Raised Dot Computing Newsletter Exploring Microcomputer Applications for the Visually Impaired -- ISSN 0890-0019. July-August 1991 -- Volume 9, Number 91.

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 or MS-DOS 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

From the Editor -- Caryn Navy TALK To Me Tutorial Tapes Are Now Sold By Raised Dot Computing RDC Will Buy Back Your Braille BEX 3.0 Manual TNew Texas Law Promotes the Use of Braille -- David Holladay XPRESS: Cheap Electronic News Delivered to Your Home -- David Holladay and Caryn Navy Raised Dot Computing Receives Special Visitors from Japan -- Caryn Navy and David Holladay Soviet Blind Mathematician and Computer Scientist Wishes to Correspond About Access Technology You Don't Have to Reboot BEX to Get Back to the Starting Menu -- Caryn Navy Reflections of a Seasoned Braillist: An Interview with Betty Evans -- Phyllis Herrington InWords: Optical Character Recognition on the Apple II -- David Holladay Let the Hanging Indent Hang In There: Preserving Hanging Indent from WordPerfect in Hot Dots 3.0 -- Caryn Navy Get Your Dux in Order with Hot Dots Global -- by Rick Roderick Bulletin Board. Includes: SmallTalk Computer System for Sale; Visualtech Voyager for Sale; 1991 World Series Baseball Game Available. facts on File. Includes: Addresses Mentioned; RDC Full Cell Plus; Production Notes; Trademarks

From the Editor -- Caryn Navy

We send a big tip of the hat and congratulations to Dr. Abraham Nemeth for being appointed to the Michigan Commission for the Blind.

The summer has been a busy time for all of us at Raised Dot Computing. We have sent teams to three conventions: ACB, NFB, and AHSSPPE (Association on Handicapped Student Service Programs in Postsecondary Education). Because the AHSSPPE convention was within driving distance in Minneapolis, David and I were able to take our home computer with its CD-ROM system. We used the CD-ROM encyclopedia as a focus for braille translation, screen access through voice output, and screen enlarging software. In our standard demo, we invited people to request an encyclopedia topic. Within minutes we handed them a braille article. In that time, we looked up the topic, found a suitable article, copied the text to the hard disk, and then ran Hot Dots 3.0 to produce the grade two braille. We brailled many articles, including those on AIDS, guide dogs, Lebanon, Minneapolis, and quantum mechanics.

Recently our lives have had a sprinkling of international flavor with a mathematical accent. We have entertained blind mathematicians from Japan and from Italy. We have also received correspondence from a blind mathematician and computer scientist from the Soviet Union. Just the other day I received a letter from a blind high school student in Australia asking for ideas on coping with math classes.

Talk To Me Tutorial Tapes Are Now Sold By Raised Dot Computing

Doug Wakefield has turned over the sale of his Talk-To-Me Audio Tutorials to Raised Dot Computing. Recent changes in Talking Computers (Doug Wakefield's firm) made it difficult to keep up with the demand for his popular tutorial series.

The Talk-To-Me Tutorials are aimed at new computer users and at others who need to learn a new way of using the computer. They lead you through computer set-up, teach you computer skills, and help you stay competitive in today's computer-intensive job market. A Talk-To-Me Tutorial gives you the confidence and understanding you need without your having to turn to the printed manual.

All Talk-To-Me Tutorials are professionally recorded and come in attractively packaged bookshelf cases.

The partnership of "Mechanical Max," a high quality voice synthesizer that repeats the commands typed by instructor Doug Wakefield, reinforces and makes learning fun.

The audio format lets you learn at your own pace in the comfort of your own home or office.

There are five Talk-To-Me Tutorials currently being sold by Raised Dot Computing: WordPerfect 5.0 and 5.1, DOS 3.3, Procomm (and telecommunications), Lotus 1-2-3, and dBASE. If you are interesting in any product from Doug Wakefield (Talking Computers) other than these five tutorials, contact Doug Wakefield directly at (800) 458-6338.

An Introduction to MS/DOS

This tutorial covers up to DOS version 3.3. It contains three 60-minute cassettes. It assumes that you know nothing about computers.


This is for versions 5.0 and 5.1 of WordPerfect. It contains four 90-minute cassettes. Become familiar without using the printed manual.


These tapes cover Procomm and Procomm Plus (the popular shareware telecommunications program and its commercial twin). Go-Online contains three 90-minute tapes. The first tape gives instructions assuming that everything works. The second and third tapes cover troubleshooting and customizing the software to better meet your needs.


This tutorial covers Lotus 1-2-3 up to version 2.2. It contains four 60-minute cassettes. This tutorial gives specific information to assist a blind user to make the spreadsheet program accessible.


This tutorial is written for dBASE III Plus. It contains four 90-minute cassettes. dBASE gives two ways of doing the same thing: using fancy screens or setting things up in your word processor. By using this tutorial you can learn the secrets for avoiding the complex screens which make up much of dBASE.

Costs and Shipping Details

The tutorials are $100 each. The MS-DOS tutorial costs $75 when sold with another tutorial. Prepay by check and get a 10% discount. (This discount applies only to Talk-To-Me Tutorials.)

Purchase orders are accepted. Please include your phone number on your purchase order.

Please call for information about sales taxes and GST.

Raised Dot Computing pays UPS ground shipping to the 48 continuous United States. Call Raised Dot for shipping rates to Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, and other countries.

For sales information and orders, Raised Dot Computing's toll-free telephone number is (800) 347-9594.

RDC Will Buy Back Your Braille BEX 3.0 Manual

[Editor's note: We are continuing the same offer we announced in the March-April issue.]

