Published Monthly by Raised Dot Computing, Inc., 408 South Baldwin Street, Madison WI 53703. General phone: 608-257-9595. Technical Hotline: 608-257-8833.
Subscriptions: $18/year Print, $20/year Audio Tape, $30/year Disk. (Kindly add $20/year for postage outside N. America.)
Submissions are always welcome, especially on diskette. All are subject to editing for style and clarity. All opinions expressed are those of the author. Editor: Jesse Kaysen
Copyright 1986 by Raised Dot Computing, Inc., All Rights Reserved
Table of Contents: the all-uppercase words name the disk chapters; the words after the equals sign are the actual article titles.
The VersaPoint continuous-form embosser (manufactured by Telesensory Systems Inc.) seems to improve a little each month! In December the VersaPoint gained a host of useful features, including eight-dot braille and storing multiple configurations. This month, the VersaPoint's gains are its losses.
As of February 1st, 1987, the price for a VersaPoint is $3350 (a price decrease of $245). When purchased from Raised Dot Computing, that's all you pay: we pay for UPS shipping to your door in the U.S. RDC has also designed a VersaPoint Interface Disk. TSI (with our help) has made connecting a VersaPoint to your Apple quite straightforward; the VersaPoint Interface Disk makes the process simply foolproof. Only VersaPoints purchased from RDC come with the VersaPoint Interface Disk. The price decrease lowers our two "package" prices as well. The "BEX and VersaPoint Package" now costs $3900, and includes BEX, the embosser, an Echo synthesizer, Apple Super Serial Card, and connecting cable. The "TranscriBEX and VersaPoint Package" also costs $3900: it includes BEX and TranscriBEX, the embosser, the Super Serial Card and cable.
Last, but certainly not least, TSI has dramatically reduced the operating noise of the VersaPoint. Our November 1986 tests measured 80 to 85 dBA emanating from an operating VersaPoint. The units we're shipping now measure at 80 to 82 dBA. Since decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale, a three decibel change is nothing to sneeze at. However, a decibel meter can't measure all the noises that the human ear perceives. The quality of the VersaPoint's noise has become noticeably more pleasant. The first time we heard one of these latest units, we all crowded around the machine going "Wow! Oooh! Aaaah! It's so much quieter!" David and Jesse and I spent fifteen minutes discussing just how to describe this improvement, but were unable to think of a great analogy. Significantly, we had this discussion in a normal tone of voice while standing next to an operating VersaPoint.
The "Free Matter for the Blind" mailing privilege is a wonderful thing for people with vision impairments. It allows many small organizations (such as ours) to mail bulky reading material and not go bankrupt! However, it's important to remember that you get what you pay for: mailing something Free Matter does entail some risk.
We've been receiving an increasing number of disks sent Free Matter. That's fine if speed and surety is not of the essence. However, it's a terrible idea when you're sending in disks for technical support. A few customers have placed problem disks in the mail via Free Matter for the Blind, and then called the next day castigating us for our slow response!
My reaction is the programmer's standby: "Garbage In, Garbage Out." When you want us to respond in a timely fashion, please invest in some postage--it's not that expensive. Up to three (3) disks in a cardboard mailer costs just 56 cents First Class in the US. 56 cents is also the charge for one disk in a stapled cardboard pocket in a padded bag. If you need us to respond instantly, then please send your disks Express Mail or UPS Next Day Letter. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter.
Any publication becomes a lot more useful when it's indexed. And so, at last, we're indexing the RDC Newsletter. Phyllis Herrington took on the thankless task of reviewing all the Newsletters from January 1985 to December 1986. Her work is now complete, and so you can now buy this 2-year Index. To get the Index, send us your name, address, whether you wish large print or braille, and $3 cash, check, or money order. (Sorry, we can't accept purchase orders or charge cards for Newsletter indexes alone.)
One barrier to indexing in the past has been the lack of print page indicators in the audio tape edition of the Newsletter. This meant that the full article title had to be referenced in each index entry. Now that Phyllis has blazed the trail, we're preparing index information monthly. The audio tape and disk versions of the Newsletter now have print page indicators, which will make future Indexes much easier to compile. The 1987 Index will be published in the Newsletter itself, in January or February of 1988.
Desktop publishing was the computer buzzword in 1986. It simply means using relatively low cost personal computers to prepare "professional looking" print material. The print edition of the RDC Newsletter is a typical desktop publishing project. Before the advent of the Macintosh and LaserWriter, creating a large print document would require paying an outside typesetting firm. Now we can make camera-ready material totally in-house, saving us a lot of time and money.
