Raised Dot Computing Newsletter: Exploring Microcomputer Applications for the Visually Impaired -- ISSN 0890-0019. March-April 1989 -- Volume 7, Numbers 74 & 75.

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 = Attention! New Format--Old Subscribers Take Note! How To Read the RDC Newsletter on Disk.

CONTENTS = (This Chapter) print page 1.

SENSORY OVERLOAD = Sensory Overload Inc.: Items from our Catalog (print page 2).

INTRO AUDAPTER = RDC Selling High-Quality "Audapter" Speech System by Nevin Olson (print page 4).

INTRO SPEX = RDC Introduces "Spex" Apple Screen Review Software for Serial Voice Devices by David Holladay (print page 5).

COPYWRONG = Copyrights and Copywrongs by Nevin Olson (print page 7).

BEX & TBEX PACK = BEX and TranscriBEX Are Now Pack Animals by Nevin Olson (print page 8).

KENNEL TECH SCOOP = Technical Support Notes: Scoop from the Kennel by Phyllis Herrington (print page 9): includes Why You Shoudn't Write-Protect Your BEX Disk; Beep! Beep! Beep! Means Full Page; Configuring BEX for Different Apples.

DOG LIFE AT RDC = The Paws That Refresh: A Letter to the Editor from Axle, FGDA Spokespuppy & Gayle Gould (print page 11).

INDENT & OUTDENT RETURNS = Making Hard Returns Indent or Outdent with the Soft Line Offset Command by Caryn Navy (print page 12).

FILE FORMATS MRT1 = Issues in Machine-Readable Text: Understanding File Formats by Jesse Kaysen (print page 14).

DEEP INSIDE MAKE$ = Deep Inside MAKE$: What Do Those TranscriBEX Commands DO? by Jesse Kaysen (print page 19).

PUBLICATIONS = Publications of Note (print page 20): includes NBP's Excellent Braille Primer for Sighted Parents; Seedlings Braille Books for Children 1989 Catalog; A-Talk Magazine Goes ProDOS; Computerized Books for the Blind Offers Documentation on Disk; The Tattler: New Quarterly on Special Needs Computing.

BULLETIN BOARD = Bulletin Board (print page 22): includes Texas Commission Hiring Technology Trainers ; Quik-Scrybe Transcription Service; IBM-PC World Series Baseball Game; Summer Master's Degree Program in Education and Technology.

PLEASE WRITE = Please for submissions to the Newsletter. (print page 23).

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

INDENT/OUTDENT SAMPLE = Format command version of samples from "Soft Line Offset" article.

Sensory Overload Inc.: Items from our Catalog

We thank all of the Newsletter readers who submitted their ideas for our annual catharsis on the absurdities of the sensory aids market. Our five-year old corporation now has the perfect motto, courtesy of Jim Pardee of Pennsylvania: "Remember, when Sensory Overload thinks, it thinks of you first."

Caryn Navy, RDC programmer, offers the following two items: How many times has this happened to you? It is late at night, you have to read another chapter of your textbook on tape for tomorrow morning's class, and you drift off to sleep. You jerk awake at 3 a.m. in a panic: not only do you have to listen to the material again, but you must waste precious minutes figuring out at which point you fell asleep. No more! Now there is the SOI WakeMan with its exclusive variable sleep control. If you nod off while the WakeMan is in recreational reading mode, it quietly turns off the tape so you can pick up where you left off in the morning. On the other hand, in its study mode, when the WakeMan senses that you have fallen asleep, it emits a resounding wake alert (based on technology developed for the 1812 Overture), rewinds the tape a bit, and resumes reading.

Have you ever wanted to travel somewhere else within minutes? Now you can with Faxi-Cab, the latest in telecommunications/travel technology. Simply step into the high-tech scanning booth and within minutes you walk out of the reconstruction booth on the other end of the telecommunications channel. This amazing advance makes all other forms of transportation obsolete. Warning: excessive use of Faxi-Cab can lead to double vision and fuzzy thinking. Faxi-Cab won't allow you to travel when you're toting copyrighted material or copy-protected software.

Nevin Olson, thanks to too many hours working on RDC new product development, thinks that Sensory Overload should dive into the New School of Screen Access Utilities. In addition to the new voice devices--the Swimphonix, the Cod-apter, and the Accent Minnow, there's that oft-announced product, TroutSpoken. But SOI is not content to float on its laurels. That's why we're introducing Flounder, the screen access program for the powerless user. These underachievers often feel their survival in the computer world has been due to luck, not skill, and Flounder is the program for them. Flounder is the ultimate in simplicity--it has no commands. Simply load the program with one of your big-name applications and Flounder wriggles its way around RAM, doing as it pleases. When an application demands a response, Flounder flops on its side and hustles on to the next screen or menu.

And for deviant, sneaky, and competitive users, SOI offers Red Herring. This software is better than turning off your monitor, because Red Herring simulates a real application on screen while you're too busy doing something else. You too can fool your boss or teacher with a realistic screen from WordPerfect or Lotus while you actually play Blackjack or write Dear Diary. Throw your office competitors way off course with Red Herring's genuine schematics, equations, and text editor while you secretly work away on your take-over plans. And for those darn sighted busybodies who've learned to understand synthesized speech, you can use Red Herring's Grade 2 Whale translator to encode all output.

Warren Figueiredo, noted Louisiana jokester/transcriber, had to let us know about this product: Sensory Overload is proud to announce TranscriBUCKS, the income generator produced exclusively for blind persons. Merely enter the country code, denomination, and amount needed in a file, run it through the MAKE$ process, and you're ready to produce legal tender in convenient sorted stacks. Our customers rave--just listen to these comments: "TranscriBUCKS has really changed what it means to be blind," a user in Maryland. "My caseload was completely wiped out after our clients acquired TranscriBUCKS skills," a former rehab counselor in Tacoma. "My sighted friends seem to notice me now that I use TranscriBUCKS," a former recluse in Miami. "With your program I was able build a new home to hold my reading machines, computers, printers and all that other stuff I've just purchased," a hacker in Hackensack.

Caryn and David are bursting with pride that SOI has introduced to the American market the talking kitchen aid that has taken Australia by storm: the Paprika A4. This amazing device is your cooking buddy. You enter the recipe on the handy spill-proof keyboard, and it tells you what to do next in real time. When you insert the spice probe into your dish, the Paprika A4 tells you what needs to be added. Its omnipotent database keeps track of your kitchen inventory and your social schedule and tells you when to go shopping and what to buy. An optional software module prints up a map of your local supermarket indicating where to find each item. One drawback for most Americans is the Paprika A4 insists on using Australian slang. For example, it says "pavlova" for a meringue dessert; "chook" for chicken; "barbie" for barbecue; and "sink a few tubes" for drinking a lot. The Paprika A4 runs on an AC adapter, battery power, or Vegamite sandwiches.

Sensory Overload Announces Merger

Penultimately, these thoughts from David Holladay, RDC's Flounder and Janitor:

Frank Furlough, President of Sensory Overload, is pleased to announce the planned merger of Sensory Overload and Gadgets 'R Us, two of the largest suppliers of inappropriate technology for the world market. When grudgingly roused from constant contemplation of his combination electronic datebook, hexadecimal calculator, dog-walker, and toilet-bowl-cleaner, Furlough grumbled: "we believe that this merger will benefit both companies. Sensory Overload is well known as the foremost manufacturer of useless technology for the visually impaired. Gadgets 'R Us is the leader in overpriced, microprocessor-controlled toys 'n trinkets for the sighted market. By combining the complementary weaknesses of the two companies, we feel we can increase the spiral of overpriced technology for all people with and without vision impairments. After all, getting an ordinary product, such as a scale, a toaster, or a Coke machine to talk is the hallmark of gadgetry these days. Sensory Overload, with its outstanding line of talking products, is a natural partner."