Do you have a set of the braille documentation for BEX 3.0 just lying around? To avoid an expensive braille production job, Raised Dot Computing would like to buy back some of the 11-volume sets of the braille documentation for BEX 3.0. The 11-volume set does not include the three-volume reference set (Quick Reference Card, Thick Reference Card, and Reference Volume). To qualify, the 11-volume set must be in resalable condition (no missing pages, no torn or bent pages, no pages sticking together). We will pay $40 for each complete set you send us. If you want, we can trade a set of braille documentation for audio documentation plus a check for $15.

We reserve the right to withdraw this offer at any point. We reserve the right to determine "resalable condition." This offer is not valid for any BEX 2.0 documentation. Do not send the three-volume reference set. If you have any questions or concerns, call us before you mail us anything.

New Texas Law Promotes the Use of Braille -- David Holladay

A new law passed in May, 1991 in Texas promises to increase the availability of braille textbooks in Texas. The law also places a greater emphasis on the use of braille by blind students.

Texas Statute 2277

An Act relating to Braille instruction of visually handicapped students. BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

SECTION 1. Section 11.052, Education Code is amended by adding Subsections (f) and (g) to read as follows:

(f) In the development of the individualized education program for a functionally blind student there is a presumption that proficiency in Braille reading and writing is essential for the student's satisfactory educational progress. Each functionally blind student is entitled to Braille reading and writing instruction that is sufficient to enable the student to communicate with the same level of proficiency as other students of comparable ability who are at the same grade level. Braille instruction may be used in combination with other special education services appropriate to the student's educational needs. The assessment of each functionally blind student for the purpose of developing the student's individualized education program must include documentation of the student's strengths and weaknesses in Braille skills. Each person assisting in the development of a functionally blind student's individualized educational program shall receive information describing the benefits of Braille instruction. Each functionally blind student's individualized educational program shall: (1) specify the appropriate learning medium based on the assessment report; and (2) ensure that instruction in Braille will be provided by a teacher certified to teach students with visual handicaps. (g) For the purposes of this section, the Central Education Agency shall determine the criteria for a student to be classified as functionally blind. SECTION 2. Section 13.032, Education Code, is amended by adding Subsection (j) to read as follows: (e-1) (1) On the effective date of this Act, the State Board of Education shall appoint a commission to expedite the implementation of Subsection (e) of this section. The commission shall be composed of no more than 12 individuals nominated by the Commissioner of Education from within and without Texas, including but not limited to: (A) computer software developers; (B) producers of Braille textbooks; (C) specialists in Braille education; (D) representatives of the Texas Education Agency; (E) publishers of elementary and high school textbooks, and (F) at least one consumer, or an advocate for consumers, of Braille materials. (2) The Commissioner shall appoint a chairman among the commission members. (3) Public members of the commission shall serve at their own expense and are not entitled to reimbursement by the state for their participation in the commission's activities. Representatives of a state agency shall be reimbursed from the funds of that agency. (4) The commission shall: (A) work with textbook publishers on the development of processes for converting formatted text files to American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) text files needed for the production of Braille textbooks with translation software; (B) survey ongoing efforts in Texas and elsewhere to develop computer software needed for automated conversion of publisher text files to the ASCII format and recommend additional software development projects, if needed. If additional development efforts are needed, the commission shall work with publishers and software developers to prioritize typesetting system conversion efforts; (C) study the feasibility of implementing a process by which textbook publishers can transmit computerized textbook ASCII data files through modem communication directly to the computers of organizations producing Braille textbook masters; and (D) study any other issues the commission determines are relevant and necessary to the implementation of Subsection (e). (5) The Commissioner and the State Board of Education shall report the commission's findings and a summary of their activities to the 73rd Texas Legislature. (6) Unless continued in existence by further Acts of the Texas Legislature, the Commission is abolished on September 1, 1993. SECTION 5. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b) of this section, this Act takes effect September 1, 1991. (b) Section 2 of this Act takes effect September 1, 1993.

SECTION 6. Notwithstanding Section 5(b) of this Act, the State Board of Education may adopt rules for the Implementation of Section 13.032(j), Education Code, as added by this Act, at any time in anticipation of the effect of that provision.

SECTION 7. The importance of this legislation and the crowded condition of the calendars in both houses create an emergency and imperative public necessity that the constitutional rule regarding bills to be read on three several days in each house be suspended, and this rule is hereby suspended.


Three years ago, the person in charge of braille production in the Texas Education Agency toured the country to learn more about braille production. One result of this trip was the setting up of two sites in Texas (in San Antonio and Houston) with the latest technology: microcomputers, optical scanners, translation software, and braille embossers. Another result was the drafting of legislation which called for requiring publishers to submit the text of their books on diskettes. Three years ago, that legislation did not fly.

This year, the National Federation of the Blind was pushing for a "Braille Bill" (legislation calling for emphasis on braille and requiring teachers of the blind to be knowledgeable in braille). It is my understanding that the current law reflects the combination of the NFB's "Braille Bill" with the Texas Education Agency's desire to cut down the costs of data entry in the production of braille. The result is a historic law that will make braille education and braille books more available to blind students in Texas.

Texas is the perfect laboratory for this kind of law. In Texas, the procurement of textbooks is very centralized. Each year, the state government gives textbook publishers advance knowledge of what books it wants eight years ahead of time. After a lengthy review process, a total of eight different books are offered as alternatives to local school boards. The local board can pick any of the eight books. Technically, there is a waiver process so that a school district can get a book not on the official list, but that requires jumping through a lot of hoops. Each set of eight books is approved for a period of 6 years. After 6 years, another approval process has to take place.