We've been working with National Braille Press to create a braille desktop publishing system. Braille desktop publishing lets you take care of the costly first steps in press braille production: data entry, translation, and proofreading. You use RDC software to prepare the braille, previewing it for format and translation. Once NBP gets these disks, they connect an Apple 2c running the same RDC software to its Triformation plate embossing device (PED). These plates are used to emboss press braille.
We've used this braille desktop publishing system to create most of RDC's braille documentation in the last two years, including the BRAILLE-EDIT User's Guide, BEX Reference Cards and Index, and BEX Dox. Actually punching the plates takes a lot longer than embossing braille from the plates once created. That's why the cost per volume decreases with larger production runs. The exact cost of each volume depends on many factors, so I can't tell you an ironclad per page price. We've had press runs between 100 and 350; some included punching plates and embossing; others were reprints of existing plates. Our cost per page has ranged from four cents to 10 cents.
Raised Dot Computing is acting as a go-between for National Braille Press. We're interesting in encouraging braille desktop publishing, so we want to make sure that things go smoothly. You don't send disks directly to NBP; you send them to RDC for us to check. Once we're sure your disks would emboss correctly, we send them to NBP.
Press braille requires a minimum production run of 50. The RDC software that communicates to NBP's PED only works for a "magazine format" of 38 characters per line and 28 lines per page. You must prepare your material with one of three RDC programs: BETTE version 1.40; BEX version 2.1; TranscriBEX with BEX 2.2. Note that BRAILLE-EDIT is not on the list.
RDC is acting as a clearinghouse between you and NBP because we understand both the software and formatting issues. We've developed an extensive set of guidelines that tells you exactly how to prepare disks for braille desktop publishing. Here's an overview of the process:
If you're interested in more details, we're happy to send you the full Guidelines. Drop us a card with your name and address and your choice of regular print, disk, or braille.
For computer users blessed with a modem and some extra time (and deep pockets) there are many places you can "log on" and get computer-related information. Several information services with a special focus on blindness have recently been brought to our attention.
In addition to the Handicapped Users' Database (go HUD at any exclamation point prompt) and the Disability Forum (go DISFORUM) there's a new kid on the block on CompuServe. The "VersaBraille et al" forum is topic number 11 on the Issues Forum. It's coordinated by David Goldstein, editor of VersaNews. Chris Gray, TSI Applications Engineer, logs on frequently and is willing to field technical questions. There are two steps to reach the VersaBraille et al forum: at any exclamation point prompt, enter "GO ISSUES". You're prompted "CompuServe ISSUESFORUM". At the "Function:" prompt, enter "SS11" to Set your Subtopic to number 11, VersaBraille et al. A braille quick reference guide to using CompuServe is available here. Enter "DL11" at the "Function:" prompt to move to the VersaBraille et al Data Library. You're then prompted: _-
DL 11 !
_l Enter _-
dow help.brl <CR>
_l then choose your transfer protocol from the menu provided. It's a text file, so you can choose number 4, DC2/DC4 Capture (ASCII capture to the uninitiated). The result is 16 braille pages.
I am, horror of horrors, not a user of any RDC software. [Editor's note: No horror involved, Terry; we welcome all subscribers! JK] Despite this obvious flaw in my character, the RDC people are kind enough to send me their Newsletter, and I've found the new product announcements, product reviews, and humor really great.
For example, in the July/August issue, I read an announcement about the 4 Sights Network. This is a bulletin board sponsored by the Detroit Society for the Blind. 4-Sights brings together blind people, those involved in serving the blind, and any other interested people. Since I live in the Detroit area and the first 30 days were free, I decided to boot my data capture program and check them out.
So far, I've been quite impressed. There are data bases on hardware and software, a job library, an event calendar, and a general board. The system also has electronic mail and probably a few other features I haven't stumbled on to yet.
From my point of view, the best part of the network is its participants. It's good to be able to find people who have faced many of the same problems you are facing, and find out how they solved them. It's a rare opportunity to talk with several people who own a particular piece of equipment, who can tell you about its strengths and weaknesses--before you buy.
All in all, if you have the appropriate software, 4-Sights is worth a look. Time on the board does cost $7 per hour (sold in a minimum of a 5-hour block) plus the charge for a long-distance call if you're not in the Detroit area. However, the thirty-day free trial gives you enough time to learn the board.