Furlough continued: "It is time to dispel the nasty rumors that have been flying about our merger. This merger will not lead to lower prices, since we've found the marketplace does not respect inexpensive products. The combined company is not planning on modifying the Salad Shooter to emit BB pellets in an attempt to increase our consumer base. And we have not been using our new TranscriBUCKS software to raise the needed capital to finance the deal."

Ordering Instructions

As N.Y.er Steve Mendelsohn puts it so eloquently: "For further information, just contact the nearest fraud investigation branch of your local postal inspector's office. Or call our convenient 800 number to leave your credit card information on our friendly answering machine. Rest assured that all contributions will be used in our tireless efforts to sharpen the cutting edge of technology." Have a nice April.

RDC Selling High-Quality "Audapter" Speech System -- Nevin Olson

We're excited to announce the latest addition to our product line: the Audapter Speech System, designed and manufactured by Noel and Debby Runyan, otherwise known as Personal Data Systems, Inc. of Campbell, California. Design team member for the VersaBraille and principal design engineer for the VersaBraille II, Noel has finally created the synthesizer with the features he and other blind users want. The first born of PDS's family of modular computer access products, the Audapter offers intelligibility, speed, control, and instant silence at the affordable base price of $1095 U.S.

The Audapter's solid metal case measures 9 by 5.5 by 2.5 inches. In addition to a volume knob and audio output jack, two buttons on the front panel let you set major Audapter functions, including voice characteristics and communication parameters. One press of the "command button" always shuts up the Audapter. The base model operates on A.C. power, connecting to your computer and screen review software through a DB-9 serial interface. The internal battery option ($75) provides on-the-go speech for eight hours; a standard parallel interface is also available as a $75 option.

Readers of the audio Newsletter can judge the Audapter's speech quality directly, since it's reading this article. Inkprint subscribers can obtain an audio tape version on request. The Audapter's speech rate varies from ponderous to Federal Express--the maximum is over 500 words per minute. Through a front-panel menu, you can choose seven "standard" voices and set the values of six voice controls. With commands from your host computer, you can independently vary the nine voice characteristics to craft the exact voice quality you prefer. Your voice preferences and interface parameters are stored in non-volatile RAM, so they persist even when the Audapter's turned off.

Using the Audapter with Your Screen Review Software

Currently, the Audapter is transparently supported by RDC's Spex (see the next article), Omnichron's Flipper, T.S.I.'s VERT Plus, and I.B.M.'s PS/2 Screen Reader. You can change the Audapter's command and shut-up characters, making it easier to upgrade speech quality with other screen review packages. The Audapter also responds to Echo-like commands; any program providing "control-E" windows for synthesizer commands and "control-X" for silence should work with the Audapter.

The BeSTspeech T-T-S Text Normalizer software is built in to the Audapter, and that's why the Audapter's speech is so easy to understand. The Audapter's manual, provided in print and disk, delves into the literally hundreds of context decisions the Text Normalizer makes to pronounce your texts in a natural way. The period character gets pronounced differently in these five cases:






The Audapter knows about many common abbreviations, and pronounces them naturally.

{Fig. 5 shows a fig with mold. Meet Jan who was born on Jan. 5th. We say no to no. 9F, which is too near the interstate hwy. Put 5 tsp of Whiskey in your cake and then pour it in an 8 in. pan, which holds .67 sq. ft. }

Is pronounced by the Audapter as follows: Figure five shows a fig with mold. Meet Jan who was born on January fifth. We say no to number nine eff, which is too near the interstate highway. Put five teaspoons of Whiskey in your cake and then pour it in an eight inches pan, which holds point six seven square feet.

With three different ways to pronounce series of digits, the software makes numerical information easier to understand. When faced with text like this:

{In 1985, we drove Dr. Smith to 408 Inner Dr. There she 1st bribed the mayor with $1985 and then offered him a .219 share in her cocaine trade. }

The Audapter says: In nineteen-eighty five, we drove doctor Smith to four oh eight Inner drive. There she first bribed the mayor with nineteen hundred eighty-five dollars and then offered him a point two one nine share in her cocaine trade. In addition to these in built smarts, you can create your own "User Exception Dictionary" text file and print it to the Audapter. A User Exception Dictionary entry can expand a difficult-to-discriminate abbreviation like "3BR" to "three bedroom."

Ordering Information

The Audapter is available with several options, as follows:

Base model Audapter with serial interface, A.C. adapter, manuals in print & disk, one-year warranty: $1095

I.B.M. serial cable DB-9 to 25-pin female (RDC code 13F): $35

Apple serial cable DB-9 to 25-pin male (RDC code 13M): $35

Internal battery option: add $75.

Parallel interface: add $75.

For bargain-hunters, we offer the following package deals.

I.B.M. Speech Package: base Audapter serial plus serial cable and Omnichron's Flipper screen access software: $1395 (saves you $60).

I.B.M. Speech and Braille Package: add RDC's Hot Dots braille translator to the above for $1595 (saves you $160).

I.B.M. Professional Package: To the Speech and Braille Package, throw in a T.S.I. VersaPoint BP40 braille embosser and serial cable: $4995 (saves you $390).

Apple Speech and Braille Package: base Audapter plus serial cable, BEX, and Spex: $1475 (save $90).

Apple Professional Package: to the Apple Speech and Braille Package, add T.S.I. VersaPoint BP40 and cable: $4850 (saves you $350).

These prices are U.S. dollars, and include U.P.S. ground shipping within the U.S.

RDC Introduces "Spex" Apple Screen Review Software for Serial Voice Devices -- David Holladay

RDC announces Spex, screen review software for serial voice devices. Spex works with the Audapter from Personal Data Systems, Blazie Engineering's Braille 'n Speak, and the venerable Echo GP from Street Electronics. Spex runs in Apple DOS 3.3 on the Apple IIe, IIc, and IIgs. It's compatible with BEX 3.0 and any DOS 3.3 software that works with TEXTALKER, with the exception of BEX versions 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2.

Spex loads into the language card memory of the Apple, where it watches the flow of characters going to the screen and the flow of characters that you type. When you type a key, Spex sends a command to the synthesizer to shut up, so you can hear your most recent keystroke. Spex speaks all text that is directed to the screen. When you type a left or right arrow key, Spex says what character the cursor has landed on. When you type a special command (usually control-L), Spex goes into "screen review," so you can precisely learn what is on the screen.

For years, the preferred voice synthesizers for the Apple II have provided screen review capabilities. TEXTALKER works with the Echo and the Cricket (products of Street Electronics), and SCAT works with the SlotBuster (a product of RC Systems). Like Spex, TEXTALKER and SCAT load into the language card memory to facilitate speech output. Now with Spex, you can give new "smarts" to your Audapter or your Braille 'n Speak to take better advantage of Apple DOS 3.3 software.

So far I've talked about three serial devices that work with Spex. There are many serial voice synthesizers, and, as long as they have a single-character silence command, they can all work with Spex. When a synthesizer receives the silence command, it shuts up. The DECtalk, a high quality synthesizer from Digital Equipment Corporation, does not have a silence command, so it does not work with Spex.

Spex's Features

Spex provides even more features than those available with TEXTALKER 3.1.3. Spex always speaks the character the cursor lands on when you use the left or right arrow key. While TEXTALKER announces the character you land on with the right arrow, it announces the previous character when you use the left arrow.

In addition to selecting a line by letter, you can ask Spex to read the top or bottom line on the screen that's not blank. Spex can also find the first and last word or character on a line. When you know what you want to read but don't know where it appears, you can use Spex's Find command to roam the screen. A Spex command summary is available on-line at the press of a question mark.

Not only can you choose between reading words and spelling letters, but you can also get each character pronounced in full with the ham radio alphabet and any screen enhancements (inverse character, flashing character, or graphics character) that appear. With Spex there is no guessing about any character on the screen. By pressing solid-Apple left or right arrow, Spex lets you explore a whole line in this "full disclosure" mode.