Dealing with a system with such tight control on book approval can be frustrating to a school district or to a teacher in love with a book not on the approved list. But this system makes it much easier to produce braille books for Texas schools. Two days after the approved list for English books is announced, all eight books are immediately scheduled for production in braille. Experience has shown that every English book will be needed by some students in Texas. This allows the brailling of books even before a single blind student requires the book. In topics other than English, the state textbook organization is not as aggressive in brailling books ahead of time. Surveys of need are sent to school districts across the state each year to collect projections of the next three years of braille book needs.

It will take some time before we all find out how well this experiment in cost cutting worked out. It is our hope that other states will develop similar laws or policies that require or encourage publishers to be more responsible for the data entry end of braille production. In the meantime, we will all be paying close attention to braille book production in Texas.

XPRESS: Cheap Electronic News Delivered to Your Home -- David Holladay and Caryn Navy

At any time we want, we can ask our computer to collect a mountain of news stories for us. It gathers exactly what we want: hard news, personality gossip, weather information from across the country, or sports. The hard news comes from the Associated Press and from the French, German, Taiwanese, Chinese, Soviet, and Japanese news services. The computer collects all this information for us, limited only by the buffer size (about 200,000 characters on our system). We do not tie up the phone or incur any billable charges. How can we get electronic news on our computer without having to pay anybody for it? We have XPRESS.

XPRESS is a news system that comes piggyback on the cable TV system. XPRESS may be available on your cable system; it is available on over 700 systems. To find out if it is available in your community, call XPRESS at (800) 772-6397, which you can remember as (800) 7PC-NEWS, and ask. They will want to know the name of your local cable service. If your local cable service does not carry XPRESS, call them up and complain.

Some may argue with the "it comes free" tone of the first paragraph. After all, you cannot get this service unless you have cable TV, and cable TV is pretty expensive. But in our case, we were already subscribers to cable TV. So using this system did not cost any more than we were already paying to be couch potatoes. If the only reason to get cable TV is to use XPRESS, then the monthly costs really mount. But if you've wanted cable TV service and need an excuse, here it is.

To use XPRESS, you need to buy a converter box. The folks at (800) 772-6397 will be glad to handle all the details. The box costs $100 plus a few bucks for shipping. Less than a week after we placed our order, the UPS driver delivered the package to our house.

Installing XPRESS

You can run XPRESS with the PC, the Atari, the Amiga, the Apple IIe, the Apple IIc, or the Macintosh. At our home, we installed the system on our PC. So we do not know the details of making XPRESS accessible on other computers. However, it is our impression that outSpoken on the Macintosh makes XPRESS accessible. Because of a timing problem, XPRESS does not work on the Apple IIgs. This is a shame, since otherwise XPRESS would be accessible through Textalker-gs.

To get both cable TV and XPRESS, you split your cable signal with one cable going to your TV set, and another going to the XPRESS converter box. A serial cable goes from the converter box to your computer. A cable TV splitter and a short length of coaxial cable are provided in the box from XPRESS.

You have everything you need as long as your computer is next to your television set. In our household, this is not the case. We went to Radio Shack to buy a longer length of coaxial cable to substitute for the short segment provided. Coaxial cable is made up of a single wire surrounded by a plastic insulator which is in turn surrounded by a mesh of thin wire. You cannot cut or splice these cables. You need to purchase the necessary connectors at an electronics store such as Radio Shack.

Unscrew the cable system from your television set or other convenient spot. Insert the "Y" cable splitter, and reattach your television set. Before you do anything else, make sure you still have cable TV. Now connect the length of coaxial cable from the cable splitter to the XPRESS converter box.

On the XPRESS converter box, there are three red lights marked "power," "data," and "carrier." The "power" light should go on as soon as you plug in the power cube. The other lights should go on as soon as you insert the coaxial cable. For Robert Carter, an occasional contributor to this Newsletter, the lights would not go on. It turned out that his cable signal was too weak. Once the local cable people came and boosted the signal to the standard level, everything worked fine.

XPRESS gives you both a 5.25 and a 3.5 inch PC disk, each with the same 200k of software. Once you run the program called EXEC, you can start picking up news stories.

Using the System

The XPRESS software lets you choose sources of news from a substantial menu. For example, you can ask for opinion columns and reject news from China. When XPRESS gets a story from the cable system, it looks to see if the story meets your criteria. If it does, the software adds it to a memory buffer. Once the buffer is full (about 200k on our system), then the software does not accept any more stories.

If you leave the XPRESS program, you lose your memory buffer and therefore lose all of your collected stories. So you need to set up your voice, braille, or large print access technology before you enter the XPRESS program; once you are in it, it is too late to back out to set up your screen access. You can, however, set your voice system for quiet as long as you can change the setting back to voice from wherever you are.

Reading stories on the screen is easy. You follow the simple menus. The left and right arrow keys take you to the previous or next story; if you are looking at the third story from Japan, the left arrow key takes you to the second story and the right arrow key takes you to the fourth story. The up and down arrow keys take you up or down a line on the current story. The page up and page down keys take you up or down a screen in the current story. The backspace key backs you up one step in a menu, and the escape key always takes you back to the main menu.

A sighted person or a blind person using a screen access system has access to a vast amount of current information. We have picked up sports scores, TV schedules, news reports not covered in the US, the address for writing support letters to Pee-Wee Herman, and the daily schedule of the Japanese prime minister. In many reports from the news services of other countries, we find the angle or emphasis very different from U.S. stories on the same subject. As long as we pay our cable bill, we can continue to use this fascinating service.

Saving News Stories

The XPRESS system is not very useful unless you can save articles for reference or braille. There is an option to save a file onto disk, but it seems to change spaces and carriage returns into difficult control characters. You can view these previously saved articles with the XPRESS software. The makers of the XPRESS system do not want you to make independent use of saved XPRESS articles.

