Raised Dot Computing Newsletter: Exploring Microcomputer Applications for the Visually Impaired -- ISSN 0890-0019. January-February 1991 -- Volume 9, Number 88.

Published Every Other Month by Raised Dot Computing, Inc., 408 South Baldwin Street, Madison, Wisconsin USA 53703. Telephone: 608-257-9595. Fax: (608) 241-2498.

Subscriptions: $18/year Print, $20/year Audio Tape, $30/year Apple II BEX data disk. (Kindly add $20/year for postage outside N. America.)

Single issues: $4 each (specify medium).

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: Caryn Navy, David Holladay, and Phyllis Herrington.

Entire contents copyright 1991 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:

Special CD-ROM Issue Editor's Column -- David Holladay Newsletter Available on PC Disk Special Deal on Newsletter Back Issues Canadian Taxes Ted Glaser Dies NLS Listings on CD-ROM (soon) CD-ROM Technology is Here -- David Holladay CD-ROM offering from DAK Some Selected CD-ROM Titles Using the VersaPoint Embosser with the TABICAT Software Connecting the MBOSS-35 to the Super Serial Card Interfacing the Ohtsuki with an MS-DOS Computer -- David Holladay From Keynote to BEX and Back -- Jo Taliaferro Using the Toshiba T-1218 in a College Environment -- Bruce Toews Bulletin Board Facts on File

Editor's Column -- David Holladay

I am guest editor for this issue while Caryn Navy finishes working on the Hot Dots software. According to our slightly revised schedule, Hot Dots 3.0 will ship a week after we mail this newsletter.

This issue of the Newsletter is dominated by articles about CD-ROMs. I think this is the first time that the Raised Dot Computing Newsletter has ever had a "theme issue". Would you like us to do this more often? Would you like more information about CD-ROMs in the Raised Dot Newsletter?

We would like to remind our readers that our next issue will contain our annual Sensory Overload Catalog. Once a year we pun our way through the sensory aids industry with a yearly listing of the items we really wish were offered for sale. We invite submissions to the Sensory Overload Catalog from our readers.

Raised Dot Computing will be renting a booth at the CSUN conference in Northridge California this year. If you are going to C-SUN, we'll see you there!

Newsletter Available on PC Disk

Starting with this issue, we are also accepting subscriptions to the Newsletter on PC-disk format. The price is $30/year. Please specify 5.25 inch or 3.5 inch disks. It is easier for us to produce 5.25 inch disks than it is 3.5 inch disks. If you have both drives available, please ask for 5.25 inch disks.

Special Deal on Newsletter Back Issues

In an effort to cut down our inventory, Raised Dot Computing is selling sets of the inkprint edition of the Raised Dot Computing Newsletter at a special reduced rate. For the duration of 1991, we are selling back issues of the inkprint newsletter at the low, low price of $10/year. Any years from 1987 through 1990 are available. Sorry, only complete year sets are being sold at this low rate. Individual issues still cost $4 each. We are arbitrarily placing the December 1987/January 1988 issue as part of 1988. Sales outside of the United States will have to include applicable taxes and postage. Contact us for details.

If you have gaps in your collection, now is the time to fill them. Prices have never been lower on this valuable resource. Place your order today!

Canadian Taxes

Starting with Jan. 1, 1991, Canada has passed sweeping sales tax legislation. Raised Dot sales to Canada are subject to this 7% tax. It is our understanding that if you obtain a certificate of exemption, then we do not have to charge you any sales tax. Because of our unfamiliarity with the new Canadian legislation, we do not know how one obtains an exemption certificate. Perhaps you can obtain one from your doctor or from CNIB. There may be requirements that the item being purchased is needed to treat your medical condition. If you cannot supply an exemption certificate, you must enclose an additional 7% to the amount of the payment.

Starting now, all Canadian newsletter subscriptions are also increased by 7%. This means that an inkprint subscription costs $19.26 per year in US funds; an audio subscription costs $21.40; and a disk subscription costs $32.10.

Ted Glaser Dies

Just after our previous Newsletter was sent to the printer, we received word that Ted Glaser had passed away. We fondly remember Ted Glaser as the very first customer for BRAILLE-EDIT, the program which pre-dated BEX.

Ted was very helpful and very patient. The first program we shipped him did not have a configuration system. The customer was expected to modify a few lines in the program to indicate their choice of voice or screen access. Ted called up to suggest putting in a configuration system. I refused. Ted called a second and a third time before I wrote a configuration system.

As I understand it, Ted Glaser played a key role in making sure that TeleSensory included a serial port inside of the Classic VersaBraille. I think the plan was to have a non-standard plug on the back of the VersaBraille which could be connected to a $2,000 box which would contain a serial port (inside TSI, this box was called the "box-to-box box"). If this plan had gone through, far fewer VersaBrailles with serial ports would have been purchased. In my opinion, it was the widespread distribution of the P2 VersaBraille with its built-in serial port which sparked the present generation of sensory aids equipment.

Thank you Ted, for all your suggestions and kind words of support. We all miss you.

NLS Listings on CD-ROM (soon)

The major news flash we have is that the National Library Service for the Blind plans to put its entire database of audio and braille books on CD-ROM within 18 months. The NLS database contains information about books provided by NLS, and by others who have submitted their listings to NLS.

Having the data on CD-ROM would make it much easier to look up titles that are already accessible. If you are aware of any small provider of recorded or brailled books that has not submitted their catalog information to NLS, encourage them to do this without delay.

CD-ROM Technology is Here -- David Holladay

In January, 1975, I attended a course at MIT on microcomputers. Besides learning all about microprocessors and microcomputers, I got a peek at a future technology. We discussed the Phillips/MCA project to put movies on laser disks. We realized that these laser disks could hold enormous amounts of text data (several billion characters each). We dreamed of getting a massively indexed encyclopedia on a single disk. We dreamed about a service that would provide, on a monthly basis, full text of all general interest magazines.

