unfortunately, you cannot just write one set of rules that directly convert each character. (This was not initially obvious to me, I tried it. My second rule changed the ampersands to carets, then my final rule changed the carets to addition signs, leaving me with no carets at all!) The solution is to use a two-step, intermediary technique. The rule table I have come up with replaces each errant symbol with the hex code for the desired symbol, then replaces the hex values with their symbol character counterparts. By preceding the hex value with a grave accent, I assure that the initial step (undesired punctuation to desired hex code) will not foul up any of my text (which may contain hex notation). Remember, I can't enter a grave accent from the SmallTalk keyboard. The rule table is as follows: {"|`40
























Running the conversion table on a file containing the SmallTalk key chart given above yields the following chart:

The Remapped SmallTalk Punctuation Keys

Shifted characters are in angle brackets following unshifted ones.

Top row

{1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 - [ ] \}



Home row

{; '}

The only problem I can foresee with this method is that the single-character punctuation marks get expanded to three characters apiece during the first stage of the conversion, which could cause great temporary file weight-gain. However, I have never experienced this, and for the material I deal with, it is not a very likely problem. I hope I have not just confused everyone who is reading this. The important point to remember is that this type of conversion can be done. The exact details would differ with each nonstandard keyboard, but the capability is there in Hot Dots and BEX.

Deciphering Printer Manuals: No Need to Run Away from Escape Sequences -- David Holladay

[Editor's Note: This article updates one that originally appeared in the November 1985 Newsletter. JK]

When you closely inspect your printer manual, you'll discover your printer is capable of all sorts of tricks, including foreign language characters, bold face, changed vertical or horizontal spacing, and dozens more. You can unlock these capabilities by sending the right series of characters from the computer to the printer. The trickiest part is figuring out what characters to type in. Most printer manuals seem to be written by over-eager high school students from Venus. (No slur intended on Venus, high school students, or over-eager people.)

Many printer manuals assume you can't type control characters directly in the text you send to the printer, so they tell you how to write special BASIC computer programs to control your printer's behavior. The printer control commands are represented with tons of parentheses, quote marks, and semicolons because that's how you must write them in BASIC.

Unlike most word processors, BEX makes it easy to enter control characters in your text. Sending printer control commands with BEX is just like sending any text to your printer. First you type it in your chapters with the Editor, then you send it to the printer with Print chapters. When you type the right control sequences, the printer doesn't print them--it starts performing tricks! I hope this article provides the background you need to decode your printer manual and learn which commands to enter.

Many Ways to Show A Character

Printer manuals can use three mysterious systems to represent command sequences: hexadecimal numbers, decimal numbers, and "CHR$" expressions. These three codes all represent the same thing: a particular character. While you think of the letter "A" as a letter, the Apple thinks of it as an ASCII number. And the Apple is flexible: it can think of this number in base ten or in base sixteen. "A" is 65 decimal and "A" is "$41" in hexadecimal. (Programmers tend to have eight fingers on each hand, so they like using hexadecimal numbers. To remind themselves that it is indeed hexadecimal, they prefix the number with a dollar sign.)

When you're writing BASIC programs, the "CHR$(n)" function is how you represent a character. When you replace the lowercase n between the parentheses with the decimal ASCII number, BASIC produces that character. So "CHR$(65)" is another way to represent the letter "A". When a printer manual tells you to send "decimal 65" or "$41" or "hex 41" or "CHR$(65)" all you have to do with BEX is type the uppercase letter A.

But most printer control commands are not plain letters. Instead, the commands begin with a non-printing, control character, which alerts the printer that it's about to receive a command. The hands-down favorite character for this is the "Escape" character, (abbreviated in the BEX Manuals as "<Esc>.") If your printer manual provides a sample BASIC program listing, then "Escape" shows up as "CHR$(27)". The number between the parenthesis is the decimal ASCII value, so it's not surprising that "Escape" is the 27th character in the ASCII table. The Escape character may also be described as "hex $1B" or "control-left bracket." When you're typing in BEX's Editor, you simply press the key marked "Esc" in the upper left hand corner of the Apple keyboard--and you've entered the Escape character in your text.

Another potentially mystifying item is how your particular manual represents "control characters." "[Q]" or "^Q" or "CHR$(17)" or "decimal 17" or "$11" or "hexadecimal 11"--all these strange expressions describe the single character we label as: <Control-Q>. Two keystrokes are required to type a control character in BEX's Editor: press {control-C}, then the plain character. To enter a <Control-Q> character in your text, type {control-C Q}.