You can also print articles to a printer attached to your parallel port. We have found that it is easy to redirect the output from the parallel port to a serial port. With our set-up we issue the command {MODE COM2:=LPT1}. We connect a serial device to the IBM serial port. It can be a Braille 'n Speak, an Apple II running BEX's Input through slot option, a VersaBraille, etc. When we ask for printed output of a story, the material actually goes to the serial device.

On our system, COM1 (serial port 1) is dedicated to the speech synthesizer, and COM2 is used for all other purposes. We have a four-position switch box to change what is plugged into COM2. On the switch box, position A is an Apple II, and position B is the XPRESS converter box. When we want to send stories to the Apple, we change the position of the switch box, and then we give the Alt-T print command in XPRESS. We have discovered that once you output, the XPRESS system does not receive any more information. You have to leave the program and start over again to get the system to start accepting stories again.

A Menu Dump

To give a sense of the range of material available through XPRESS, here is a complete listing of the menu choices.

The Main choices are: News; Sports; Weather; Lifestyles; Entertainment; Tech Talk; Shopping; and Inside X*Change.

The choices under News are: Headlines; Business & Finance; Canada; Mexico; Soviet Union; People's Republic of China; Japan; Taiwan; Oil Exporting Countries; West Germany; France; and Opinions and Editorials. Please note that these labels are the source of the material, not the subject matter. For example, a typical item from China might be a roundup of the headlines of the major newspapers in Pakistan. All the items from Mexico are in Spanish, and all the other items are in English. The items in Opinions & Editorials are all from US columnists. These include George Will, Phyllis Schlafly, Nat Hentoff, William Raspberry, Ellen Goodman, Tom Shales, Jane Bryant Quinn, and Lou Cannon.

Sports contains the following items: Headlines; General Schedules; Pro Football (News, NFL, and CFL); Pro Baseball (News, Major leagues, and minor leagues); Pro Basketball; Pro Hockey; Pro Soccer; Pro Golf & Tennis; USA College Sports; Canadian Sports; Sports Quiz; and Quiz Answer.

Weather contains the following items: International; USA National; USA States (you can select weather for each of the 50 states); Canada National; and Canada Regional.

Lifestyles contains the following items: Food; Fitness & Fun; Moneywise; Family Today; Careers; and Trends & Events.

Entertainment contains the following items: What's Happening; Movies, Books, Music; In the Stars; TV Schedules; and TV Scope.

Tech Talk contains the following items: News; IBM; Apple; Commodore; and Other.

Shopping contains the following items: Best Buys; Shopper's Showcase; Travel & Leisure; and Fleamarket.

Information X*Change contains the following items: Using Information X*Change: Students, Teachers, Parents; Religion, Sex, Politics; Inside Your Head; World Around Us; Teen Talk; Computers & You; Pot Shots. These items seem to come from computer bulletin board discussions between students.

Inside X*Press contains the following items: Bulletins; News; What to Watch For; User Tips; New Services. Inside X*Press is the only category on the system which you cannot shut off.

Why XPRESS Exists

XPRESS has two levels of service--Basic and Executive. The Basic service is also called X*Change. We have been describing the Basic service, which gives access to news at no cost other than the purchase of the converter box and the regular cable bill. The Executive service gives you access to lots of financial data (such as the New York Stock Market report with only a 15-minute delay). If you need to monitor your investments daily, we would recommend the Executive service, which costs an additional $20 per month.

At this point, the cable systems seem to be marketing the Basic system to schools to encourage schools to install cable TV. The XPRESS system carries a lot of items (such as advance schedules on what is coming on CNN) to be useful for schools. It certainly is useful and entertaining for a blind person who does not have access to Newspapers to have access to all this information. This is a system too useful just to put in the hands of junior high school students.

Raised Dot Computing Receives Special Visitors from Japan -- Caryn Navy and David Holladay

We were honored to receive Akiyoshi Takamura and his wife, Kimiko Takamura, as visitors at our house and at Raised Dot Computing. Mr. Takamura is a blind teacher of mathematics at the National School for the Blind in Tokyo. Mrs. Takamura is sighted and teaches physically disabled students. Our son Seth, very excited about crawling and exploring his environment, and off-duty guide dog Wichita, excited about newcomers who might play with her, helped to break the language barrier.

Through Mr. Takamura, we learned that the Japanese braille technical code is designed to cover the symbols used up through the end of high school. Many Japanese college students and graduate students learn the Nemeth Code in order to have access to advanced textbooks in braille.

We were fascinated as Mr. Takamura described the classroom in which he teaches mathematics at the school for the blind. On every desk there is an electronic braille display. At his own desk he has a braille keyboard which is linked to all the braille displays. As he discusses math problems, he works them out in braille on his keyboard, and his students follow along on their braille displays. The braille displays play the same role that a blackboard plays for sighted students.

Mr. Takamura designed this special classroom himself. It is our understanding that he implemented this special set-up on a computer system using the UNIX operating system. There are ten special student desks in the classroom. So the maximum capacity is ten students in a class.

Mr. Takamura and Mrs. Takamura seemed equally fascinated as we showed them the access technology available to us. As we demonstrated using our CD-ROM encyclopedia with voice output, we all gathered around the PC to search for various topics of interest. By reading about several subjects familiar to someone in the group, such as the history of Japan, we agreed that the articles do a reasonable job. After a walk through our neighborhood, we read about a kind of tree that had caught our attention.

We also sampled the Magazine Rack CD-ROM disk. Searching by keyword, we were amused by some English idioms. In the list of articles about dogs, we found articles with "Hot Dogs" and "Scandal Dogs Premier" in their titles. The Takamuras seemed delighted when we collected reports of current events in Japan on our PC from the XPRESS news service (see separate article).