We realized the implications of packing billions of characters of data on a single disk. What we could not have anticipated was how useful this technology could be for blind persons. For a sighted person, this technology represents marginal improvements in search time, in cost, and in storage space. To a blind person, this technology represents volumes of text that can be read with a talking computer. The disks are small, easily stored, and easily carried. Usually the data can be quickly searched (because most disks also contain massive cross-indexes).

CD-ROM Technology

Over the last few years, many of these ideas have been coming to pass. The technology is called CD-ROM. CD-ROM stands for Compact Disk Read Only Memory. The disks are almost identical to conventional CD-Audio disks. In order to take advantage of the information on the CD-ROM, you must have a CD-ROM disk drive connected to your personal computer.

Each CD-ROM disk has the capacity for holding about 640 million characters (this is less than the capacity of the larger 12-inch laser disks used to store movies).

One of the main differences between CD-ROM drives and home CD-Audio players is that CD-ROM drives have additional error detection and correction circuitry to minimize errors (slight errors would not make a noticeable change to music, but would garble text data).

The disks themselves cannot be altered or erased by the user (just as an individual cannot alter a CD-Audio disk). A CD-ROM is not an alternative to floppy disks or hard disks because it is read-only. As far as the general market is concerned, CD-ROM is a publishing medium. It is an alternative to inkprint publishing. CD-ROMs have been most successful for publishing large documents which would be expensive to distribute in another format.

CD-ROMs also compete against on-line databases. Against the costs of a CD-ROM and the disk drive, you can weigh the access charges and the long-distance telephone charges. In general, people do quicker and more thorough searches when they are using a CD-ROM based system. CD-ROMs cannot compete against databases which change rapidly (like airline schedules). It is too difficult to be constantly producing and distributing new disks.

CD-ROM Use Today

Right now, there are two basic families of CD-ROM disks; those designed to work with the MS-DOS machines and those that are designed to work with the Macintosh. Some disks have been issued for both formats. Because of the difficulty blind people have in using the Macintosh, this newsletter will focus on PC-based applications. If you want more information about CD-ROMs and the Macintosh, get the catalog from Educorp (see Facts on File for the address).

Over the last five years, there have been very rosy predictions about the potential of CD-ROMs. Many of these predictions did not come to pass. It was a classic cars and roads problem. (At the turn of the century, no one wanted to build many roads since there were few cars; few wanted to buy cars since there were few roads.) Few general CD-ROM disks were produced since there were not many people with CD-ROM drives ready to buy disks. Few people bought CD-ROM drives since there were not many titles available to make the purchase worthwhile.

CD-ROMs have been very successful in specialized applications. One example is giving access to the enormous database of chemical substances and their effects for use in a poison control center. In this situation, one vendor provides a system with a computer, a CD-ROM disk drive and a CD-ROM disk. While this is an interesting application, it is unlikely that anyone in the general population will want a copy of "poison index" CD-ROM. It also is unlikely that anyone in the poison control center would want to read any CD-ROM except the one that contained their data. As long as CD-ROM systems were used in specialized applications, it was unlikely that general interest applications of CD-ROM technology would see the light of day.

Beginning in 1987, general interest titles on CD-ROM began to appear. Microsoft Corporation led the way. Microsoft produced several titles and sponsored several conferences to attract interest in this field.

To get a better idea about the current state of CD-ROMs, I called Judy Dixon. Judy Dixon has been an involved consumer of sensory aids equipment for many years. She is the Consumer Relations Officer at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. She now collects CD-ROMS as a hobby. As she told me, "I like to look things up." Her favorite CD-ROM is called the Microsoft Bookshelf. This is a collection of 10 reference books (a dictionary, a thesaurus, a book of quotations, a Zip Code directory, etc.). All these applications are available as easy-to-use TSR applications. In other words, she can look something up in the dictionary while using her word processor. The Microsoft Bookshelf CD-ROM disk costs $199.

Another favorite is the CIA World Fact Book, a disk which costs $89. It contains profiles of 248 different countries and territories with lots of statistical data. According to Judy, Iraq has (or at least used to have) 68 AM Radio stations, 1 FM station, and 81 TV stations. Judy has recently ordered the 1991 World Almanac for $65. All told, Judy has close to 20 different CD-ROM disks.

According to Judy, the National Library Service for the Blind plans to put its complete catalog (over 100 megabytes) on CD-ROM. This project will be completed in about 18 months. Using such a disk, a blind person could quickly search the entire database in seconds for books they need.

Judy supplied me with several sources of CD-ROM disks. CD-ROM, Inc. has a catalog in print and on audio tape. Their number is (303) 231-9373. The Bureau of Electronic Publishing has a catalog in print. Their number is (201) 808-2700. We would appreciate learning about any other significant sources of CD-ROM disks.

A good source of information is the CD-ROM forum on CompuServe. There is a magazine called CD-ROM End User. It is free to qualified persons. Call (800) 688-3374 to get an application form. The magazine has plans to start issuing a disk edition for the visually impaired this spring.

Many CD-ROM disks are still quite expensive. It is my understanding that the manufacturing cost of a single disk is about $3. Many CD-ROM disks cost over $1,000. The high price tag is due to the enormous cost of preparing the data, mastering the data, preparing the indexes, and linking in the searching software. Some disks are priced high based on low sales projections. I hope that once the general market for CD-ROMs picks up, prices will move down to more reasonable levels.

Package Deals

Right now, two companies are offering special deals: a CD-ROM drive, all the materials to get you connected to a PC, plus 6 CD-ROMs; all for about $700. The deal from DAK is described in detail in the next article. The Bureau of Electronic Publishing is also offering a package deal. It is described in the article Some Selected CD-ROM Titles.

There is no doubt that CD-ROMs will play an important part in providing information to blind persons. As with all technologies, CD-ROMs have their problems.

As we will see in the next article, CD-ROM systems need lots of memory. They use special drivers which may conflict with other pieces of equipment in your system. Most CD-ROM disks want to load their searching software on your hard disk. Each CD-ROM disk seems to have its own user interface (a different set of window sizes and shapes, different ways of showing the cursor, different commands, and different ways of approaching the problem of searching massive amounts of data).