At this point, it's clear that an ASCII table is a good reference tool when you're deciphering printer control sequences. If you're lucky, your printer manual has one; a braille ASCII chart appears in the BEX 3.0 Thick Reference Card. ASCII 32 is the space character, and 33 on up are letters and punctuation. Here's a quick guide to the ASCII characters between zero and 31:

ASCII Decimal -- ASCII Hexadecimal -- What You Type in BEX

0 -- $00 -- control-C at-sign

1 -- $01 -- control-C A

2 -- $02 -- control-C B

3 -- $03 -- control-C C

and so on up to

26 -- $1A -- control-C Z

27 -- $1B -- control-C left bracket or press Escape key

28 -- $1C -- control-C backslash

29 -- $1D -- control-C right bracket

30 -- $1E -- control-C caret or control-6

31 -- $1F -- control-C underbar or control-hyphen

There are a number of other non-standard but important things that can be confusing in deciphering printer manuals. It seems like every manual uses a different symbol to represent a space: some use a space, some an underscore character, some a crazy symbol that looks like an upside-down V printed over an O ... the list goes on. Sometimes characters will be separated by semicolons, which is how you set up a BASIC program to print two things right next to each other. Some manuals place quote marks around the characters you're supposed to enter, but almost always, you don't actually type the quote marks themselves.

Real-Life Examples

What follows are a random sampling of actual commands culled from the large pile of printer manuals in my office.

{Manual Shows} -- How You Type in BEX

{"-1"} -- -1 (ignore any enclosing quotes)

{"T";"Y"} -- TY (ignore the quotes and the semicolon)

{CHR$(n)} -- The "n"th letter of the ASCII chart

{$1B nn} -- escape key followed by two digits

{CONTROL-_n} -- control-C underbar followed by one digit

{ESC_nnn} -- escape key followed by one space followed by three digits

{LPRINT CHR$(27)+"R"+CHR$(2);} -- Escape key, followed by uppercase letter R, followed by control-C B

{ESCAPE Q} -- Escape key followed by uppercase Q

{@[email protected] ESCAPE D} -- at-sign (shift of 2), followed by control-C at-sign, followed by Escape key, followed by uppercase D

{CHR$(9)} -- Control-C I (Control-I is the 9th letter of the ASCII chart)

{CHR$(127)} -- delete key

With this background under your belt, I hope you have the courage to explore your printer's special features.

Transferring Data between Apple II and Macintosh with Apple File Exchange -- Jesse Kaysen

On all microcomputers, the disk operating system (DOS) is in charge of reading and writing data on disk. The Macintosh, the Apple II family, and the IBM-PC use different DOSs. Although all three computers use 3.5-inch disks, they can't normally read disks written by different systems. For example, when you insert an Apple II ProDOS 3.5-inch disk into a Macintosh disk drive, you get the "This is not a Macintosh disk--do you want to initialize it?" message. The Apple File Exchange (AFE) utility gives the Mac the ability to read and write ProDOS files on 3.5-inch disks. (Alternatively, you can use just BEX on the Apple and a terminal program on the Mac--see the January 1987 Newsletter for details.)

Obtaining AFE is easy: it's included in the Macintosh System Software. Starting in June of 1988, Apple dealers sells the Macintosh System Software as a product for around $50. In addition to the System (equivalent to DOS) file and the Finder (the utility that lets you manage files); the System Software package includes software to control printing to an ImageWriter or LaserWriter, the MultiFinder, and a host of handy utilities. Starting with System Software 6.0 (available now), some of these utilities make it easier for people with disabilities to use the Macintosh. CloseView, an entry-level version of inLARGE, selectively enlarges portions of the Mac's screen display, providing large print access to people with partial vision. Easy Access changes how the Macintosh interprets keystrokes--you can issue all commands and move the Mac's mouse with just one finger.

AFE Combines an Application and Translators

The AFE application depends on special documents called translators to know how to read and write files for different operating systems. (Translators are to AFE as transformation chapters are to BEX's Replace characters, or rules files to HOT DOTS's Global.) When I received System Software 5.0, only one translator was provided with AFE: DCA/RFT to MacWrite. This translator lets me exchange data between the popular Macintosh word processor and any IBM program that can create "Document Content Architecture" files.

Fairly clear and detailed instructions for using AFE appear in Chapters 7 and 8 of the Macintosh Utilities Users Guide. However, while it mentions ProDOS transfers several times, it provides absolutely no instructions on how to do it. Apple breezily suggests that "other translators should be available from your Apple dealer or other sources." After searching in vain for a ProDOS translator, I finally pestered Apple's Tech Support enough times to discover how it's done.

Using AFE to Transfer ProDOS Data

Here's the crucial fact not mentioned in the manual: the ProDOS to Mac and Mac to ProDOS translators are built-in to AFE. After you launch AFE and insert a ProDOS disk in the Mac's drive, "ProDOS to Mac" and "Mac to ProDOS" menus magically appear. In other words, you don't need to obtain separate translator documents for ProDOS-Mac transfers.