Moving to the Apple II, we showed them our MathematiX program. We brailled Nemeth Code material on a braille keyboard, and MathematiX verbalized the mathematical expressions and produced them in inkprint on a dot matrix printer.

According to Mr. Takamura, there is no present way to use a Japanese document stored on a computer to make a braille copy without involving manual transcription. He seemed very wistful about the many ways in which blind persons in the United States have access to information. While accessible computer systems are far from universal among blind persons in the United States, they are much more rare for blind consumers in Japan.

Before Mr. Takamura and Mrs. Takamura left for the next stop on their information-gathering tour, we promised to supply information which might allow for better access tools for blind students in Japan. To contribute to this exchange of information, you can send a fax to the Takamuras at (011) (81) 44-844-6663.

Soviet Blind Mathematician and Computer Scientist Wishes to Correspond About Access Technology

We recently learned of a blind mathematician and computer scientist in the Soviet Union who would like to correspond about tools that can help blind mathematicians and computer scientists do their work. He was able to get in touch with us with the help of Gayle Yarnall, who cochairs the International Technology Project of Perkins School for the Blind.

Dr. V. Khokhljuk (see Facts on File for his address) is a mathematician with a doctorate in "physico-mathematical sciences." He works at the Institute of Mathematics of the Siberian Division of the USSR Academy of Sciences. He is working on the creation of computer work stations for the blind. As the editor of the magazine Consultations for Blind Mathematicians, he would appreciate editorial contributions.

Dr. V. Khokhljuk would also deeply appreciate the gift of an accessible computer system to assist his project. From discussions with other Soviet computer users, we have learned how expensive American computer equipment is for a Soviet citizen. A computer with a modest price tag in the United States is the entire yearly salary for a Soviet worker. Therefore, we hope that current efforts lead to the development of a domestic sensory aids industry in the Soviet Union.

You Don't Have to Reboot BEX to Get Back to the Starting Menu -- Caryn Navy

Have you been rebooting BEX, with a sigh of frustration, to get from the Main Menu to the Starting Menu? During quite a few BEX technical support calls, I ask the caller to go to the Starting Menu to get some information, usually to use option W - What is in my computer or U - Update date. For a while I was surprised when callers, working on the BEX main side, were about to reboot to get to the Starting Menu. They were equally surprised to learn that they could get from the Main Menu to the Starting Menu without rebooting.

When you're at the Main Menu, just put the BEX starting side in your booting drive and press the spacebar. With a whir of the disk drive, you're at the Starting Menu in a flash.

After some examination, we can see how this option has gone unnoticed by some users. When you press return at the Main Menu to list the Main Menu options, spacebar does not appear on the list. In addition, in the menu summaries in both the Quick and Thick Reference Cards, spacebar is not on the list of Main Menu options.

Perhaps you have accidentally pressed the spacebar when you were at the Main Menu and have gotten the cryptic message from BEX, "Program segment could not be loaded." Now you know what BEX is talking about! BEX is trying with all its bytes to get you to the Starting Menu. But it cannot find the Starting Menu to load because the Starting Side is not in the drive!

From now on when you boot BEX and press the spacebar to get to the Main Menu, remember that the spacebar also takes you back to the Starting Menu.

Reflections of a Seasoned Braillist: An Interview with Betty Evans -- Phyllis Herrington

Over the past five and a half years at Raised Dot Computing I've met many interesting people either by phone or in person at conferences. Recently I had the privilege of getting to know Betty Evans via telephone. She is Chairman of Books for the Blind of Arizona, Inc.

Betty Evans is an absolutely delightful person. I imagined myself sitting on her porch with a tall glass of lemonade listening to her tell about her 34-year involvement with braille transcription. I gained a better appreciation for the many hours of hard work these volunteers do. I also realized how much computers, translation software, and braille embossers have changed the way things are done. Without further ado here is our interview:

InWords: Optical Character Recognition on the Apple II -- David Holladay

InWords is the first optical character recognition system for the Apple II. Through optical scanning, a computer creates an image of a page of text or pictures. Optical character recognition (OCR) is the process of converting an image which contains text into a file containing the actual characters in the text. It means looking at an image to determine what each character is: looking at the image of an "e" to recognize that it is the letter e, etc. This is not an easy task.

InWords works only with a hand scanner. It was written especially for the Quickie hand scanner from Vitesse. A hand scanner requires that you manually move a special camera over a page in order to scan the image of the page into a computer. InWords does not work with any flatbed scanners. Flatbed scanners do all the work of scanning the image of a page into a computer, without any need for human manipulation of the optical scanning equipment. Using a hand scanner is time consuming and requires a fair degree of practice and concentration.

InWords is very inexpensive, retailing for $129. It is produced by WestCode Software (see Facts on File). You can buy a combination of the InWords software and the Quickie hand scanner at the discounted price of $269 from Preferred Computing (see Facts on File). This price is more than a factor of ten cheaper than the PC-based scanning and OCR systems (the Arkenstone, OsCaR, AdHoc, and Kurzweil). Do not expect the same performance as you would get on these "big systems."

InWords cannot be operated by a blind person. I know that "cannot" is a strong word, and someone will challenge me about having a limited idea of what blind people are capable of. The user of InWords must deal with a series of graphical screens which are not accessible through voice. The user must use the hand scanner in a precise manner. If a blind person has figured out a way to master InWords, I would love to hear about it. InWords can be operated by a sighted teacher or transcriber who wants a faster way of entering text into BEX for braille translation (or for large print production).

When you use InWords, you scan a column of text down the page. If your column of text is wider than the scanner, you need to scan twice, once on the left side and once on the right side. The InWords software internally combines the results of these two scans into one merged file. While I have obtained good results merging scans, you should realize there is an extra step. I have had much better results with scanning magazines than with scanning books. Magazines have narrow columns and do not require merging, while books do require merging columns.