As each new technology comes out, it takes a period of time for the technical kinks to be worked out. The easier things get, the more people there are who can take advantage of the technology. If there is sufficient interest, this newsletter can be a source of information to assist people who want to get started on CD-ROM technology.

CD-ROM offering from DAK

A month ago, Caryn and I took the plunge into the world of CD-ROM computing. We bought DAK's CD-ROM package and installed it in our home computer.

DAK is a large consumer electronics mail order firm. They are offering a package deal of a BSR CD-ROM disk drive for MS-DOS computers and 6 CD-ROMS, all for $718. According to the DAK catalog, the 6 CD-ROM disks cost $2,400 if purchased separately. From my inspection of different catalogs, I believe this is accurate. The six disks are as follows:

Of these 6 disks, the World Atlas and the U.S. Atlas are graphically based and cannot be used by a blind person. But the other four disks are almost entirely text based. We had no trouble using Flipper and the Audapter to access the non-atlas disks. These disks did contain some graphics, though. The encyclopedia disk contains some images (mostly of different breeds of dogs, cats, horses, and dinosaurs, plus a selection of presidential portraits); the "languages of the world" disk uses graphics to show Japanese and Chinese characters on the screen.

What you need

In order to install the CD-ROM system, you need several items:

Installing the Drives

At home, we have a 386SX computer with 1 megabyte of RAM. Installing the drive was easy. It was a matter of removing the cover, inserting a card, connecting a cable from the card to the drive, and plugging the CD-ROM drive to the wall outlet. There was no need to change any DIP switches. The system comes with clear instructions from DAK designed to help a novice computer user. About the only thing that had me concerned for a few moments was the fact that there are two data jacks on the back of the CD-ROM drive, but only one data cable to connect to the computer. It turns out that it does not matter which jack you use (the other jack is there in case you want to add an additional CD-ROM drive to your computer system).

Installing the Software

Installing the software to run the system was another matter. DAK includes its own installation program. In order to use DAK's installation program, you have to use your cursor keys to move a pointer around the screen to simulate a mouse. As long as you are sighted, running the installation program is very easy. It is impossible to use if you are blind.

I have prepared a disk containing all the instructions and software you need to install the DAK package on your computer. Contact me for details.

After running the installation program, there were two things I did not like about the software that was loaded. The first problem was that in order to get into the CD-ROM software and in order to select applications, you had to use a sighted-type menu just like the installation program. The second problem is that the system loaded quite a bit of software onto our hard disk.

I soon discovered that the CD-ROM drive was treated as a disk drive with the letter code S. I wrote a series of batch files to get access to the different applications. For example, in order to get into the encyclopedia, I just type {ENCY <Enter>} at the command line. After a bit more experimentation, I found out that quite a bit of the software that was loaded onto the hard disk is also available on the CD-ROM itself (but hidden in a subdirectory).

I wiped out this duplicated software from our hard disk. I modified the batch files so that when an application is used, the appropriate software is copied from the CD-ROM to the hard disk before it is executed. When you leave the CD-ROM application, the appropriate files get deleted from the hard disk. This technique really cuts down on the amount of hard disk space permanently allocated to the CD-ROM system.

Memory Problems

The software drivers for the CD-ROM drive and the CD-ROM software use a lot of memory. Caryn found out to her dismay that the the drivers on the CD-ROM drive took up enough memory to prevent EasyScan (the simple front end to the Arkenstone Reader written by Personal Data Systems) from working. It was clear that we were out of memory.

Solving the memory problem was a two-step process. I needed to change the configuration program on our computer so that the computer knew that there was more than 640k in the system. Next I needed to purchase a copy of QEMM from Quarterdeck. This is a program that uses high memory (the memory between 640k and 1024k) for device drivers, DOS buffers, and other software tools to support your equipment. This frees up over 100k in the lower 640k. Once QEMM was installed, we had no more memory problems. We could use the Fax software, the CD-ROMs, Flipper, and the Arkenstone without any problems. Based on my experience, I would not want to use a CD-ROM drive on a computer with less than 1 megabyte of RAM.

One footnote: installing QEMM was not easy. When I started using QEMM, I had problems with the Arkenstone. I quickly discovered that the Arkenstone was using high memory $DC00 through $DFFF. I had to tell QEMM to leave this block of memory alone. I tell this story to remind people that sometimes the fixes need fixing.

QEMM only works on a 386 or a 386SX. You need a piece of software that can store your device drivers and DOS buffers in the area of memory between 640k and 1 megabyte. If you have a 286, use another product, like AMS Hicard2. Contact your computer dealer for details.

Access Technology

For access technology on our home computer, we use the Flipper screen access program with the Audapter speech synthesizer. By sheer coincidence, both of these items are available from Raised Dot Computing.

We have not done any experimentation on how well CD-ROM drives work with any screen access program other than Flipper. We have heard some reports that some access programs have difficulty working with CD-ROM drives. We are in no position to confirm or deny this. We are happy to provide Flipper demonstration disks to anyone who wants to compare programs.

The Environmental Variable Space

If you look at your {AUTOEXEC.BAT} file, you will probably find several lines starting with SET. These lines create environmental variables. MS-DOS only allows a limited number of characters to be used for environmental variables. While we had no problem with our system, we understand this can be a problem area for some CD-ROM systems. Some CD-ROM systems have so many variables that they fill up the environment area. When this happens, different program modules do not know what they are supposed to do.

If you run out of environment space, you need to make more room, either by enlarging the space or by deleting unnecessary variables. There is probably a line in your {CONFIG.SYS} file that looks like this: {C:\COMMAND.COM /E:350}. In this example, there is a limit of 350 characters for environmental variables. In general, you want to keep the maximum size as small as possible. Because of the structure of DOS, the environmental space is duplicated many times when most programs execute. Thus any wasted space is multiplied many times.

You may have to write some batch files to clear out the environment space to make room for your CD-ROM software. If you issue a command like {C:\COMMAND.COM /E:750}, you make room for more variables, but you also clear out all the existing variables. Since I have not had any problems with this, I am reluctant to offer step-by-step advice. You may have to consult an expert computer user for help.