The board is extremely easy to use: just decide on a logon name and password before you call. You should set your communications software as follows:
VT-100 Terminal emulation
8 data bits; 1 stop bit; no parity
300 or 1200 baud
Using your software, dial the 4-Sights number: 1-313-272-7111. Once you're connected and 4-Sights sends its greeting, you're prompted: _-
_l The very first time, respond with "newuser" as one word in lowercase letters. 4-Sights steps you through signing up for the 30-day free trial.
The CompuHelp Bulletin Board is specifically designed for blind and visually impaired computer users. All the prompts use creative mis-spellings that improve the clarity of speech output. CompuHelp is sponsored by a non-profit group, the National Association of Blind and Visually Impaired Computer Users. The sysop is Mr. Otto Haiungs of Roseville CA.
If you have a modem and communications software, give CompuHelp a try! The board is available 24 hours a day at both 300 and 1200 baud; set your software for TTY, 8 data bits, 1 stop bit, no parity, and dial 1-916-786-3923.
CompuHelp is also accessible to those without a modem, since NABVICU publishes "CompuHelp-On-Disk." According to Mr. Haiungs, "The disk version of CompuHelp, which is only in an Apple format now, has all the information found on CompuHelp, except for any bulletins or electronic mail left by CompuHelp users. It is hoped that future releases of the disk would contain this data as well. CompuHelp-on-Disk's information can be reviewed on screen with an Echo, or sent to a printer." Mr. Haiungs plans to update CompuHelp-on-Disk periodically. It's available for a $10 donation to NABVICU. Also available are CompuHelp manuals costing $4, in your choice of print or braille. For more information, contact:
NABVICU - CompuHelp
PO Box 1352
Roseville CA 95661-1352
When I first started using a computer, I was amazed at how swiftly it worked. The more I used it, however, the time required for the Apple to ponder a task seemed longer and longer. As I'd flip through the pages of the Apple-specific magazines, I kept seeing advertisements for "accelerator cards," which claimed to speed up the Apple's operation by a factor of three. At present, there are three "accelerator cards" on the market: the SpeedDemon, the Accelerator 2e, and the Transwarp 1.3.
The brain of the Apple is its Central Processing Unit (CPU): this chip is called the 6502. (The 2c and later 2e's use a slightly modified version, the 65C02 chip.) Both the 6502 and 65C02 chips perform calculations at the rate of a million per second; this is called a "clock frequency" of 1 MHz. While a million calculations per second sounds pretty fast, it's actually quite slow compared to newer machines--the Mac Plus, for example, calculates at 7.83 MHz, the 2gs at 2.83 MHz.
An "accelerator card" is a circuit card you plug in to any slot on an Apple 2 plus or 2e. It contains a faster 65C02 chip and some quantity of memory. Software built in to the card forces the Apple to use the faster CPU chip on the card instead of the 1 MHz CPU the Apple was born with. The card's memory replaces at least the first 64K of Apple memory. (The Transwarp card has enough memory to replace all 128K. Any accelerator card can be plugged into slot 0 on an Apple 2 plus, since it includes the 16K memory normally supplied with a "language card.")
I won't bore you with all the technical details: inCider magazine published Tom Sherman's excellent comparison of all three cards in the December 1986 issue, #48, pps 148-152. It discusses the nitty-gritty of how each card works, and clocks each card's performance at various tests. Mr. Sherman's conclusion was that all cards did speed up the Apple's operation, and that all cards functioned "transparently." In a computer context, "transparency" means that your application program doesn't even notice that the Apple has changed CPUs.
I had always been slightly dubious about the "transparency" claim when it came to BEX. (Some of BEX's capabilities are built on idiosyncratic features of the Apple's CPU. Among other things, David Holladay is a "bit-twiddling" programmer.) But the promise of speed was very seductive.
I succumbed and shelled out $230 for Titan Technology, Inc.'s "Accelerator 2e". I've been using it for several months, and I've become totally addicted to its speed. A local computer store was kind enough to loan me a Transwarp 1.3 card (manufactured by Applied Engineering). Several days of experimentation with stopwatch in hand has yielded the following insights on how an accelerator card affects BEX's performance. (Any users of the SpeedDemon are invited to write in with their experiences.)
Before I start presenting comparative numbers, there's some important background information. All accelerator cards only speed up the CPU's processing. They can't speed up a floppy disk drive controller, printer or modem interfaces, or the Echo. In fact, before you install any accelerator card, you must set dip switches corresponding to slots containing such time-sensitive devices. BEX accesses information on disk quite frequently; no accelerator card speeds up writing to and reading from floppy disk.