Once you've inserted a ProDOS disk, you follow the same steps outlined in the Macintosh Utilities Users Guide:

1. Activate the translation you prefer from the appropriate menu.

2. Select the files to transfer. (You can rename files at this point by choosing "Rename" from the File menu. If you would end up with a duplicate filename during transfer, AFE politely asks you to rename at that point.)

3. Click the "Translate" button.

4. Sit back and enjoy the graphic progress indicator. (AFE is slow.)

Controlling the Translation Options

Both the ProDOS to Mac and Mac to ProDOS menus have two types of translation: "text" and "default." When you're transferring written documents, you want to use "text." This translation is "active" if you see a check mark next to the word in the menu. To control exactly what happens during text translation, select "text" so the check goes away, then select "text" again. You'll get a dialog box whose options depend on which direction you're going.

For Mac to ProDOS, you're asked how to translate "Special Characters." Choose "Change to multiple characters" to get the most information in your ProDOS textfile. If your Apple word processor creates true tabs, then choose "Neither" for the Tab character. (This stores each Tab as a <Control-I> in your ProDOS textfile. In BEX, you can change <CR><Control-I> to ($p), and other <Control-I>s to BEX's ( $$) tab command.)

The dialog box for ProDOS to Mac asks the same question about Tabs. All Mac word processors interpret <Control-I> as meaning "go to the next tab." In BEX, you can type a <Control-I> by pressing {control-C I} in the Editor. If you prefer, you can type two or more spaces where you want tabs in your Mac file, and then choose the second option for tabs. This tell AFE to replace the number of spaces you specify with a single <Control-I>. Another issue for ProDOS to Mac translation is how control characters are treated. I find that checking "Make Control Characters Visible" is handy. When your Apple word processor stores a hard page break with <Control-L>, then AFE creates {^L} in the Mac textfile. It's a snap to search for these printable characters and replace them with a Macintosh hard page break (or just delete it).

Moving Data from the Mac to BEX

With AFE, it's a snap to get data from any Macintosh word processor to a BEX chapter. There are five steps:

1. Use the Macintosh word processor to create a "text-only" document. Where possible, ask that Returns only appear at paragraphs.

2. Quit the Mac word processor and launch Apple File Exchange. Insert a ProDOS disk in one Mac drive--AFE can format ProDOS disks for you, if you'd like. Tell AFE to translate the text-only files you've created. Make sure you write these textfiles at the root level of the ProDOS disk--don't put them in a folder (subdirectory). Now that you have the ProDOS disk in hand, you're ready for the Apple II part of the transfer.

3. Boot BEX using a configuration that includes at least one 3.5-inch disk drive. (See Master Level Section 3 for the full low-down, or the April/May 88 Newsletter for the essential details.)

4. Insert the ProDOS disk you used in Step 2 in your 3.5-inch disk drive, then use Read textfiles on the Second Menu to copy the ProDOS textfiles to BEX chapters.

5. Edit the chapter and check out the <CR> situation. If there's just one <CR> at the start of each paragraph, you can use Replace characters to change {<CR>} to {($p)}. If there's a <CR> after every 50 to 80 characters, use Replace characters with the {FIX TEXT} transformation chapter to change the Returns to BEX paragraph {($p)} indicators.

Moving Data from BEX to the Macintosh

AFE can only read ProDOS textfiles--it can't read DOS 3.3 textfiles. Fortunately, our shareware utility QTC can copy DOS 3.3 textfiles or BEX chapters to ProDOS textfiles. (If you don't have a copy of QTC, send us $15 and we'll rush one your way.) Before you use QTC to make ProDOS textfiles, you should give a little thought to the format you eventually want in the Macintosh.

For finest control, you can use Replace characters on your BEX chapters to create formatted copies of your data. Change ($p) indicators to one <CR>, and change BEX tabs and { $$p#} commands to <Control-I> characters. Alternatively, you can use Write textfile on the Second Menu. This option prints the chapter to disk, placing two <CR>s and five spaces at the start of each paragraph. You can change this default format with $$ commands--see User Level page 10:6 for some suggestions. Once you have formatted BEX chapters or DOS 3.3 textfiles on disk, follow these three steps:

1. Use QTC to copy the BEX chapters or DOS 3.3 textfiles to a 3.5-inch disk.

2. On the Macintosh, launch AFE and insert the ProDOS 3.5-inch disk in a drive. Select the textfiles you've created for translation.

3. Quit AFE and launch your word processor, then open the text-only document and format it.

Bulletin Board

We're happy to publish brief "for sale" notices, want ads, and other announcements from Newsletter subscribers--send 'em along in print, in braille, or on disk.