You can go from line to line by pressing up or down arrow. If you press the open Apple key while you press the up or down arrow key, Spex keeps your position on the line and says the word you land on. This is an easy way of exploring a column of numbers without even having to establish a "column." Like TEXTALKER, Spex has a column mode, which allows you to explore restricted areas of the screen. You establish new column positions directly, based on where your audio cursor appears on the line. You can hear all the current column boundaries by pressing solid Apple-space.

Spex Testing

I had a lot of fun writing Spex, but I've learned by now that writing a program is only the first step. Caryn Navy and Phyllis Herrington provided crucial feedback to make the program easy-to-use, while Jesse Kaysen did her usual stuff to make a clear manual. We were fortunate in being able to assemble an all-star testing team, who pounded the software and helped us eradicate bugs: our thanks go to Harvey Lauer, Neal Ewers, Nick Dotson, and Robert Carter for their contributions as testers.

Ordering Information

We include Spex at no extra charge when you buy an Audapter from us: others can purchase Spex from Raised Dot Computing for $35. In addition to the Spex software, the disk has documentation in BEX chapters and as Apple DOS 3.3 textfiles, and the Spex Changer utility, which customizes Spex for your particular voice output device. Spex only works with BEX 3.0: you'll have to upgrade from earlier versions if you want to use Spex with BEX.

Copyrights and Copywrongs -- Nevin Olson

We've received a number of inquiries lately about copying BEX and TranscriBEX disks, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to make a few things clear.

One Program for One Computer: When you buy one program--BEX, Hot Dots, pixCELLS, whatever--from RDC, you're purchasing the right to use that program on one computer at a time. If you're fortunate enough to own one computer at home and another at school, you can use the program at home or at school. If you use the program at home while someone else is using it at school, then you're violating the terms of our sale. We know that some people buy BEX, immediately make three backups, and then run the software on four computers at once. Those people are breaking the law.

So why do we allow three backups of BEX? I'm glad you asked that question ...

Backups Guard Against Disk Failure: For all RDC products, we recommend that you never use the "master" disk we ship you. Instead, you make one working copy, or backup. You store the master disk in a safe place, and always run the software from the working copy. When handled with proper respect, a floppy disk can last a long time. (The RDC staff have never experienced a disk media failure with BEX or Hot Dots. Bugs, yes; dead disks, no.) If your kid sister smothers your working copy with peanut butter, you then dig out your master disk and make another working copy.

Make and Use A Working Backup Only on Demand: We recommend you make just one backup at a time, or you could run into the following situation. Last year, the computer expert made all three BEX backups and put them in the disk holder by the computer, while secreting the Master Disk in a location known only to him. This year, the Computer Expert is in Venezuela. The computer teacher discovers that, since they were "just sitting there in the disk holder," all three backups have been used for Coke coasters. The computer teacher calls us in a panic: we no longer have a working copy of BEX! Here's an ideal way to handle backups: make one working backup of your BEX program plus a working backup of all the other disks in the BEX Binder. Decide on a secure place to store the original disks, bundle them together in a sturdy container, and put them there. Now, do next year's teacher a favor: write a note inside the front cover of the BEX Binder saying where you stashed the originals!

That's my lecture on backups. Now on to a subtler issue:

TranscriBEX is not a separate program, it's an add-on to BEX: TranscriBEX is a braille transcribing-specific way to use BEX. TranscriBEX depends on BEX; getting TranscriBEX does not magically mean you have permission to use BEX on more than one computer at a time. Here's a real-life problem we've encountered: a school buys BEX for use by a blind student. Then the media specialist decides to use TranscriBEX to prepare braille materials for that student. The student uses one BEX disk in the classroom, while the transcriber is using a second backup in the library. In other words, one BEX is being used on more than one computer at a time. Is this acceptable? Nope.

Whew! Feels good to get that off my chest! Let me wax philosophical for a moment:

Facing the Music: Software piracy bothers two sides of me. As the Business Manager for a software publisher, piracy means loss of income, which means less money for research and development of new and better products. As someone struggling to be a moral human being, software piracy engenders disrespect for my efforts and disregard for the rule of law.

Getting Caught: If you can stomach the ethical dilemma, never encounter problems with a disk, and never need to contact us for technical support, then you probably can copy our software with glee. On the other hand, if you find yourself trying to do something not described in the manual and would like a helping hand, you're on your own. When your disk dies, you have no recourse. And when your students ask you to explain why shoplifting is against the law, you may feel a twinge.

Getting Square: If you recognize yourself in some of the examples I've presented, we'd like to talk to you. We firmly believe that most pirates act out of ignorance, not malice, and we welcome the opportunity to set things straight. We know that few school districts allocate enough money for software. We're now offering significant discounts for situations where more than one person is using our software simultaneously--check out the next article for details.

BEX and TranscriBEX Are Now Pack Animals -- Nevin Olson

In response to the growing use of BEX in schools and TranscriBEX in translation-typing groups, we're pleased to announce discounts on multiple software purchases. When you want to run our software on more than one computer at your site, the "Student Pack" and "Transcriber Pack" provide an inexpensive way to add more than one copy of BEX and TranscriBEX within our licensing and copyright requirements.

BEX Student Pack

A "Student Pack" costs just $100, and includes:

-- non-copiable BEX version 3.0 program disk

-- Quick and Thick Reference Card booklets in large print

-- Index/Table of Contents, Quick and Thick Reference Card booklets in braille

The student using the pack can refer to the complete BEX Dox of the "full" program. To prevent total confusion, that "full" program must be BEX 3.0: if you want to add a Student Pack and you have BEX 2.2 or earlier, you must first upgrade your BEX to version 3.0 for $175.

TranscriBEX Transcriber Pack

The Transcriber Pack will set you back $125, and contains:

-- non-copiable BEX version 3.0 program disk

-- Quick and Thick BEX Reference Card booklets in large print

-- TranscriBEX 2.1 transformation chapters/data disk

-- TranscriBEX Manual and Reference Card in large print

When transcribers need to refer to the BEX Dox, they find the "full" BEX plus TranscriBEX program. To ensure consistency, we require that this "full" program be BEX 3.0.

Sample Pack Configurations

Suppose you're an itinerant teacher who uses BEX 3.0 to produce braille materials. Now you'd like to introduce one of your students to BEX as well. Buy a BEX Student Pack and leave the program disk and reference materials with your student. When you swing around to this school, you can answer your student's questions with the BEX Dox you bring along. You save $300 over the cost of buying another complete BEX for the student.

You're teaching a writing class at a school for the blind--your computer lab just bought nine Apple IIgs's. You already own one BEX 2.2. You can upgrade your current BEX to version 3.0 for $175 with print manuals; buy an additional set of audio tape 3.0 manuals for $50; and buy eight Student Packs for $800. You save $2575 over the cost of equipping the lab from scratch with nine BEX 3.0's.

You're in charge of producing large print and braille materials for your school, which already owns one BEX 3.0 for student use. When you want to have ready reference to the BEX manuals, you're probably better off buying a new TranscriBEX plus BEX for $500. If you're familiar with BEX already, you can buy a TranscriBEX module for $100 plus a Transcriber Pack for $125--saving $275.

Should We Pack It?

Student and Transcriber Packs are designed for multiple users at one site. The deep pack discounts are possible because you have one set of manuals, and you coordinate your technical support requests through one individual. When you have several independent users who each need manuals and individualized technical support, packs are not the way to go: each user needs their own full program. If you're wondering whether packs are for you, just give us a call at 608-257-9595.

Technical Support Notes: Scoop from the Kennel -- Phyllis Herrington

As I look at the calendar, I realize not only is spring in the air, it's also Newsletter time again. The silent minority at RDC are raising their voices in chorus alerting me that I have some reminders and tips to share with you. So with no further delay let's get started.

Why You Shouldn't Write Protect Your BEX Disk

Our inclination when we get new software is to protect it from the ever present threat of humanoid damage. One way to protect software is placing write protect tabs over the notch(s) on the disk. This prevents any saving files on to or erasing files from the disk. However, we don't recommend placing write protect tabs on your BEX program disk, as it gets in the way of using BEX at all.