The Caddy Problem

One aspect of the CD-ROM drive that I did not anticipate is how the CD-ROM disks are loaded into the drive. You need to take the compact disk out of its plastic holder to put it into a different holder called a "caddy". The caddy protects the CD-ROM disk the same way the casing of a 3.5 inch disk protects the magnetic media. There is a window that only opens up when the caddy is inserted into the drive. The DAK package contains a second spare caddy in case you lose one. A blind user may feel more secure if additional caddies are purchased so that each CD-ROM disk can live in its own caddy permanently.

I found a mail order company that sells the kind of caddy I needed. There are three kinds of CD-ROM caddies: Phillips, Sony, and NEC CDR-77/80. The DAK drive uses Sony caddies. I bought a set of 5 at $10 each so that each of the CD-ROM disks from DAK can live in its own braille-labeled caddy. The source I found was Educorp (a supplier of Macintosh software and the largest supplier of Macintosh CD-ROMs); their number is (800) 843-9497. Caddies for the DAK BSR disk drive are item #1321 in their catalog.

Summary of Installation

Within an hour of opening the crate from DAK, we were reading data from CD-ROMs. Installing the CD-ROM system was easy. The hard part was making sure that the installation of the CD-ROMs did not disrupt any program that was already there. Make sure you have enough memory, and that you can hide your device drivers in otherwise unused portions of memory.

Using The DAK CD-ROMs

Once the software is installed, using the CD-ROMs is easy. You turn on the drive. You insert the caddy containing the CD-ROM disk. You type the name of the batch file to start up that application.

The Atlases: Fun for Sighted People

In the collection of six disks from DAK, two cannot be used by blind persons. These are the two Atlases. One contains maps of the United States, the other contains maps of the World. The program is totally driven by the mouse. You click on a portion of the World Map to indicate a region you are interested in. Once the regional map pops up, you click on the individual nation that you want. The maps are clear and sharp. My major complaint is that I want to be able to continue to magnify any portion of the world indefinitely. I like having a map of Iraq or Kuwait, but I want to also have a street map of Baghdad.

The Encyclopedia

The Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia is the best of the lot. It is an enormous work of over 400 megabytes. We have been pleased with the text. We looked up subjects that we were very familiar with, like guide dogs, and found the text to be a very accurate description of the training and use of guide dogs.

The user interface is very easy to learn. You press enter to get past the opening screen. You get to a screen which offers a choice between three selection methods: word search, browse titles, and browse word index. Usually word search is preferred, so just press enter again since this is the default.

Word search allows up to four words or phrases that must be present in an article. If you wanted to find all articles containing the words "Roman" and "army", just type in each word followed by enter. Press enter an additional time to start the search. In a few seconds, the program tells you how many times this combination appears in the entire encyclopedia. Press enter again to get a list of the article titles that contain this combination.

Each title appears on a separate line, along with the number of times the words appeared in the article. Move through this list with the up or down arrow keys. When you want to make a selection, just press enter.

The text of the article appears in a text window that takes up about half the screen (from the 6th line to the 18th line of the screen). Press Alt-Z to enlarge the window so the text fills the screen (except for a few status lines). When you want more text, press the page down key (or use the page up key to move back).

If a word in an article is the title of another article elsewhere in the encyclopedia, then the word is in all caps. If you get the cursor on that word and press return, you open a new text window with another article. Reading cross-references has never been easier!

It is very easy to copy an article to a textfile. Press Alt-K, then the down arrow key followed by enter to select "all" (i.e. the entire article). Then press the up arrow key followed by enter to begin saving. You are prompted for a file name. The system uses the extension "ART". Once you have a textfile, you can turn it into braille using Hot Dots. Or you can merge the text into your term paper.

The Library of the Future

The Library of the Future is a collection of over 450 short stories, plays, novels, and historical documents. It contains most of Shakespeare, the Bible, War and Peace, lots of Sherlock Holmes, and much more.

The hardest thing about it is understanding the interface to select a document. You end up looping through the selection process twice. First you give some selection criteria (author, country, time period, subject matter, etc.); then you are offered a list of titles which meet these criteria. It takes some use of the disk to learn when to use the enter key and when to use the spacebar to select an item.

Once you get into a document, reading is a matter of using the cursor keys (or Page Up or Page Down).

Languages of the World

The Languages of the World disk is a series of multilingual dictionaries. The program is a TSR (terminate and stay ready, it hides in memory until you call it up). The program is designed to be used inside your word processor. The "hot key" combination to call it up is Alt-space.

The first time you press Alt-space, you get to set up the program. You declare your source language and your target language (it supports 13 different languages), you specify which dictionary to use, and how detailed you want the searches to be. To specify these options, you only use the four arrow keys. If you press the enter key, it really fouls things up.

After a little experimentation, I used the program to write some sentences in Norwegian. I know that there are software packages that act as automatic translators. The "Languages of the World" disk has no such software. If you are going to use it to write in another language, you need to know something about the grammar, word order, verb conjugation, etc. of the other language.

Reference Library

The Reference Library is a collection of 10 reference books. This collection is different from the Microsoft Bookshelf, another collection of reference books on CD-ROM.

It is my understanding that the Microsoft Bookshelf is fairly easy to use. In contrast, the Reference Library in the DAK collection is more difficult. Despite my grumbling, it is a useful disk. Using the dictionary, I was able to understand the origin of Scud as a name for a missile (a scud is a cloud formation which indicates bad weather is coming; a very bad joke when you remember that the first Scuds contained nuclear weapons).

The Reference Library has three separate screen areas. The right column selects which reference book you are using. The top line selects the menu option (i.e. Search, Browse, Quit, etc.). The bulk of the screen is called the View Window, where you actually read the text in each book. When you want to switch between giving a menu command and selecting a reference book, press the tab key. To select browse, use Alt-W. To select search, use Alt-A. To exit the program, press Alt-X.


If you can afford it, and if your computer has at least 1 megabyte of memory and some free hard disk space, give CD-ROMs a try. The Grolier Encyclopedia is the one disk which makes the DAK package really attractive.