Since the Echo is also a time-sensitive device, combining the Echo with an accelerator card limits your perception of speed. With a normally slow Apple, scanning all the chapters on the BEXtras disk takes 9 seconds with 40 column screen, and 25 seconds for 40 column screen with Echo output. Sighted users quickly notice that an accelerator cuts the scanning time by 4 seconds to just 5 seconds. But for Echo users, the 4-second reduction is not as impressive--it still requires 21 seconds for the Echo to speak all the chapter names.
However, some BEX operations are very CPU-intensive. That's why Grade 2 translation, Replace characters, and cursor movement in the Editor speed up dramatically. Both accelerator cards speed up some things you might not want faster: where BEX uses a "timing loop" to pace some operations. The first thing I noticed was that all of BEX's error tones move into the soprano register. The low "boops" change to high "beeps"; the high beeps become almost supersonic. It didn't take long to get used to this change.
A more important difference concerns large print screen display at menus. When screen flip is at "automatic" and your Apple is speeded up, any screen full of information only stays for three-fourths of a second. This quick succession of information is OK when you're familiar with BEX. Once you know your way around the program, you're not really reading the prompts, you're just perceiving them. However, it can be a little irritating at the Page Menu.
The easy solution is to switch screen flip to manual. This minor irritation aside, large print screen users will be particularly delighted by an accelerator's affect on the Editor.
The braille keyboard mode in the Editor becomes much more difficult to use with an accelerator card. For BEX to interpret two keys pressed simultaneously as a single character requires some very tricky timing considerations. Unfortunately, when the CPU is operating at 3 times its normal speed, your fingers must be very precise. When you press the keys at exactly the same moment, everything's fine. But a tenth of a second hesitation changes a c into an a followed by dot 4.
My tests involved a wide variety of BEX operations: each one was timed with a normal system, with the Accelerator 2e, and with the Transwarp. Since Echo output can add significant seconds to an operation, I performed all tests once with Echo output and once silently with 20-column screen display. Certain operations were faster with the Accelerator, and other operations were faster with the Transwarp. On average, both cards provided the same rate of acceleration, around 2-1/2 times faster than the normal Apple. (There's one major difference between the two cards: only the Transwarp speeds up programs in auxiliary memory. At present, BEX doesn't execute code in the "upper" 64K; some other programs, notably AppleWorks, do.)
The most dramatic contrast between the slow and the fast was Replace characters. For testing purposes, I wrote a short transformation chapter that changed every lowercase e to two tildes, then changed two tildes back to lowercase e. For each time trial, this short transformation chapter was specified from disk. I used the four-page QUANDARY chapter as my source chapter.
I also perceived dramatic differences in the Editor. My stopwatch did not keep track of hundredths of a second, however, so I'm unable to give precise figures for N or W modes. My Editor tests involved inserting a 2000-character clipboard, advancing 10 paragraphs, and deleting six sentences. With a normal Apple in N screen mode, each of these operations required approximately 1-1/2 seconds. It was perceptibly faster with either accelerator card, but I couldn't time the difference.
I had no problem timing the difference with 20-column screen. Whenever BEX is drawing HI-RES letters on the screen, it uses a lot of the Apple's CPU time. Those three Editor operations required 3 seconds on a normal Apple, and less than 1 second with a Transwarp or an Accelerator 2e.
Both the Accelerator 2e and the Transwarp 1.3 are basically compatible with BEX. An accelerator card can significantly speed up computer activity. Some users will notice the speed improvements most: those using HI-RES (20-column or larger) screen, and those doing a lot of Replacing and Grade 2 translation. If you use braille keyboard mode in the Editor, however, an accelerator card could by an annoying appliance. Both cards are priced at $275 list; they're widely available through mail order dealers for around $225. For more information, contact:
Titan Technologies, Inc.