The best way to protect your software is to always use a working back-up. Generally, that's one of the first things you are instructed to do in any software manual, and BEX is no exception. But BEX won't let you make a back-up of your master disk if you've placed write protect tabs over the notches.

Writing new configurations is another area where write protect tabs cause BEX trouble. After you go through the configuration dialog, BEX saves your information under the name you supply. If write-protect tabs are present, BEX won't be able to save the new configuration on disk. Finally, if you run into a situation where BEX cannot save material created in the Editor on your data drive, it will come to the rescue with a one-page "SAVE" chapter on the program drive. But if the notches on the BEX program disk are covered, BEX can't create a SAVE chapter.

In summary, write protect tabs can prevent you from changing material on a disk. However, where BEX is concerned, it is best not to place them on your master or back-up disks. If you are having difficulty, check first for pieces of tape covering the notches--remove any write-protect tabs you find. If they do not exist on the program disk and you're still having trouble, by all means give us a call!

Beep! Beep! Beep! Means Full Page

Imagine this: As you're creatively writing the world's greatest novel in BEX, all of a sudden each key you press emits a beep. You get so frustrated that you play a little rhythmic tune telling the computer and BEX how upset you are. But wait! There is a very painless cause and solution for these beeps.

Chances are you've reached the 4096 character limit per BEX page. After this point you can no longer add more data to the page, so BEX beeps for every keystroke. Check the character count in your current page with {control-W C:} if BEX tells you "size 4096" then the easiest solution is the "cut page" command.

This command splits the BEX page at the point of your cursor. All the material after the cursor is moved to the next page and all the material before is kept on the same page. Before you use the command, put your cursor at a good dividing point, like a paragraph indicator. One way to do this is to move your cursor to the start of the page with {control-Z space,} then advance your cursor to the halfway mark with {control-A 2000 space.} Then you can find the next paragraph indicator with {control-A control-P.}

Now that you've found a good place to cut the BEX page issue the command {control-C control-P.} Your cursor is now at the top of the new BEX page. When you use {control-C control-P} on page 1, the material from the cursor on becomes page 2, while the material before the cursor is still part of page 1. If you want to add to the stuff on page 1, enter {control-P control-Z} to zoom back a page. Now you're ready to let those creative juices flow.

While a BEX page can hold 4096 characters, we advise you to move to a new page well before you reach that limit. A totally full page will most likely overflow if you translate the chapter into grade 2 braille or do some tweaking to the chapter via Replace characters. Keep your pages between 3300 and 3600 characters, and keep writing!

Configuring BEX for Different Apples

When you configure BEX, you are telling the program which speech, printing, and data transfer devices you're using and where they're located. Each of us has a favorite configuration which we use 90 per cent of the time. However, the configuration of your heart will not work on every computer. Fortunately, your BEX boot disk has room for quite a few configurations, so you can customize your BEX for any computer you use.

When your configuration doesn't match the Apple you're using, there are a variety of weirdnesses you can encounter. If you configure BEX with speech output and then use this configuration on a silent Apple, BEX's screen display looks strange--a clear clue is that menu prompts are double-spaced and missing the first letter on each line. If you want to use BEX on a computer which does not contain a speech device, make sure you specify a configuration that doesn't include Echo, SlotBuster, or serial speech output.

Printing problems can also result when your configuration doesn't match your Apple. Suppose your favorite configuration defines your regular printer in slot 2. When you use this configuration on an Apple with a printer in slot 1 and nothing in slot 2, you won't be able to print anything: BEX just hangs. (Press control-Reset then type RUN <CR> to get back to BEX.)

I could give many examples, but I think you get the picture. Two Starting Menu options are extremely useful when you feel like you're losing at configuration roulette. Option W - What is in this computer and option V - View a configuration can tell you how the particular system you're using is set up and whether your favorite configuration matches the hardware.

When you're encountering problems with printing or voice output, get to the Starting Menu (boot disk in drive 1, press the space bar at the Main Menu). You can find out what cards are in the computer and which slot they're in by simply pressing {W.} If you have an Apple Super Serial Card, option W tells you whether the switch settings match the "RDC standard." If it's an Apple IIgs, you'll discover how the Control Panel's set and the port settings as well. Finally, option W tells you the name of the configuration you're currently using. This option is particularly helpful when you're plopped down in front of a new computer, and you're not sure exactly what's available.

Now that you know the equipment at hand, you can see if an existing configuration fills the bill. Press {V} to View a configuration: BEX provides a numbered list of all the configurations on the disk. You choose which one to view by number or by name. Once you've selected a configuration to look at, press <CR> and you will be told everything about the configuration: the BEX level, the type speech device if one's defined, what printers are configured, which slots these printers and other devices are operating out of, whether it includes a tape-based VersaBraille, and the type disk drives you have. To summarize, when BEX starts behaving strangely, use the Starting Menu to make sure your configuration matches your equipment.

Well, it's almost time to go home, since a golden retriever has just punched me with her nose. One must not keep a puppy waiting for supper. If you have any questions about any problems you are experiencing with our software, please let me hear from you. I'll try my best to give you the latest scoop from the kennel.

The Paws That Refresh: A Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

I am writing to you on behalf of the silent minority who also live and work at RDC, and who have been badly slighted in your Newsletter. I spend a good bit of my time lying at the feet of the lady of our house, who spends a good bit of her time in front of a clicking box using something she calls "BEX." Today I overheard her talk about your Newsletter, and how it mentioned "dogs." "Dogs" isn't much to go on, but it interested me.

Now, I came into this world because of the careful breeding of Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California. I live with this family, who agreed to introduce me to the world and feed me until I'm old enough for school. They are always talking to me about "when you're a guide dog ..."

So I would like to hear from my future colleagues. I mean, if there's room in the Newsletter for Sensory Overload, why not make room for some wonderful canine wisdom? Surely my wise friends know many juicy secrets about the Full Cell, the inner workings and plans of RDC, and who is good for an illegal treat under the lunchroom table. They might even like to comment on the weather in Wisconsin. Also, please let me know if there are any pretty girl-dogs there .

Thank you for listening. I hope to overhear something real soon.



Official Spokespuppy for Future Guide Dogs of America

(P.S. from Axle's secretary: Is this why you never publish "Letters to the Editor" in the Newsletter?)

The Not-So-Silent Minority Replies

Dear Axle:

Thanks for writing and speaking up for our interests! It's true that we are the ones who really know what goes on here at Raised Dog Computing. Whiskey has worked very hard over the years, learning the ins and outs of two college campuses and countless airports, closely observing RDC since its inception. She currently spends most of her time sulking under her desk because Caryn didn't give her a gold Milkbone when she retired this March at age twelve. Claire likes it here a lot, now that she's gotten over the initial shock (snow! cold!) of moving up from Mississippi. When Claire isn't hustling with Phyllis on their mile-and-a-half commute each day, she generally finds happiness lying on her back under the IBM, accepting belly rubs from passing Dots. We haven't been totally silent over the years, though, Axle--ask your secretary to check those back issues for the articles we've co-authored.

When we're not relaxing or writing articles, we look forward to the monthly thrill when Teddy, Nevin and Jesse's mutt puppy, comes to visit. Whiskey demonstrates more nobility in an hour than Teddy will have in his entire life; Claire likes to sneak to the front office and steal Ted's bone. As far as treats are concerned, all the Dots are quite stingy. We're sure you'll have a wonderful time when you grow up to be a guide dog too!

Sincerely, Claire (Meritorious Guide Dog) and Whiskey (Guide Dog Emeritus).