When you buy from DAK, you have a 30 day free trial period. If you are not satisfied for any reason (within the first 30 days), you can return it for a full refund. The phone number for orders at DAK is (800) 325-0800. The BSR External CD ROM Drive with 6 CD ROM disks costs $699 plus $19 for shipping for a grand total of $718. This is item number #5719 from their catalog.

Another Package Deal

The Bureau of Electronic Publishing has a deal called The CD-ROM Bundle, designed to compete with the DAK deal. For $689 you get a Phillips CD-ROM drive and all the parts you need to get it working with a PC, plus their own collection of 6 CD-ROM disks. These six disks are: Microsoft Bookshelf, U.S. History on CD-ROM, Sherlock Holmes on Disc, Shakespeare on Disc, Birds of America, and Software Potpourri (Software Potpourri contains the King James Bible, assorted shareware, and a movie database covering several hundred films).

Some Selected CD-ROM Titles

Here are some selected items from the catalogs of The Bureau of Electronic Publishing [BEP] and CD-ROM Inc. [CRI]. This listing focuses on text-based disks for the PC. More information about each disk is available in the catalogs from these vendors. For the address of the vendors, see Facts on File.

The Bureau of Electronic Publishing offers an on-line CD-ROM library. If you have a modem on your personal computer, you can take a CD-ROM on a "test drive". First call (201) 808-2700 for a "CD-online password". Then have your system dial (201) 808-0085. Set your communications parameters for no parity, 8 data bits, 1 stop bit, full duplex, and echo off. The software first asks for your terminal type (VT-100 or whatever). Then key in the password you have obtained. You may use any of the listed CD-ROM titles for up to 10 minutes at a time. Titles available are changed periodically. This system is designed for demonstration and sales purposes only.

About Cows

The full text of the book About Cows including many drawings. Available from CRI for $29.

Bible Library

This disk contains 9 full text bibles, 3,000 sermon outlines and illustrations, a Greek dictionary, a Hebrew dictionary, 7 additional dictionaries and reference books, and 2 biblical commentaries. The price is $395 from CRI.


This disk is an amazing resource for computer programmers. It contains a huge collection of C programs (source code and public domain utilities). Available from BEP for $88.

CD Music Guide

A listing of over 50,000 regular audio compact disks. The disk contains audio samples you can hear through your CD-ROM player. The disk contains the recording time of the disc, recording date, release data, and ratings of performance and sound quality. Available from BEP for $99.

CD-ROM Sourcedisc 1990

A collection of books and documents about CD-ROM technology plus a database of over 800 CD-ROM disks currently available. The price of $90 includes a quarterly Shopper's Guide (an inkprint update of available titles). Order from Helgerson Associates (see Facts on File).

CIA World Fact Book

Contains 248 comprehensive country profiles with all kinds of details of each nation's geography, politics, population, infrastructure, governmental structure, and military strength. Available for $88 from BEP and CRI.

Computer Library

The complete text for the last 12 months of 29 different computer magazines plus abstracts of computer-related articles from over 110 other periodicals. A purchase includes an initial disk plus 12 monthly updates. Each disk contains the full text or the summary of over 55,000 articles. Cost is $785 from BEP.

DISC Magazine

DISC Magazine is a monthly technical journal for those interested in hardware evaluation, CD-ROM publishing, mass storage, product reviews, and multi-media. Each monthly issue of DISC Magazine includes a CD-ROM. The CD-ROM contains the entire text of the magazine, as well as referenced articles and additional information. The CD-ROM also includes demonstrations of recently published CD-ROM titles, as well as shareware and games. Each month, your CD-ROM will contain about 100 megabytes of material. Yearly subscription is $44.95 for Helgerson Associates.

Facts on File News Digest

A comprehensive overview of national and international current events. Contains the full text and maps of all issues in the last decade (12 million words and 500 maps) on a single disk. The search and retrieval software allows for searches on topics, keywords, or time intervals. Cost is $795 from BEP and CRI.

McGraw-Hill Science and Technical Reference Set

Combines the McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia and the McGraw-Hill Dictionary and Technical Terms into a single disk. Contains over 7,300 articles covering all aspects science and technology plus the definitions of 98,500 terms. Material can be easily exported to a textfile for production into braille. Cost is $264 from BEP and CRI.

Microsoft Bookshelf

Possibly the first general purpose CD-ROM disk. It consists of ten reference books: the American Heritage Dictionary, Roget's II: Electronic Thesaurus, World Almanac, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, The Chicago Manual of Style, Houghton-Mifflin Spelling Verifier and Corrector, U.S. ZIP Code Directory, plus several other items. Available from BEP for $199.

Microsoft Small Business Consultant

A collection of over 220 government publications (mostly Small Business Administration) and private sources on running a small business. Available from BEP for $118.

Movie Database and Software Potpourri

An interesting brew: the full text of the Bible, thousands of PC shareware programs, and a searchable database on hundreds of movies. Available from BEP for $69.


A collection of 440 volumes of public domain PC software and shareware collected by the New York Amateur Computer Club. Available from CRI for $99.

Shareware Gold

Solid collection of PC software. Designed to be used by bulletin boards (to provide a bulletin board with a huge variety of software for people to download). The disk is covered with real gold for longer life and better reliability. Available for $79 from BEP and CRI.

Sporting News Baseball CD

A sports fan's dream. Available from BEP for $149.

U.S. Civics/Citizenship Disk

Designed for persons seeking U.S. citizenship and/or students of American history. Contains the text of the U.S. Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service's Federal Citizenship texts. Includes many images of historical figures and monuments. Available from CRI for $99.

U.S. History on CD-ROM

The full text of 107 books relating to U.S. history. Includes three volumes on the Iran-Contra affair and the Nixon/Watergate transcripts. You can search by word, event, book, picture, or article. The vendor is running a contest: "In what context was George Bush mentioned in the Watergate transcripts?" Available from BEP for $395.

The World Almanac & Book of Facts; 1990 Edition

A collection of 1 million facts which, if mastered, will make you a trivia champion. Also contains summaries of events in the last decade. Available from BEP for $69.