System Requirements

We recommend that you use InWords only on an Apple IIgs. InWords works on an Apple IIgs with at least 512k memory. Virtually all Apple IIgs systems ever sold have at least that much memory.

You can use InWords on an Apple IIe, but in most cases this requires an expensive upgrade. InWords requires at least 512k of memory on an Apple IIe. Most Apple IIe computers are sold with only 128k. One way to gain more memory is installing the RamWorks card from Applied Engineering. Preferred Computing (see Facts on File) sells the RamWorks III card with 1 megabyte of memory for $227.

Apple IIe's come in two flavors: unenhanced and enhanced. For use with InWords, an Apple IIe must be enhanced. The enhanced Apple IIe has the same microcomputer chip as the Apple IIc, the 65C02. If you are not sure if your Apple IIe is enhanced, contact your local Apple dealer. The upgrade costs around $70. Contact your local dealer first: the enhancement kit is discontinued, though many dealers still have upgrade kits in stock and would be happy to help you.

Another problem with the Apple IIe is speed. With the Apple IIe at normal speed, you have to move the hand scanner very slowly, making it easy to miss portions of the image. You can speed up the Apple IIe with an accelerator card. A TransWarp card from Preferred Computing costs $99.

If you need to add memory, enhance, and speed up an Apple IIe, you may have to spend close to $500. You are probably better off using InWords on an Apple IIgs, which has the appropriate memory, processor type, and processor speed all built in.

Getting Ready

The first step is installing the Quickie hand scanner. Insert the circuit card in a free slot and attach the cable to the hand scanner. If you have an Apple IIgs, don't forget to set the control panel to say that the card is "your card." If your Apple IIgs has only 1 megabyte of memory, set the Maximum RAM Disk Size on the control panel to 0k. This will ensure that there is enough memory available for a scanned image.

Getting Started

There are three main scanning options: standard, column, and merge. A standard scan reads whatever is underneath the path of the scanner as you move it down the page. Standard scan works when the text you are scanning is less than four inches wide and there is no chance you will pick up any other columns.

In column mode, InWords ignores all text except the column that is directly under the middle of the scanner. Column scan is best for columns of text much narrower than four inches, where you want to exclude material from other columns.

You use merge scan when you want to scan a column wider than 4 inches. You first scan down the left side, then scan down the right side. InWords combines the results of the two scans in a single file.

When you use InWords, you can set the parameter training for on or off. When the training parameter is on, you assist the InWords software in learning a new style of print. You save the results of training in a new font table. For most projects, you will want to do a number of scans with training on. Once the error rate decreases enough, set training off and start work in earnest.

For the first scan, use the print sample found in the InWords Manual. Section 3 of the manual gives all the instructions. The steps are easy: start the InWords software, make sure all the switches and dials are correct on the scanner, select Sample 1 as the current font, choose scan from the main menu, set font training at No, ask for Standard Scan, and then actually scan the image on page 19 of the manual. Once you have asked for Standard Scan, the green light in the scanner turns on. When you are ready to scan, press the button on the side of the unit. Bring the scanner over the text at about the rate of one inch per second. Move as smoothly as you can. If you do not pull down straight and smoothly, the image gets messed up and character recognition accuracy goes way down. When you have finished the scan, let go of the button.

At this point, the computer has received a detailed image of your text. If you want to, you can use the arrow keys to explore the image. If the letters are broken up, you have the scanner image too light. If the letters are super bold and filled in, then you have the scanner image too dark. Adjust the light/dark wheel on the scanner accordingly. If you can tell that the image is crooked, has gaps, or is too light or dark, press the escape key to throw this scan away. If everything looks okay, press return to start the conversion to text. Any character that the system cannot figure out is marked with a tilde (~).

Training New Fonts

One aspect of this first sample scan is that you do not have to worry about training the font. In virtually every project you want to do, you need to train the font.

Go into the Font Menu, select Choose Font, and select Create New Font Table. Give a name for this new font.

Go back to the Scan Menu. Select Font Training. Select either column scan or standard scan. Never select merge scan while you are training.

Once the scan is over, you will be shown images from the scan with one or more characters emphasized. Concentrate on the letter shapes. If the letters are broken up (and the program thinks single characters are multiple characters), then you are scanning too light. In this case, you have to adjust the dial for darker. If the letters run together (and the program thinks that several characters are one character), then you are scanning too dark. In this case, you have to adjust the dial for lighter.

Make several scans. Stop when you have gotten the light/dark adjustment perfect. Put a piece of tape on the dial to prevent an accidental change to the setting.

Now go to the Font Menu and select New Font again. Now we will start training in earnest. When you are shown an individual character, just type what character it is, to teach the system. Be careful about letter case; a lowercase p is different from an uppercase P.

If you want to leave a "bad character" marker, press the spacebar. If you want to skip the character entirely, enter open-Apple-spacebar.

If the system is emphasizing a multiple character combination (such as "fl"), press Open-Apple-M followed by fl followed by a carriage return.

After you have done a few scans, the error rate goes down considerably. At this point, you can switch gears and set the training parameter for no. If you are scanning a document with columns wider than four inches, switch to merge scan.

There are two absolutely critical parameters you have to adjust correctly. One is the light vs. dark dial on the scanner head, which is discussed above. As you work with a new document, adjust it until you get a nice, solid, crisp image.

The second important parameter is recognition precision, a parameter in the Scan Menu. If InWords marks a lot of unknown characters, lower the precision setting. On the other hand, if InWords incorrectly identifies a lot of characters, raise the precision setting. An appropriate precision setting is important, whether training is set for no or yes. A low precision setting speeds up the training process, but the resulting font will make a lot of errors. A high precision setting during training extends the training time, but the resulting font will be much more accurate in recognizing characters.