Editor's Note: Axle's Secretary is better known as Gayle Gould, Eyes of Faith Ministries, Green Valley, AZ

Making Hard Returns Indent or Outdent with the Soft Line Offset Command -- Caryn Navy

We use the $$ms# command extensively in TranscriBEX to meet the exacting requirements of braille format. It can also be useful for inkprint output with BEX. It started life as an "undocumented command," and its action is a little different from the regular margin commands. As BEX prints, it breaks your text into lines with soft <CR>s. Up til now, these soft or runover lines have always begun at the left margin. The $$ms# command allows hard <CR>s and soft <CR>s to start at different positions on the line. If you want to use hard <CR>s as a sort of paragraph marker, read on.

To set the stage, let me quickly review the regular left margin and indent commands. The $$ml# command establishes where every line of a paragraph begins, except the first line. That starts at the position defined by the combination of $$i# and $$ml#. The inkprint defaults for these commands are $$i5 and $$ml0, which means the first line of the paragraph begins at zero plus five or position five, while all other lines begin at position zero. When you want the first lines further to the left than subsequent lines, you establish "outdenting" with a negative number in $$i#. So $$ml5 $$i-5 means paragraphs begin at five minus five, or position zero, while subsequent lines start at position five.

$$ms# Sets a Soft Line Offset

Here comes the new guy: $$ms# sets the "soft line offset" value. This value is added to any existing left margin to define the soft margin where all "soft" or "runover" lines begin. The position of the first character after a paragraph indicator is still defined by the combination of the $$ml# and $$i# commands. And what happens after a hard <CR> or new-line ($l) indicator is still the same: the text following begins at the left margin. What's different is that all other lines begin at the soft margin, which is the left margin plus the soft line offset, not at the left margin.

In terms of signed and plain numbers, the $$ms# and $$ml# commands work similarly. A plain number establishes the soft line offset absolutely; a plus sign before the number adjusts the soft line offset to the right; and a minus sign adjusts the soft line offset to the left. When you use $$ms#, it's crucial to remember that the soft margin value is determined by the combination of the left margin and the soft margin offset. The commands $$ml5 $$ms5 establish the soft margin at five plus five or position ten.

As with the $$ml# command, if the # in $$ms# begins with a plus or minus sign, you are adding to or subtracting from the previous soft line offset. To set a soft line offset of negative five, it is best to issue the two commands $$ms0 $$ms-5, in case the previous soft line offset is something other than zero. $$ml5 $$ms0 $$ms-5 places the soft margin at five minus five or position zero. Don't use a negative number in $$ms# that's larger than the left margin, or you'll lose the first characters of every soft line!

Here's a quick sample: Combine a positive left margin with a negative soft line offset for <CR>s that indent like ordinary paragraphs. To make hard <CR>s indent five spaces, use $$ml5 $$ms0 $$ms-5. The character following the <CR> or ($l) begins at the left margin, position five. Subsequent lines start at the soft margin: five minus five, or position zero. When you use a paragraph ($p) indicator, the text begins at the left margin plus the paragraph indent value: with the inkprint default of $$i5, that's five plus five or position ten.

Formatting Poetry with a Soft Margin

Indenting runover lines works well for poetry: the three commands $$i0 $$ml0 $$ms5 make it happen. You begin each stanza with a paragraph ($p) indicator, which skips a line in inkprint printing and lets you treat each verse as a paragraph while editing. Each stanza begins at the combination of the left margin and the indent: zero plus zero means stanzas start at position zero. You start each poetic line with a hard <CR> or ($l) which begins at the left margin--position zero. Because the soft line offset value is positive, the poetic lines are outdented. Runovers of poetic lines begin at zero plus five, or position five. Here's an example of how you enter the commands:

{ $$ml0 $$i0 $$ms5 $p Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet <CR>Eating her curds and whey $p Along came a spider and sat down beside her <CR>And frightened Miss Muffet away. }

When printed to a carriage width of 30, the result is: [Disk readers: print the "INDENT/OUTDENT SAMPLE" chapter on this disk to a Review class printer to see the results.]

{ Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet Eating her curds and whey Along came a spider and sat down beside her And frightened Miss Muffet away. }

Using a Floating Soft Line Offset for an Agenda

Similar to $$ml*, $$ms* sets the soft line offset to be the current position. It is best to use this only when the left margin is zero. A floating outdent with $$ms* can be handy for an agenda, where each point is marked with numbers, letters, or dashes. For example, these commands:

{ $$ml0 <CR>A. $$ms* Review Last Meeting's Minutes <CR>B. Report of the Officers <CR>C. Old Business from Last Month's Meeting <CR>D. Petitions from the Membership}

make the letters stand out in the left margin, like this (printed at a carriage width of 30): [Disk readers: print the "INDENT/OUTDENT SAMPLE" chapter on this disk to a Review class printer to see the results.]

{A. Review Last Meeting's Minutes B. Report of the Officers C. Old Business from Last Month's Meeting D. Petitions from the Membership}

Finally, you can combine paragraphs and hard <CR>s with the soft margin to simplify formatting two-level material. Begin major points with a paragraph indicator, and minor points with a hard <CR> or ($l). All the runover lines will begin at the soft margin, the left margin plus the soft line offset. You want the paragraphs to outdent, so set a negative paragraph indent that's equal or less than the left margin. You also want the <CR>s to outdent, so set a positive soft line offset. The following output shows what happens with the commands $$ml3 $$i-3 $$ms3:

{A. Review Last Meeting's Minutes B. Report of the Officers Treasurer's Report President's Report Legislative Committee Report C. Old Business from Last Month's Meeting New By-Laws Discussion Suit Against City Attorney for Breach of Contract D. Petitions from the Membership Removal of President Use of Treasury for Trip to Acapulco }

Three Cautions

As you begin to experiment with soft margins, there are three points to keep in mind. As with the left margin and tab commands, you can use an asterisk in place of the number value to indicate "your current position on the line." However, the soft margin then becomes this current position plus your current left margin. So for best results, make sure the left margin is zero.

When # in $$ms# is a signed number, you are adding to or subtracting from the previous soft line offset. To set a negative soft margin offset, be sure to precede the command with $$ms0 to clear out the previous soft line offset. Suppose you want to switch from outdented to indented <CR>s. Using the command mentioned above, you set a five-space outdent with $$ml0 $$ms5. You might think you could change to a five-space indent by entering $$ml5 $$ms-5. But the negative # value just reduces the existing soft line offset by five: these commands actually set the soft line offset to zero. Your hard and soft <CR>s line up at position five. When you enter $$ml5 $$ms0 $$ms-5, you clear out the previous soft line offset, so you end up with the five-space indent you're after.

Finally, when you use paragraph indicators to mark paragraphs, you can establish the number of <CR>s with the $$s# command. No parallel command is available for hard <CR>s: if you want a blank line between paragraphs, type two <CR>s.

Issues in Machine-Readable Text: Understanding File Formats -- Jesse Kaysen

More and more inkprint materials are prepared with the assistance of a computer. The author may write the original document on a word processor, and submit the document to the publisher electronically. When all the author's typing has been saved to disk, you may not have to retype it yourself to create a braille version. Even when the author uses a manual typewriter to create the manuscript, the publisher generally types the text into a computerized typesetting system to generate the finished book. This article is the first in a series on working with machine-readable text, adapted from the material in the ClasX Manual.

By machine-readable, we mean text that's stored as a file in some computer system: a typesetter's nine-track tape, a database or information system accessible by modem, an IBM-PC or Macintosh word processor file, or even an Apple file. For starters, let's take a look at the often-confusing topic of file formats: the various ways computers store text. The ClasX Manual steps through the transcription of two documents that begin life as machine readable text--ClasX is just $50 for TranscriBEX owners.

Machine-readable text includes two types of data: content and markup. The content is the text itself (what you'd read aloud), while the markup defines the format. In BEX and Hot Dots, for example, paragraph ( $p ) indicators, $$ commands, and translator controls are markup: the rest is content. To turn machine readable text into useful braille, you must be able to distinguish between content and markup in the file. Almost every computer program has a different way of storing text. It's crucial that you understand what sorts of files are workable; just because text is stored on a computer doesn't mean you'll be able to use it to make braille.