Using the VersaPoint Embosser with the TABICAT Software

Recently, we sold a VersaPoint embosser to the Volunteer Braillists of Madison. They needed an embosser to supplement their aging MBOSS-1.

The Madison group uses three different kinds of microcomputers: Apple II, IBM-PC, and Commodore. They use a switch box to connect their computers to their embosser. The serial output of all three computers goes to a three position switch box. They use "A" for Apple, "B" for iBm, and "C" for "Commodore". The output wire from the switch box goes to the embosser.

The VersaPoint contains 5 configurations for storing communications parameters. These are numbered 0 through 4. Configuration 0 cannot be modified (at least not on a permanent basis). You can modify configurations 1 through 4.

As set by the factory, configuration 0 is set up for Apple serial, and configuration 4 is set up for IBM serial. None of the built-in configurations are designed to work with the Commodore. To work with the Commodore, we have to modify one of the existing configurations. Using information supplied by Roger Peterson and Mario Flemente of TeleSensory, I loaded configuration zero, made some changes (600 baud, 8 data bits, auto linefeed on, auto wrap around on, and line length 40), and stored the result in configuration 3. Configuration 3 now works with the Commodore computer.

Now that the VersaPoint has been configured properly, switching computers is a matter of switching VersaPoint configurations and turning the knob on the switch box.

Obtain the Correct Commodore Software

The TABICAT program is available from Jack Hoefer. He can be reached at (913) 262-7740 (see Facts on File for the address). It is a direct braille entry program for braille transcribers. The program comes on two disks, one for creating files, the other for embossing them. It is my understanding that there are several versions of the "Embossing" program. When I spoke with Mr. Hoefer, it was apparent that he was very familiar with the Romeo embosser, but not familiar with the VersaPoint. I asked for the embossing software to work with a Romeo, since I was familiar with both Romeo and VersaPoint.

The "Romeo" edition of the embossing software works fine on the VersaPoint. Since Mr. Hoefer already has a copy of these instructions, it should be safe to ask for either the "Romeo" or the "VersaPoint" edition of the embossing software.

Other Items Needed

You need a Commodore computer. Be aware of the difference between the 128k and the 64k versions. TABICAT is a 64k software package. To run a 64k software package on a 128k machine, hold down the special "Commodore key" on the computer as you turn on the power.

To connect the Commodore to the VersaPoint, you need an Omnitronix Deluxe RS-232 Interface (this item costs about $50). See Facts on File for the address of Omnitronix. You also need a male-to-female straight through cable to extend the distance from RS232 Interface to the VersaPoint.

Of course, you also need a VersaPoint embosser. If you don't have one already, Raised Dot Computing will be glad to sell you one. Contact us for details.

Configuring the VersaPoint

If you want to, you can give your VersaPoint a full reset. Turn it off, make sure it is on-line, hold down all four buttons, and turn it on.

To start the configuration dialogue, turn it off. Hold down the line feed button and turn it on. In the configuration dialogue, FF means yes, LF means no, and TF means "I'm tired of answering questions". Your replies are in lower case. You only have to do this once (or more often if someone later does a total reset).

Switching Configurations

We have just made configuration 3 in the VersaPoint work for the Commodore. At this point, configurations 0 and 1 both work for Apple II serial, configuration 2 is for PC parallel, configuration 3 is for Commodore serial, and configuration 4 is for PC serial. On the VersaPoint, the act of recalling a configuration makes it the default configuration. For example, if you load configuration 4, and then turn off the VersaPoint, and then turn it on again, you will still be using configuration 4.

If you want set up 3 to be your default set up (i.e. if you want the

VersaPoint to be ready for the Commodore when you turn the VersaPoint on), then you need to explicitly recall set up 3. You need to start the configuration dialogue again. Turn off the VersaPoint. Hold down the line feed button and turn it on. Remember that in the configuration dialogue, FF means yes, LF means no, and TF means exit. Your replies are in lower case


Connect the Omnitronix Deluxe RS-232 Interface unit for your Commodore computer to a straight through male-to-female cable to extend the reach of the Omnitronix cable to the VersaPoint serial jack. Set the Omnitronix switches to printer and normal.

Use the SERIAL EMBOSS program from Mr. Hoefer. Make sure the VersaPoint is on-line, switched to serial, and has plenty of paper loaded. When you use the SERIAL EMBOSS program, select 600 baud (option 1). You should be getting braille output.

Connecting the MBOSS-35 to the Super Serial Card

The MBOSS-35 is a European braille printer which was sold by VTEK. Despite its name, the MBOSS-35 is more closely related to the Index (sold by HumanWare) than to the MBOSS-1. The MBOSS-35 has gained a reputation at Raised Dot for being difficult to interface. We welcome reports of successful interfaces involving the MBOSS-35.

We received a report from Meri Thomas (a Teacher of the Visually Impaired in Port Huron Michigan). She uses a straight through cable to connect to the Super Serial card. She has the jumper block on the Super Serial Card set at "modem". If you want keep the jumper block at "terminal", then add a null modem to your cable.

The Super Serial Card is set at non-standard switch settings. For bank one, use: off off off on off on on. For bank two, use: on off on on on off off. She sets the parameters on the MBOSS-35 at 9600 baud, 1 stop bits, no parity, and word length 7.

Interfacing the Ohtsuki with an MS-DOS Computer -- David Holladay

Marilyn Adams of Omaha, Nebraska had a lot of problems getting their Ohtsuki to work with their PC. Because of a memory lapse on my part, I forgot about some special requirements that the Ohtsuki has when connecting it to an MS-DOS machine. As atonement for the frustrations suffered by Marilyn Adams, here are the instructions we should have supplied when she first called Raised Dot for help.

The Ohtsuki has both serial and parallel connections. The serial connection really does not work, and is not recommended except for those who enjoy frustration. The parallel connection works very well. You need a special parallel cable. You may be able to obtain this cable from American Thermoform. If not, you can have a technician build one for you out of a standard cable. On a standard parallel cable, wire 17 from the PC connects to wire 36 on the printer, and wire 11 on the PC connects to wire 11 on the printer. To modify the cable, disconnect both of these connections and then connect wire 11 on the PC to wire 36 on the printer (wires 17 on the PC and 11 on the printer should not be connected to anything).