Two VBs and an Ampro CP/M Computer

Steve Cutway writes from Ontario: I have for sale two VersaBraille Classic (tape-based) P2C models and one Ampro Series 100 Bookshelf CP/M computer. The VBs are both in excellent condition--in fact, both have been recently serviced and have the latest engineering improvements as a result. (I'll bet you didn't know that improvements are still being made, but they apparently are, at least in Canada.) Both VBs are currently under service agreement in Canada, which could be transferred to TSI itself. Both include all original cables, overlay tapes, chargers, and braille and print manuals. (I even have a second spare charger for each, allowing you to travel light, leaving one at home and at work.) I'm asking $1600 U.S., approximately $2000 Canadian.

The Ampro CP/M computer is a Z-80A dual 5.25-inch floppy disk system (each disk holds 360K). This unit includes no keyboard or monitor--just the drives, processor, & power supply housed in a small, easily portable package, which is in excellent condition and recently overhauled. It's ideal for connecting to a VB or CRT and keyboard. I'm asking $500 U.S. (approx $750 Cnd.). I'll sell it separately; if you buy it with the VBs, I'll include a (legitimate) copy of the VersaText Braille to Print Word Processing System. With or without a VB, I'll include numerous games, utilities, and documentation in print and on disk. Of course no reasonable offer will be refused--just call me at 613-549-2280 after 5.pm. Eastern weekdays, and any time on weekends.

A2 Central Magazine on Disk

Since 1985, Tom Weishaar's published a meaty, amusing, and fabulously helpful magazine. At first it was called "Open-Apple;" the name has recently changed to "A2 Central." Happily, it's now published on disk as well as in print, making its advice to beginners and experts accessible to all. In celebration, A2 Central is now offering the entire back issue set at a great price: $39. The print edition is bound volumes; the disk edition comprises five 3.5-inch disks of ProDOS textfiles free of any format, but including page number information to use in concert with the detailed indexes. You could meet every conceivable information need by buying both editions--only $78!

Annual subscription rates for the monthly A2 Central are $28 for the print, and $84 for both print and disk. Thanks to Larry Skutchan's handy textfile reading utility, the monthly disks (as well as the first disk in the back issue set) boot up talking with either an Echo or SlotBuster. For more information, contact:

A2 Central

PO Box 11250

Overland Park KS 66207 U.S.A.

Phone: 913-469-6502

About the Authors

Phyllis Herrington provides Technical Support at RDC; in her spare time, she plans dinners for international students visiting Madison.

Jesse Kaysen finds her duties as RDC's Publications Manager a little easier this month, thanks to the memory chip earrings she got for Christmas.

Gloria Buntrock somewhere finds the time to be a frequent contributor to these pages as well as coordinate the Naperville (Illinois) Area Transcribing for the Blind group.

When Caryn Navy isn't writing programs or answering technical questions at RDC, she's a soprano in Womonsong, Madison's feminist choir.

Harvey Lauer is a Technology Transfer Specialist at the Central Rehabilitation Section for Visually-impaired and Blinded Veterans, (124), VA Hospital, Hines, Illinois 60141.

Dr. Mark Dubnick is a post-doc doing genetics research and custom programming at the University of Arizona. His daily use of Apples, IBMs, VersaBrailles and SmallTalks led him to design the "NO-TALK" computer system for Sensory Overload.

David Holladay founded RDC in 1981; he sleeps with his electronic datebook.

The RDC Full Cell

Phyllis Herrington, Tech Support/Newsletter; David Holladay, Programming; Jesse Kaysen, Publications; Caryn Navy, Programming; Susan Murray, Order Processor; Nevin Olson, Business Manager.

Production Notes

Written & edited with BEX on an Apple IIgs. BEX commands changed to Microsoft's RTF/Interchange format control words with BEX's Contextual Replace. Fill transfer with BEX & Hayes's Smartcom II to an Apple Macintosh SE. RTF commands interpreted with Microsoft Word 3.01. Word files spell-checked with Working Software's Spellswell. Pages composed with Aldus's PageMaker 3.0, output on an Apple LaserWriter Plus, and printed at The Print Shop. Two-track audio edition mastered on APH Recorder & copied on high-speed Recordex 3-to-1 duplicators.


Apple Computer, Apple File Exchange; Apple IIc, Apple IIe, Apple IIgs, Macintosh, & ProDOS: Apple Computer, Inc.

BEX, HOT DOTS, pixCELLS, & TranscriBEX: Raised Dot Computing, Inc.

Echo, Cricket & TEXTALKER: Street Electronics Corp.

IBM-PC: International Business Machines, Inc.

MS-DOS: Microsoft Corporation

Optacon, Optacon II, VersaBraille & VersaText: Telesensory Systems, Inc.

SlotBuster: RC Systems, Inc.

SmallTalk: Computer Aids Corporation

A2 Central: Tom Weishaar