Finding the Files

The first step is the trickiest: getting your hands on the files. You can expect several phone calls and letters as you work your way from the publisher's marketing department (which usually handles customer contact) to the production or technical department (which actually oversees making the book). The production department may not even be the last step: many companies subcontract actual production to outside printers.

Once you have tracked down the right person (let's call her or him the File Czar), you must work together to develop a common vocabulary. Although standards are slowly evolving, neither a universal format nor a universal nomenclature exists at present. The important topics to cover are:

-- Is the content of the machine-readable file and the inkprint identical?

-- How is the file stored on disk?

-- Is the markup in the file designed to be read by humans, computers, or a specific printer?

I'll try to give an overview of what these questions mean, so you can communicate them to your File Czar.

How Complete is the Content?

Ideally, the content of a machine-readable file exactly matches the final inkprint. The accuracy of the machine-readable version of a document is intimately related to how the inkprint version was produced. "Desktop publishing," especially with a laser printer, increases the chances that the file and paper are identical. That's because laser printing is generally a lower-cost, in-house activity. Any errors in the final pages are corrected in the file, then the entire page is reprinted.

When the publisher uses conventional typesetting technology, the machine-readable version may contain many minor errors. Conventional typesetting is frequently a subcontracted activity. It would be too expensive to re-typeset an entire page that contains an error. Instead, small corrections of one to 10 lines are typeset and then pasted in place. It's important for you to ascertain whether these corrections are also fixed in the original machine-readable text. When there are a lot of corrections pasted in by hand, then you would probably save time if you just type in all the inkprint manually. Some correction files are simpler to work with than others: the easy ones label each correction with the page they belong to. A small group of clearly-labelled corrections doesn't disqualify the data.

Even when the content of a machine-readable file exactly matches the inkprint, some portions of the document may be missing. Charts, diagrams, tables, photo or figure captions, and title pages are often produced with a different technology. For our purposes, this "missing" data is not a problem. These types of inkprint material require differential handling in the braille edition: you often have to enter these sorts of data manually anyway.

Is The Data "Plain" ASCII?

When computers store text, they actually save numbers, not characters. The ASCII system defines which number corresponds to which character: a carriage return is ASCII 13, a lowercase a is ASCII 97, a vertical bar is ASCII 124. The original ASCII system defines 128 characters: the numbers from 32 to 126 are the 95 characters on an Apple keyboard, including the space. To be useful, the only printing characters in your source file must be these 95 ASCII characters. Just to keep things more confusing, this type of file is known by various names: "plain ASCII" or "plain text" or "seven-bit text." In the following discussion, we use the term textfile. Your textfile may also contain a variety of control characters; one important part of working with machine-readable text is analyzing the functions of these control characters.

While some word processing software always stores data as textfiles, many programs have a unique native file format. Only the program itself knows how to interpret information in a native file--BEX and WordPerfect are two good examples. In the IBM-PC and Macintosh environments, this native file format can include 256 different ASCII characters, some printing and some control characters. This type of file is also known by a variety of names: "extended ASCII" or "high-order ASCII" or "eight-bit ASCII" or, as we'll refer to it, high bit ASCII text.

High bit ASCII creates two problems for the transcriber. First off, BEX doesn't handle high bit characters: you can't type them in the Editor nor find them with Replace characters. On the other hand, you can include high bit characters in Hot Dots' Global. Second and most important, no universal standard exists for mapping the ASCII characters from 128 to 255 on to printing characters. Most Macintosh programs use the same system, but IBM programs vary widely. The letter E with an accent grave can be stored as ASCII 201 by one program and ASCII 148 by another. In addition to accented letters, the "curling" quotation marks and single quotes are always high bit characters. I provide some general advice for handling high bit ASCII files later on in this article.

Are You Working with an Input or an Output File?

All textfiles represent content with the same ASCII values, but there are crucial differences in markup. Some markup is designed to be interpreted by human beings, some by computer software, and some by a specific inkprint printer. The more format information present in the textfile, the easier the massage into braille becomes.

An input file contains commands for a computer program to use in creating the format. This markup can be generic printable characters like the Standardized Generalized Markup Language (SGML), which is designed to be understood by people as well as computers. Once you figure out that {} precedes a chapter title, and that footnotes start out with {}, this knowledge serves you for dealing with all SGML files--an overview of SGML appears in my November-December 1988 RDC Newsletter article "Let's Play Tag."

TranscriBEX \\ command chapters are input files that contain commands only TranscriBEX knows how to interpret. Since they're mnemonic, it would be relatively easy for a TranscriBEX newcomer to understand the function of the \\ commands: "\\contents" and "\\simpleindex" tags obviously refer to the start of a table of contents and the start of an index. Generally, the only <CR>s in input files are those signalling a new paragraph or a meaningful new line.

An output file contains all the characters that would be sent to a printer: it shows the result of the markup, not the intent. When you work with an output file, you won't see markup like {} or {\\contents}, whose meaning is transparent. You must infer the document's structure from the patterns of the device-specific commands. An output file contains a <CR> at the end of every line. Deciding where paragraphs and meaningful new lines occur in output files requires some work on your part. Now that you have a broad understanding of the types of files you may have access to, let's delve a little deeper into the specifics.

Massaging High-Bit Data

If you neglect to deal with the high bit ASCII characters in your native file, then you end up with confusing "garbage" in your BEX chapters. The "registered trademark" symbol, for example, becomes a left parenthesis; a left curling quote becomes an R; a right curling quote is S, and so on. While it's conceivable to use contextual Replace to fix this sort of problem, it requires great care and some manual confirmation. It's a lot faster to handle these characters in the native file.

Therefore, the first step when working with a high-bit file is to globally change those high-bit characters to seven-bit ASCII characters appropriate in a braille transcription. For example, you want to change curling left and right quotes to their neutral straight counterpart. Some single high-bit characters may require expansion: you'd change the trademark symbol to the four characters {(tm)}; change a lowercase o with a circumflex to the three characters {ocopy of the original data!) or you may be able to obtain a utility program that does these sorts of replacements for you. On the Macintosh, the "Apple File Exchange" utility does this for text-only documents and MacWrite files--more on AFE in the January-February 1989 RDC Newsletter. Microsoft Word on both the Mac and the IBM-PC can save data in "RTF" files that show all the original formats with plain ASCII characters--a detailed discussion of RTF appears in the ClasX Manual.

A Word of Warning on PostScript

In the past few years, a standard way to communicate with different brands of printers and typesetters has emerged. It's a "page description" programming language called PostScript, designed and supported by Adobe Systems, Inc. A PostScript file is a hybrid between a program-specific input file and a generic output file. While a PostScript description of a page uses just the plain 95 printing ASCII characters, and the division of text into lines and paragraphs is always marked with printing characters, chances are that it won't be useful "machine-readable text." Because PostScript is a full-fledged programming language, to decipher the file you must understand the PostScript routines controlling the output. A PostScript program that sets wonderful type need not contain comments or other internal documentation that explain how it works. While we like to accentuate the positive, reformatting a PostScript page description into useful braille is definitely a task for experts.

Working with Input Files

A truly generic input file conforms to the SGML ideal. All elements in the document, (including headings, type changes, paragraphs, and meaningful new lines), are explicitly tagged with printing characters labelling the elements' function. Comparing the inkprint with the textfile, you assign $$ or \\ commands to the explicit tags. Once this analysis is complete, you write one or more transformation chapters that change this markup to the appropriate BEX, TranscriBEX, or HOT DOTS commands.

However, there's a potential drawback to this type of data. As a document moves from the manuscript stage to the final production phase, it undergoes two types of revisions: the content is copy-edited, and the author's generic tags are transformed to program-specific or device-specific commands. The alterations in content due to copy-editing must appear in the file you work with; a generic tag structure is useless when the basic text doesn't match the inkprint.