Avoiding Frustration

InWords occasionally locks up and refuses to operate. This may happen when it encounters bullets (solid symbols that start off each item in a list) or an enlarged first character that starts off an article or a chapter title. The only solution is to press control-reset, which takes you back to the Main Menu. You may have to put a blank post-it note across the suspect area to avoid locking up the system.

Be sure to fill out the registration card so that you can be informed of updates when they are available. Don't forget to make backup copies of the software and all your trained fonts while you're at it.

Editing and Exporting

InWords provides a crude but sufficient text editor for manipulating the text before saving it to disk. You can correct scanning errors, retype some material that got hopelessly garbled, and correct the format. I have obtained the best results by making sure that there is always a blank line between paragraphs, and that there are no blank lines inside a paragraph.

InWords is a ProDOS program. Make sure you have a stack of ProDOS formatted floppies on which to store the text.

When I save a file, I usually ask for a return after each line. Unless I do that, I often end up with words jammed together in BEX.

When I am totally finished with InWords, I boot BEX and use the Read textfile option on the Second Menu. I press {2 <CR>} to scan the data disk in drive 2. Once I have selected the files I want, I put a BEX data disk in drive 1 and give the target chapter naming method of {1S} (to put the BEX chapters on the data disk in drive 1 and give them the same names as the ProDOS textfiles).

Once I have a BEX chapter, I use Replace characters with the transformation chapter {FIX TEXT} to put in paragraph indicators. Then I bring the chapter into the BEX Editor to do my final job of cleaning up the text.

Final Comments

After working with InWords, I am not about to sell my Arkenstone scanner. InWords definitely requires some time investment. Both learning the system thoroughly and scanning a decent sized document take a lot of time. An important consideration is that the time spent using InWords (training, scanning, recognizing, and editing) is much less stressful than the time spent doing large data entry jobs.

I know that I have made a lot of Apple II fans envious of the PC by writing about CD-ROMs. The tables are now turned. The PC fans can now be envious of a computer system where you can buy optical scanning and OCR hardware and software for $269.

I look forward to hearing about brailling projects which were done using InWords.

Let the Hanging Indent Hang In There: Preserving Hanging Indent from WordPerfect in Hot Dots 3.0 -- Caryn Navy

In standard paragraphs, the beginning of the paragraph is indented, and subsequent lines in the paragraph begin at the left margin. In some other kinds of text, it is common to use hanging indent, which reverses this pattern. When formatted with hanging indent, a block of text begins at the left margin, and subsequent lines in the block below the first line are indented. Hanging indent makes the beginning of each block stand out. This format is common, for example, in lists (including agendas and menus) and in written dialogue.

The Problem with Hanging Indent

In WordPerfect there is a documented method for getting hanging indent in WordPerfect documents. A major focus of Hot Dots version 3.0 is to absorb format information from the original file (from WordPerfect or many other sources) and to produce corresponding braille format. For example, wherever hanging indent occurs in a WordPerfect document, Hot Dots ought to generate hanging indent (which we also refer to as outdenting) in the braille output. In preparing Hot Dots 3.0, however, we were disappointed to find that Hot Dots could not recognize hanging indent done according to the WordPerfect Manual. Attempting to alleviate this difficulty, we discussed the problem in the Hot Dots Manual (in Section 5). We instructed people on using a different method of getting hanging indent in WordPerfect, an alternative method which is discernible to Hot Dots. We now realize that the method we described for WordPerfect hanging indent is erroneous for several reasons. But the news is not all bad!

A New Remedy

We now recommend a new method for achieving hanging indent in WordPerfect that becomes outdenting in Hot Dots. Not only does this new method work! It is also much easier to describe and to use than the alternative method described in the Hot Dots Manual! We found this new method while responding to an inquiry from Daveed Mandell.

To format a block with hanging indent, the WordPerfect Manual instructs you to begin the block with F4 (indent) followed immediately by Shift Tab (unindent, or margin release). As mentioned above, Hot Dots does not interpret this as hanging indent. However, if you merely add a space before the F4 (beginning a block with Space, F4, and Shift Tab), Hot Dots recognizes this as an outdented block. In addition, with the extra space in the WordPerfect document, the block still has the same hanging indent when printed or viewed in WordPerfect.

Using Search and Replace in WordPerfect to Fix the Data

What if you get a WordPerfect file from someone else with hanging indent done as described in the WordPerfect manual? Fortunately, it is relatively easy to make the adjustment for Hot Dots if you use WordPerfect (a version appropriate for the data file). Bring the file into the WordPerfect editor, search globally for F4 followed by Shift-Tab, and replace all occurrences with space, F4, Shift-Tab.

To do this, go to the beginning of the document with home, home, up-arrow. Press Alt-F2 for search and replace. WordPerfect asks if you want to confirm each replacement before it's done. Answer N (for no). Type F4, Shift-Tab (the string you're searching for) followed by F2. When WordPerfect prompts {replace with:}, type space, F4, Shift-Tab (the replacement string) terminated by F2. WordPerfect makes all the replacements instantly and leaves the cursor at the site of the last replacement. If you want, you can set up a WordPerfect macro to perform the steps listed above.

What Are the Results in Hot Dots?

When a block in a WordPerfect document begins with space, F4, Shift-Tab, the corresponding block in the Hot Dots file is formatted by the format commands $$i0$$ml2 (no indent at the start of the paragraph, but indent of two cells on subsequent lines). So the paragraph should start in cell 1 with subsequent lines starting in cell 3. However, with any copy of Hot Dots shipped before July 12, the importation software believes that there is a tab at the start of the paragraph and inserts an additional command $$p+1, which places a space at the start of the first line of the paragraph. So the paragraph starts in cell 2 instead of cell 1. We fixed this problem on July 12.