For parallel, set the switches in bank one to: off off off on off off. The switches in banks two and three only affect the serial port.

The Ohtsuki brailler has a wide variety of printing and embossing modes. The usual application is to produce print and braille from a grade two file (that is what the above switch settings do). Be aware that the inkprint is generated by a translator from braille to print inside the Ohtsuki. The braille file sent to the Ohtsuki needs to be in upper case. Be sure to tell your software to only generate uppercase characters when it sends a braille file to the embosser.

On Hot Dots 3.0, you do this by including the following line in your {AUTOEXEC.BAT} file: {SET HDDRIVER=OHTSUKI}

When the Ohtsuki is set for print and braille, it spaces out the lines so that only 19 lines can fit on a page. To fit the standard 25 lines on a page, use: {SET HDDRIVER=OHTSUKI /N} (the N stands for Normal spacing).

From Keynote to BEX and Back -- Jo Taliaferro

This past summer at one of the conventions for the blind the computer bug bit me. I purchased a Keynote 1200 sold by HumanWare, Inc. A Keynote 1200 is a dual device: it can work as a specialized voice word processor, and it can also work as a regular MS-DOS machine (as long as you supply the access software). While at the convention booth I spent hours listening and learning as well as experimenting with the 12-pound laptop and its many functions. My numerous questions were answered, except for one. Could I transfer material from the Keynote to my Apple IIe and BEX and vice versa? "Yes, it could be done," the consultant assured me, "but we're not certain just how."

Thanks to assistance from RDC, HumanWare and a megabyte of patience the task was accomplished.

Required Equipment

Contact HumanWare to obtain the correct cable for going between the Keynote and the Apple computer. If your computer is a IIe or IIgs, you need to make sure you ask for a cable that will connect to a Super Serial Card. The IIgs must have a Super Serial Card in order to use Input through Slot. The IIc and IIc plus utilize the printer port for importing material into BEX via the Input through Slot option.

Use option W (What is in the computer) at the Starting Menu to verify that the Super Serial Card is set at RDC standard parameters. If the switches are not set correctly, turn the computer off and set them as follows:

Configuring BEX and the Keynote

You must configure BEX at either the User or Master Level to move text from the Keynote to the Apple via BEX's Input through Slot option. Answer Yes to having a device to download text and No to the question "Is this a Kurzweil Reading machine?" Be sure to give the correct slot number for your Super Serial Card. You do not need to establish a setup sequence.

At the printer section, specify that you have a generic printer, give a carriage width of your choice and a form length of zero. Answer No to pause after form feed and No to auto line feed.

Configuring the Keynote is straight-forward. From the Main Menu, go to the communications menu and press S for a list of setup options. When prompted: {Communications Settings currently 9600,n,8,1}, you must type exactly as follows: {9600,n,8,2} making sure to leave no spaces between letters, numbers and commas. Keynote will remind you in no uncertain terms if you commit this error. Handshaking is currently software and that's as it should be. Transmit Delay should be zero and End of file character transmission should be off. Press F for off. Use paragraph format by pressing P at the prompt and leave line feed transmission at off. At the end of the list, press escape to get back to the communications menu or be prompted to confirm the changes you have made.

Importing a File from Keynote into BEX

To import a file from the Keynote to BEX, go to the Second Menu. Press {I} for Input through slot. BEX prompts you for a target chapter name. Type the filename under which you want to save the Keynote file. When you've finished, press the return on the Apple. BEX then prompts {Apple is ready to receive. Begin sending data from your remote device.}.

While the Apple is waiting for data, turn your attention to the Keynote. At Keynote's Main Menu press T to transmit a file. Keynote prompts for the drive from which to transmit a file. Enter the letter of the drive followed by the file name. At the prompt {Host command to receive file}, press return. Press the return when prompted {Host ready to receive}.

The Keynote begins sending the file to BEX. The Keynote makes a series of clicking noises; the Apple emits a steady humming noise. When all is quiet, press q on the Apple keyboard. BEX returns to the Second Menu and the Keynote returns to the Communications Menu.

Press J to return to the Main Menu. Anytime you import files from another system, you may have to do some data massaging. Go into the Editor and examine your file. Most likely you need to get rid of control-J and change two carriage returns to the BEX paragraph indicator. After examining your text to make sure it's all there, quit the Editor. Go to Replace characters and use {FIX TEXT} on your BEXtras disk to clean up your file. (If you have earlier versions of BEX before 3.0, use {TXP}.) For more information on Replace characters read Section 8 of the User Level and pages 12:4-5 of the Learner Level.

Once you've cleaned up your file the way you want it, you can translate, print, or do whatever you like.

Exporting a File from BEX to the Keynote

You can just as easily export a file from BEX to the Keynote. You may have a file on disk which you would like to send to the Keynote for whatever reason. To do this you go through the print routine of BEX.

To ready the Keynote to receive a file from the Apple, press R at the Communications Menu for {receive file}. Tell the Keynote which drive will be receiving the file. Press return as the prompts indicate.

At BEX's Main Menu, press P for the Print option, and specify the chapter(s) you want to print. When prompted for the printer number, press the number of the printer that corresponds with the generic printer for printing to the Keynote. Press return to start the flow of characters to the Keynote. BEX quietly does its work while the Keynote emits a series of clicks. When BEX is finished, you're returned to the Main Menu. When the Keynote has finished receiving the file, you're returned to the Communications Menu.

I often find that I need to eliminate spaces on files transferred to the Keynote. The Keynote is good at this. Have fun; I did!

Using the Toshiba T-1200 in a College Environment -- Bruce Toews

I'm a skeptic when it comes to trying out new ideas if existing ones seem sufficient. Going through high school, I had been using an Apple IIe at school, combined with an Apple IIgs at home. This, with BEX and a VersaBraille, served my needs quite adequately at the time.