You can also encounter program-specific input files. Paragraphs and new lines are marked with <CR>s or other control characters. Headings, margins, and changes in typeface are marked up with some combination of printing characters or control characters. Your $$ chapters are program-specific: only RDC's formatters know how to interpret those long strings of $$ commands.

There are several challenges to working with input files. Usually the markup is typographic, not structural. To find a heading, for example, you need to locate markup calling for a larger size of type and the addition of boldface. Some "floating" content of the file may be missing, since the program is responsible for creating it. For example, most printing programs take care of generating page numbers: individual page numbers won't generally appear in an input file. Similarly, many programs number footnotes and diagrams themselves: the input file will contain markup that tells the program "when you print, put the next footnote number at this point."

Some formats don't need any explicit commands, because the program "knows" how to handle the format automatically. Many typesetting programs suppress the output of more than one space in a row. An input file specific to that program could include many multiple spaces; you have to decide if they are meaningful. Thankfully, these "smarts" can also make life easier for you. Many typesetting programs are clever enough to generate curling quotation marks based on context. The publisher simply types straight quotes, and the program generates left and right quotes appropriately. The input file contains the straight quotes that the Grade 2 translator needs--you don't have to worry about changing the curling quotes to straight ones.

Working with Output Files

It's important to understand the limitations of output files, since almost every word processing program makes it easy to create this type of data. When you tell your average microcomputer user, "I want a machine-readable textfile of that document, please" then half the time you'll get a device-specific output file, containing format commands that control a particular brand of printer or typesetter. Device-specific files are preferred because every change in typeface is preserved in the data, which makes it much easier to identify headings and type changes.

Unfortunately, you'll frequently get generic output files, which have the least amount of format information: they're suitable for telecommunications. It's the "lowest common denominator" for file types: you can send this sort of data from just about any computer to just about any other computer. The only "format tools" available are printing characters, <CR>s and spaces. For example, the file may number all the headings like an outline: you can zero in on headings by looking for the combination of a new line immediately followed by a number like {3.1.2}. (One of the big advantages of the SGML system is that the tags are printing characters: you can telecommunicate an SGML file without losing one bit of format information.)

Even if there is no printing markup in the file, the clever user can convey a lot of information just using <CR>s and spaces--after all, these are the basic format tools for braille documents, and you can convey just about any information with them! Emphasis can be shown with capitalization and careful use of double or single quotes. A major head could be flush left and all caps, while a minor head could be indented ten spaces and upper- and lowercase. On the negative side, you must throw away most of the <CR>s at the end of each line, which are only relevant to the print format. David's September-October 1987 RDC Newsletter article on reformatting IBM-PC text discusses the contextual Replace techniques for this task.

I hope this overview of file format issues has given you insight into the challenges of working with machine-readable text. In months to come, I'll explore the software and hardware tools that make processing machine-readable text possible, as well the inkprint-specific format information that can appear in machine-readable text. As always, we welcome comments and suggestions from our readers!

Deep Inside MAKE$: What Do Those TranscriBEX Commands DO? -- Jesse Kaysen

A long-time TranscriBEX user writes:

"... The other day I was examining your MAKE$ chapter and came across certain commands that I was not able to find anywhere in the Thick Reference Card. ... Some of these commands are: $$vb, $$vt, $$ms, $$vu, $$ve, etc. ... Your explanation of these commands would be of value to advanced users interested in full control of formatting. I am looking forward with anticipation to your explanations in the Newsletter."

This user is not alone: we regularly receive requests for detailed info on the TranscriBEX-oriented $$ commands. While I always welcome suggestions for Newsletter articles, I'm afraid that I have to say "ninety-nine percent no" to this one. The $$ms# "soft line offset: command can be a handy shortcut for inkprint format, so Caryn Navy has explained its use in a companion article this month (see "INDENT & OUTDENT RETURN" chapter).

But documenting all the TranscriBEX-oriented $$ commands is something RDC has made a conscious decision not to do. While it might seem that a list like this would enable you to create your own formats for any and every transcribing situation, appearances are deceiving. The TranscriBEX-oriented $$ commands are very complex; they interact in non-intuitive ways. To use them correctly, you need to know more than what each command does in isolation--you'd need to share our designers' knowledge of the inner workings of BEX's Print program. Only then could you understand why commands must be issued in a particular order, and why some combinations of commands don't work in the ways you might expect.

Here's just one example: The numbering used in BEX $$ commands is one unit off from the cell numbers transcribers are accustomed to. A bulleted list in braille "indents to cell 1 and runs over to cell 3," while $$ml2 $$i-2 are the corresponding BEX commands. (This discrepancy is due to historical reasons: the ghost of BRAILLE-EDIT lives deep in the machine!)

While a few TranscriBEX \\ commands are transformed one-to-one into a single $$ command, most get expanded greatly. To finish up a table of contents and restore regular paragraphs requires seven $$ commands, a total of 34 characters. Get just one of these wrong, and things go haywire. In our frequent transcribing here at Raised Dot, laziness sometimes tempts us to shortcut the TranscriBEX process. Since we know what MAKE$ creates, we think we can just type the $$ commands directly--but we always blow it. When you type a \\ command incorrectly, MAKE$ alerts you to your mistake: when you type a $$ command wrong, it can require hours to search out the culprit. Even for TranscriBEX's designers, using the \\ commands is the best way to ensure predictable results.

Most importantly, providing the nitty-gritty details of how the Print program executes $$ commands contradicts the fundamental TranscriBEX approach. TranscriBEX creates complex format with easy-to-remember \\ commands, which describe the structure of the format, not the details. Faced with the task of making a braille transcription of Shakespeare, TranscriBEX lets you type "\\verseplay \\numberedlines" instead of five different $$ commands with numeric values that don't directly relate to the indent and runover positions.

The TranscriBEX-oriented $$ commands are not on the BEX Reference Cards because BEX alone is not sufficient for complicated braille formats. When you're creating nested menus, work sheets with several levels of questions, tables of contents, indexes, (or other materials that must conform to English Braille--American Edition or Code of Braille Textbook Formats and Techniques) get TranscriBEX--it's the right tool for the job.

TranscriBEX is not a separate program: it's a transcribing-specific way to use BEX. The $100 cost of a TranscriBEX module includes RDC's telephone and written support for producing your braille transcriptions. For TranscriBEX users interested in "full control of formatting," let me draw your attention to pages 18:6-7 of the TranscriBEX Manual, where we explain how to request custom page formats. Remember, we're here to help--if you have any questions, feel free to call or write.

Publications of Note

NBP Publishes Excellent Braille Primer for Sighted Parents -- Jesse Kaysen

I've come to count on National Braille Press to keep churning out interesting, timely, and lively publications. Their latest title, Just Enough to Know Better, is yet another winner. Eileen Curran, an experienced braille teacher, certified braillist, and NBP's computer specialist, has written a braille primer aimed at sighted parents of blind children. Just Enough to Know Better combines inkprint instruction with braille samples to give total beginners a working knowledge of grade 2 braille.

Eileen does an excellent job of gently introducing the braille rules, and she's chosen braille practice material of particular interest to her target audience. You read about a little girl named Rachel (blind from birth) as she learns to explore the world around her, and how her mom helps her to take advantage of all her senses. The final lesson is a perceptive essay on attitudes towards blindness, in the form of a report card from a blind student to her vision teacher. In addition to the practical suggestions scattered throughout the braille samples, the book's appendices provide activities for small hands, as well as resources on braille books, teaching braille, and organizations for parents of blind children.

Just Enough to Know Better is a wonderful introduction to the world of braille. The mechanics are important, of course, and this book presents them in a comprehensible fashion. Best of all, it also provides the context--why braille literacy can be so important in the development of capable blind people. All this and it's a bargain, too--just $12.50, shipped U.P.S. to your door. For more information, contact:

National Braille Press, Inc.