310 West Ann Street
Ann Arbor MI 48104
PO Box 798
Carrollton, TX 75006
The RDC Newsletter is happy to publish short news bulletins, general inquiries, and "for sale" advertisements as space allows. Now that the "History" series is finally over, there's a lot more space! JK
Jim Blacksten of California would like someone to buy his Model P2C tape-based (original) VersaBraille. Interested parties should contact:
1651 Larkin St. #5
San Francisco CA 94109
Pete Rossi of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind's Technical Aids Center writes:
When working with a recently blinded (low vision) college professor, who had a Macintosh, we came across a general-market solution that fit his needs. It's called the MacVideo Processor. It lets you use any TV as a Mac screen--including VTEK's 19 inch monitor. You do have to open up the Mac to interface it, but the instructions are easy. Once it's connected, you can zoom up to 16 times. As it was designed for large audience presentations, it does not have cursor tracking. As of October 1986, it cost $1200. The vendor is:
4 Johnston Way
Scotts Valley CA 95066
Tom Dekker, the Technical Aids Consultant for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, writes:
A number of clients served by our department have expressed an interest in accessing music composition software now becoming available. We started by looking at some of the software for the IBM-PC in hope that it might work in conjunction with access technology such as the VERT; we haven't had much luck. Our main objective is to construct as system to assist music students in producing written theory assignments. We envision that students would play on a synthesizer keyboard to enter material into the computer; once entered in this fashion, the computer could print out the notes. We have already purchased a Yamaha DX27 synthesizer and a Roland Musical Instrument Device Interface (MIDI). We'd be extremely happy to hear about any composition software (for either the Apple or the IBM-PC) that could be used to maximize the usefulness of this equipment and would work with available access technology. Admittedly, our knowledge in this field is very limited. We'd appreciate hearing from any RDC readers who have experience or information to share.
Tom Decker, Technical Aids Department
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto Ontario M4G 3E8 CANADA
[Editor's Note: In addition to contacting the CNIB, I'd like to urge anyone with information to submit it to the Newsletter! We're often asked for information on MIDI, and we never know what to say! JK]
Computer Aids Corp., another software firm producing talking applications for the Apple and the IBM-PC, announces a change of address. As of January 10, 1987, contact them at;
Computer Aids Corp.
124 W. Washington Blvd., Suite 220
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
219-422-2424 or 800-647-8255
Last month marked the beginning of a regular feature: the BEX Trick Reference Card. This month we have three more items contributed by RDC staff. We're eager to publish your discoveries!
While working on the TranscriBEX project, I created an extraordinary number of transformation chapters, both plain and contextual. The BEX Dox mentions that the number of terminators in a transformation chapter is important, but using the Locate command to count them manually is a real bore. This trick is especially useful when writing contextual replace transformation chapters in the Editor, where it's easy to lose track. I use Replace characters to count the number of terminators for me.
Here's how: I specify my transformation chapter as the source chapter in Replace characters. I key changes directly, writing just one rule: I replace my terminator with itself. This doesn't change the text of my transformation chapter in any way, but when the Replace is done, BEX announces: "Replaced number times." For a contextual replace transformation chapter, I want to hear a number divisible by three. For a plain transformation chapter, I'm hoping for a number divisible by two.
Section 13 of the Learner Level BEX Dox discusses several data recovery techniques. One is using "RUN 999" to save all the characters in the last page buffer, which can mean recovering data deleted at the end of a page. At the User and Master Levels, there's a much faster way to accomplish this. It involves the Clipboard Restore command, control-B R Y. (This command was unfortunately omitted from the very first Thick Reference Cards (the Thiel editions), but it is described in the Master Level, page M3-1.)
Suppose you're merrily entering text in the Editor, and decide to delete a big chunk of text at the end of the page. You position your cursor at the beginning of the text you want deleted, then enter control-D control-A. You then have the sickening feeling in your throat when you realize you didn't want to delete that text after all. Here's what you do: Enter control-B X to eXchange the contents of the current page with the clipboard. Now enter control-B R. BEX prompts: Restore entire clipboard? Enter Y, and BEX creates a 4095-character clipboard. Enter control-B X again so you can examine these 4095 characters. There's a good chance that the ones you accidentally deleted are among them.
Of course, when you're editing an existing chapter, there's an even quicker way. When you realize that you've changed text that was better off the way it was originally, enter control-B X. All the text of the current page is placed on the clipboard. Now enter control-Reset and crash out of the Editor. The changes you made are not saved in the chapter since you didn't exit safely with control-Q. However, any new text you wrote is safe on the clipboard, ready to be inserted wherever you please.
The User Level BEX Dox (pages U7:15-17) discusses "sophisticated page numbering." You combine the <Del> page number token with other text in a running head or footer. (The following comments about running heads are equally true for running footers.) That discussion is fine, as far as it goes, but it doesn't describe how to change running heads in the middle of a document. This can be very handy; for example, you can change the text on the page number line while maintaining sequential page numbering.