So when it was suggested to me that I might prefer an IBM-compatible lap-top, I laughed. I agreed to go into the city to see it, but only because it meant a day off from school. One afternoon with the Toshiba T-1200 was enough to convince me that I had fallen in love. I'm not sure if it was the wonderful way in which the T-1200 and Artic screen access software co-operated so nicely with WordPerfect, or the fact that I could easily run InfoCom Interactive Fiction text adventure games. But whatever it was, I was hooked. There was a problem of ethics.

I had just recently purchased an Apple IIgs, Echo synthesizer, and BEX, all of which added up to a rather phenomenal expense. Yet the Toshiba seemed to have it all - I mean, what true computer addict can easily resist a hard-disk right there on your lap with the keyboard?

Fortunately, the government that I had been so diligently mocking for most of my life came to the rescue, and I was able to obtain the funding for my T-1200.

At the same time, I had decided that it was my calling to attend Winnipeg Bible College, a small but reputable Christian institution just outside Winnipeg. Just before I entered WBC, a factory defect in my T-1200's power supply forced me to give it up for a few months, during which I continued to use my IIgs which, fortunately, I had not gotten around to selling just yet. When my Toshiba was finally returned to me, I had procured the MS-DOS version of THE WORD Processor, a "Bible On Disk" package put out by Bible Research Systems, as well as WordPerfect, and I was on my way.

The T-1200 is ideal for a school setting. Its standard features include a megabyte of on-board ram, a 3.5-inch 720K floppy drive, a 20-meg hard drive, a serial as well as a parallel port. There is also a port for an optional 5.25-inch drive, and several other additions are available. Though there are only 10 function keys on the actual machine, various key combinations allow for the use of all 12 function keys. Artic Technologies has developed a version of their speech board which is especially designed to plug into the modem port on the T-1200, effectively giving you an on-board speech synthesizer. For those of us who enjoy telecommunications, you can easily hook up a serial modem to the serial port.

Its portability allows for easily taking the machine from class to class for note-taking, where the computer can comfortably rest on your lap or on a desk, if one is available. Its power also allows you to use it back at the dorm or at home in the same way anyone would use a standard desk-top machine. And how many people can say they have a spell checker right there at their finger-tips while taking class notes?

One disappointment I have found with the machine is the relatively short battery life, which is shortened even more by the power drain of the speech synthesizer. However, electrical outlets are surprisingly numerous, so this has very rarely led to insurmountable difficulties.

I have never lost any data on the built-in 20-meg hard disk in the entire two and a half years that I have used my machine. The hard drive allows easy use of the machine without having to carry any disks around with you, which is especially useful for a disorganized person like me.

I have only encountered two major breakdowns with my Toshiba. The first was the factory defect which I mentioned earlier. I assume that this sort of problem is rare. The second was my own fault, and involved the computer, a tall glass of water, and me accidentally spilling the contents of the latter into the keyboard of the former, causing a considerable amount of damage. Even during this event, which happened about three weeks ago, the repair time was only four days, during which the keyboard, logic board, and some circuitry were replaced.

All in all, I have found the T-1200 extremely useful and helpful, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants power and flexibility as well as dependability and portability.

Bulletin Board

Arkenstone Inc. is Relocating Arkenstone Inc., the leading vendor of reading systems for blind and visually impaired people, has moved to larger quarters. Their new address is:

For Sale: Arkenstone Reading System

Dennis Clark has an Arkenstone Model E with HP ScanJet Plus and interface board; this also includes a document feeder--all for $3700. Also for sale: Accent speech synthesizer for Toshiba 1000 SE or XE, already mounted in modem cover for $555. Contact Dennis Clark at (312) 667-1010.

American Thermoform Carries 7 kinds of brailler paper and brailon

Raised Dot Computing does carry one kind of medium weight braille paper with three holes on the left side. We frequently get requests for different kinds of paper. The best source is American Thermoform. Right now they carry the following items:

Contact American Thermoform at (213) 723-9021 for details. Free samples sent upon request.

New Network to Assist Disabled Travelers

A new information network of people and organizations providing assistance to travelers with disabilities is being set up. Disabled persons voluntarily share information about accessible travel to assist others in the network. The organization Travelin' Talk, now publishes a quarterly newsletter in large print, braille, and on audio tape. For free copies of the newsletter, send a self addressed, stamped business sized envelope to:

The Disability Bookshop Catalog

Twin Peaks Press has a catalog of over 375 titles across a wide range of topics related to disabilities. They also stock audio-cassettes, videos, games and T-shirts. Their catalog is available in print and on audio cassette. The print catalogs cost $1.50 each; the audio catalogs cost $5.00 each. Twin Peaks Press

Facts on File: Addresses Mentioned


The RDC Full Cell Plus

Carolyn Briggs, Shipping Goddess; Phyllis Herrington, Tech Support; David Holladay, President; Aaron Leventhal, Software Development; Linda Millard, Bookkeeper; Susan Murray, Office Manager; Caryn Navy, Vice-President.

Production Notes

Written & edited with RDCUs BEX on an Apple IIgs. BEX commands changed to RTF/Interchange format control words with BEX's Contextual Replace. File transfer with BEX and Hayes Smartcom II to an Apple Macintosh Plus. RTF commands interpreted and then spell checked by Microsoft Word 4.0. Pages composed with Aldus PageMaker 3.02, output on an Apple LaserWriter, and printed at the Print Shop. Two track audio edition mastered on APH Recorder and copied on high speed Recordex 3-to-1 duplicators.


American Thermoform: Ohtsuki

Apple Computer, Inc: Apple IIgs

Arkenstone, Inc.: Arkenstone Reader

DAK Industries, Inc.: DAK

Grolier, Inc.: Grolier

Jack Hoefer: TABICAT

HumanWare, Inc.: Keynote

Microsoft Corporation: Microsoft Bookshelf, Microsoft MS-DOS, and MS-DOS Extensions

Omnitronix, Inc.: Omnitronix

Quarterdeck: QEMM

Sensory Overload, Inc.: Sensory Overload Catalog

Street Electronics: Echo II

TeleSensory: MBOSS, VersaBraille, and VersaPoint

Toshiba, America: Toshiba

World Library, Inc.: Library of the Future

Other items mentioned in this issue are trademarked by their respective holders.