Because we have made a number of bug fixes since we first began shipping Hot Dots 3.0, we will be sending a mailing to all registered owners of Hot Dots 3.0 with instructions on getting a free update. Among other changes, the update will eliminate the $$p+1 problem.

Get Your Dux in Order with Hot Dots Global -- by Rick Roderick

[Editor's Note: Rick Roderick is an Assistive Technology Specialist at the Kentucky Department for the Blind.]

Are you a Hot Dots user who has received a output-ready Duxbury file, only to discover that the output-ready files for the two translators are incompatible? Do you have both Hot Dots 3.0 and Duxbury, and you like the ease of use and file conversion of Hot Dots and the multicopy and page selection features of Duxbury? Perhaps someone should write a conversion utility to solve this problem. You can convert the files yourself using Hot Dots' global search and replace.

Hot Dots uses the extension {BFM} for its formatted braille files; Duxbury uses {BRF}. The files differ in one respect: Hot Dots inserts only a form feed between pages. Duxbury inserts a carriage return/line feed combination before the form feed. To convert a Hot Dots braille formatted file into a Duxbury file, you just have to add a carriage return/line feed pair right before a form feed.

The carriage return character is control-M, line feed is control-J, and form feed is control-L, all in the group of characters called control characters. To include a control character when answering the {From} and {To} prompts, type the Verbatim command control-V followed by the control character you want.

To convert a Hot Dots file {MYFILE.BFM} to a Duxbury file {MYFILE.BRF}, you can give the following global replace command:


Hot Dots asks: {Load global replacements from disk?}. After you answer {N <enter>}, go through the following dialogue:

{From: <control-V> <control-L> <enter> From: <enter> HD2DUX.RUL <enter> }

If you know a little about the ASCII table, you can understand what is saved in {HD2DUX.RUL}. A carriage return is the 13th character, written as 0D in hexadecimal. A line feed is the 10th character, written as 0A in hexadecimal. A form feed is the 12th character, written as 0C in hexadecimal. When a rules file is saved, the From string and the To string are written on the same line with a vertical bar separating them. So the rules file {HD2DUX.RUL} from Hot Dots to Duxbury contains the line {~0C|~0D~0A~0C} followed by a blank line.

In the future, to convert a Hot Dots file to a Duxbury file, you can use the {HD2DUX.RUL} rules file you've already created. To convert a file called {REPORT.BFM}, for example, simply give the command:


Similarly, To convert a Duxbury file {MYFILE.BRF} to a Hot Dots file {MYFILE.BFM}, do the following global replace operation:


Answer that you do not want to use a rules file from disk. Here is the dialogue for the replacements this time:

{From: <control-V> <control-M> <control-V> <control-J> <control-V> <control-L> <enter> To: <control-V> <control-L> <enter> From: <enter> }

The next time you want to convert a file from Duxbury to Hot Dots, the syntax is:


That's all there is to it.

Bulletin Board

SmallTalk Computer System for Sale

For sale: a SmallTalk talking portable computer notebook, version 2.2. This electronic notebook weighs 5 pounds and has Slotbuster-quality speech, rechargeable NiCad batteries, clock-calendar, latest versions of the built-in software: WordTalk version 3.0, TermTalk version 1.3 with ASCII upload and download capability as well as VT 100 emulator, and CalcTalk version 1.1 scientific calculator. The device can be interfaced with other computers, printers, and modems. It has a built-in mini dot matrix inkprinter, tape drive for storage of data, and a full typewriter-style ASCII keyboard. Although this machine is not an MS/DOS computer, you can write and save talking programs with the built-in BASIC language. Includes cables for connecting SmallTalk to modems and MS/DOS and Apple II computers. Smart battery charger, custom briefcase, and a good supply of mini tapes and paper for the printer will also be included. The manuals are in print and on cassette. Asking $1100, or make an offer!

Contact: Mark Dubnick, P.O. Box 670, Washington Grove, MD 20880; Phone (301) 963-0294. Please call me if you need more information.

Visualtech Voyager for Sale

For sale: TeleSensory Visualtech Voyager with amber 14-inch screen that can magnify up to 40 times. The unit is in excellent condition, having only been operated six or eight hours by one person. Comes with original packing material, owner's manual, and dust cover. While a comparable system might cost $2,700, this one is available for $1,700. For further information, contact: Barry Wood 6904 Bergenwood Avenue

1991 World Series Baseball Game Available

The 1991 edition of the World Series Baseball Game and Information System is now available for visually impaired PC users. The game comes with 74 of the best pennant-winning teams of all time and with many information programs (World Series history, members of the Hall of Fame, record holders, etc.). The program can now be run directly from DOS. Send your check for $15 to:

Facts on File: Addresses Mentioned

Russian Mathematician: Dr. V. Khokhljuk

Apple IIe Memory Expansion, InWords, and Quickie: Preferred Computing

InWords Publisher: WestCode Software

XPRESS: XPRESS Information Services

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.


Apple Computer Inc.: Apple II; AdHoc Systems: AdHoc Reader; Applied Engineering: RamWorks Card; Arkenstone Inc.: Arkenstone Reader; Blazie Engineering: Braille 'n Speak; DAK Industries: DAK; Duxbury Systems: Duxbury Translator; Microsoft Corporation: MS-DOS; Raised Dot Computing: BEX, Hot Dots; TeleSensory: VersaBraille; Vitesse: Quickie scanner; WestCode: InWords;

WordPerfect Corporation: WordPerfect; Xerox/Kurzweil: Kurzweil-PC.