88 St. Stephen Street

Boston MA 02115

Phone: 617-266-6160

1989 Catalog Available from Seedlings Braille Books for Children

Seedlings is a nonprofit organization which uses some of the latest computer technology to produce high-interest, low-cost children's books in braille. Twelve new selections have been added, ranging from a Sesame Street easy-reader with print and braille to the Newberry Award-winning Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. This brings the total number of titles available from Seedlings up to 95--and prices are still very affordable, averaging just $8 per book (half of the production costs). Last year, Seedlings shipped nearly 3000 braille books to 46 of the United States and four foreign countries. The 1989 goal is to place 4000 new braille books into the hands of children. Catalogs are available in both print and braille, contact:


8447 Marygrove Drive

Detroit MI 48221

Phone: 313-862-7828

A-Talk Magazine Goes ProDOS

A-Talk (formerly called Apple Talk) is a quarterly magazine for Apple computer users with speech synthesizers. This magazine will be on 5.25 inch computer disks and will be published in February, May, August, and November of 1989. The more modern and faster ProDOS disk format is now being utilized. The magazine will include articles about programming your Apple, notices about computer products and software, tips to make using the computer easier, games, and utilities. Each issue will contain several ready-to-run programs. A-Talk also maintains a disk library of public domain programs which work with speech output. These disks are available to A-Talk subscribers for a $5.00 copying fee. Each issue will also contain resource materials. All A-Talk issues may be kept by the subscriber! One year's subscription to A-Talk for 1989 will cost $20.00. This price is good in the United States and Canada. The price for overseas air mail subscriptions is $32.00. Prepaid orders, in U. S. dollars, should be sent to

Jeff Weiss, Editor


3015 S. Tyler St.

Little Rock, AR 72204

Computerized Books for the Blind Offers Documentation on Disk

Computerized Books for the Blind (CBFB) accepts requests from registered members, searches for the requested material, and works to provide the material in an ASCII format compatible with the individual member's equipment. To register as a member, a print-handicapped individual or an institution serving people with vision impairments or orthopedic disabilities must apply directly to CBFB. The registration form requires that the individual applicant provide assurance of their disability by having their doctor, counselor, or employer complete and sign the verification section. Additionally, CBFB requires that the applicant sign a statement prohibiting them from distributing the computerized materials in any form. A one-time registration fee of $25 should accompany the registration form. If a prospective member can not afford the fee, a letter requesting a waiver should accompany their application. There are currently no charges for the computerized books that members receive--though modest charges for handling may be assessed in the future. After registration is complete, each member receives a packet with information on how to use CBFB materials and the additional services we provide. Currently CBFB handles distribution of Borland Corp.'s manuals, as well as several titles on "C" programming and scores of other general and program-specific manuals. To obtain a CBFB application or get more details, contact:

George Kerscher, CBFB

33 Corbin Hall

University of Montana

Missoula MT 59812

Phone: 406-243-5481

The Tattler: New Quarterly on Special Needs Computing

Tell 'em Ware, a consulting company for special needs computer users and the professionals who serve them, announces the publication of a quarterly newsletter. The Tell 'em Ware Tattler will be aimed at the support staff or the end user who wishes to keep up on new products or services in the field of special needs computing. The Tattler will include an Assistive Devices section with instructions and plans for high quality make-it-yourself assistive devices as well as information on funding, software reviews, and letters from readers. The annual subscription rate (four issues) is only $7.50 inside the U.S. and its possessions, $9.00 for Canada and Mexico, and $10.00 elsewhere. The Tattler welcomes appropriate submissions from its readers. Tell 'em Ware also publishes an AppleWorks database containing over 600 institutions, organizations, companies and individuals offering products and services to special needs computer users. For more information, contact:

Robert Kerr

Tell 'em Ware Tattler

1714 Olson Way

Marshalltown IA 50156

Phone: 515-752-9667

Bulletin Board

Texas Commission Hiring Technology Trainers

Two positions as Technology Training Teachers are available. Provides training in use of adaptive equipment for blind and visually impaired clients of state agency. Requires bachelor's degree in human services or related field, and minimum one-year work experience in education, rehabilitation teaching, or O&M with experience in microcomputer operations and software applications. Must have experience in use of speech and braille access devices--one position also requires experience working with persons with low vision and experience in use of large print and closed circuit TV systems. Monthly salary of $1447 to 1649 plus state benefits. If interested, immediately contact the Personnel Office of the Texas Commission for the Blind, 4800 North Lamar, Austin TX 78756 or phone 512-459-2501.

Quik-Scrybe Transcription Service

Ron and Sue Staley write that their Quik-Scrybe service is a quick and convenient way to have your materials prepared in print, large print, or hard-copy braille. They transcribe employment-related materials, textbooks, computer manuals, instructional brochures, and cookbooks. Charges are as follows:

Print and large print per page: $1.50

Hard-copy braille from printed text per page: $0.70

Computer and other technical manuals per braille page: $0.85

Hard-copy braille run out from Apple or MS-DOS disk, with editing per braille page: $0.25; without editing per braille page: $0.15

Materials bound without covers: $1.00

Materials bound and covered per volume: $2.00

Quantity discounts are available--payment and delivery arrangements are discussed on an individual basis. For further information, please contact:

Quik-Scrybe, Ron and Sue Staley

5510 Corteen Pl., Suite 7

North Hollywood CA 91607

Telephone: 818-761-7429

World Series Baseball Game for IBM-PC

H. H. Hollingsworth of Akron, Ohio, writes: Before taking disability retirement (I became legally blind) from the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., I designed many computer models for my work in sales forecasting and marketing research. This background, plus a lifelong interest in real baseball and games simulating it, resulted in my game, which I call "World Series Baseball." The game accurately simulates the real thing, reflecting batting averages, home runs, ERAs, etc. The game comes with 16 of the best teams of all time--eight from each league--from the 1905 Giants to the '27 Yankees to the '86 Mets, which can be input with a single key stroke. You can also enter your own teams. The program was used in running a simulation for the Cleveland Plain Dealer to determine the "greatest team of all time." Since there are no graphics--just statistical baseball--the game is especially good for people with sight problems, using a screen reader and voice synthesizer. Players may pinch hit, change pitchers, sacrifice, purposely pass a batter, or have a runner steal. It runs on any PC or clone. If you send me $15, I'll send you a 5.25-inch disk with the game and instructions. Write: H. H. Hollingsworth, 692 S. Sheraton Dr., Akron OH 44319, or call 216-644-2421.

Summer Master's Degree Program in Education and Technology at Johns Hopkins

Classroom teachers can now earn a master of science degree in education during three consecutive summers through the Johns Hopkins School of Continuing Studies' Division of Education. This new cohort program, with concentrations in technology for educators or technology in special education and rehabilitation, teaches effective use of computers and related technologies to enhance learning for regular or special education populations. Hands-on laboratory instruction balances research implications and practical orientation for direct classroom application. During a concentrated four-week period, students attend three classes each summer. Additional credits are earned through home site application of knowledge learned. For more information contact:

Dianne Tobin

The Johns Hopkins University

Division of Education

105 Whitehead Hall

Baltimore MD 21218

Telephone: 301-338-8273

We Welcome Submissions!

You don't need a Ph.D. to write for the Newsletter. If you have a short (100 to 200 words) announcement, all you have to do is put it in print, braille, or on disk and send it along for the bUlletin Board. If you've really enjoyed using a new sensory aids product (or really hated it ...) why not share your experiences with others? The submission deadline for the next issue is 1 June 1989. If you need some help getting your thoughts together, Jesse is happy to advise budding writers--give her a call at 608-257-9595.

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 3.01, 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, MacWrite, & ProDOS: Apple Computer, Inc.

Audapter: Personal Data Systems, Inc.

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

Echo, Cricket & TEXTALKER: Street Electronics Corp.

Flipper: Omnichron

IBM-PC, PS/2, & Screen Reader: International Business Machines, Inc.

MS-DOS: Microsoft Corporation

VersaBraille, VersaPoint & VERT Plus: Telesensory Systems, Inc.

SlotBuster & SCAT: RC Systems, Inc.