The BEX Dox doesn't tell the whole truth: it says you must end the running head definition with <CR>. That's actually not the case. You can end running heads with ($l) or ($p). The BEX Dox is correct in saying that the <CR> defining the end of a running head is "swallowed." This <CR> doesn't create a new line in your output. Similarly, a ($p) paragraph or ($l) new line indicator signalling the end of a running head is "swallowed."
Now you know the whole truth about the end of a running head; here's the lowdown on the beginning. The BEX Dox dodges this topic, since it always shows running heads at the start of a chapter. The (rather surprising) truth is that the $$vh# command operates on all the text in the current line. If the $$vh# command appears in the middle of a line, then text previous to the $$vh# command itself is included in the running head. The solution is to precede the running head definition with <CR>, ($l), or ($p); any of these three format indicators moves to a new line.
This theoretical discussion can be a little hard to follow; let's examine a concrete example. Suppose you're writing a report with two sections: "Overview" and "Recommendations." You'd like a centered running head containing the section name and page number. You want the entire report numbered consecutively. Additionally, you want to omit the running head for the first page of each section.
After some experimentation, I discovered a way. You can define a new running head that includes the <Del> page number token in the middle of your document. This changes the text without interrupting the page numbers. This is because the simple page numbering command, $$np, restarts page numbering at 1, but sophisticated page numbering with the <Del> character does not. Here's what I entered: _-
$$vs1 $$vs2 $$vs3 $$hSection 1: Overview $p[First paragraph of "Overview" text]
$$vh1 $$cSection 1: Overview - <Del> $p[Remaining "Overview" paragraphs]
_l Phew, that's a lot of commands! Here's what's happening. The first three commands make BEX skip lines 1, 2, and 3. Then comes the heading for the first section, centered and underlined by $$h. Lines 2 and 3 are skipped throughout the document. Line 1 is sometimes skipped, and sometimes contains a running head. This first running head is defined after the first paragraph of text. The ($p) at the end of the first paragraph is executed (which also ensures that the running head definition begins on a new line). The ($p) preceding the remaining "Overview" paragraphs is swallowed. The net result is one paragraph in the output, plus one running head definition. The second and subsequent output pages contain the section title and page number on line 1. Now, it's time to change running head definitions mid-document. Here's how: _-
[Final "Overview" Paragraph] $$vs1 $$vn $$hSection 2: Recommendations $p[First paragraph of "Recommendations" text]
$$vh1 $$cSection 2: Recommendations -<Del> $p[Remainder of "Recommendations" text]
_l After all the "Overview" text, there are two commands: $$vs1 $$vn. The "skip line 1" command $$vs1 suppresses the "Overview" running head for the next output page. The discretionary page break command $$vn creates that next output page, unless BEX was about to move to the top of the page anyway. (The order of these two commands is very important: entering $$vn $$vs1 would not work. That's because when BEX is placing a running head on line 1, it does it first thing after moving to a new page--before BEX even notices the "skip line 1" command. When you tell BEX to skip line 1 before you move to a new page, then BEX knows what to do at the top of the new page, so the running head doesn't print.)
After the first paragraph of "Recommendations" text, I use the same trick to change the text of the running head: the new running head definition is preceded and followed with ($p) paragraph indicators. The running head definition still contains the <Del> page number token. The second output page of "Recommendations" contains the modified running head: the word "Overview" is replaced with "Recommendations" and the page number continues sequentially.
The moral is: When you change a running head or footer in the middle of a document, bracket your running head or footer definitions with <CR>, ($l), or ($p).
We received the following information from TACTIC's editor, Deborah Kendrick: "TACTIC is an international braille quarterly concerning technology for the visually impaired. Offering practical information on hardware and software using braille, synthesized speech, or enlarged print output, TACTIC is a unique consumer-oriented publication. Reviews are written by blind and visually-impaired consumers--both professionals with technical expertise and those working in other fields who have intimate knowledge of one product. TACTIC is the only publication available in braille that has no product bias.
"Regular features "Talk-Tech," "Tac-Tech," and "For Your Information" carry short news items of newly released products, programs, or services related to technology and the popular "Feedback" provides a forum in which readers exchange problems, solutions, and tips. TACTIC is a valuable resource for both the beginning would-be computer user and the researcher or programmer with sophisticated technical knowledge. The style of the magazine is concise, informative, and enjoyable to read.
"After only two years of publication, TACTIC has subscribers and authors from throughout the United States and Canada as well as Germany, China, New Zealand and other countries. As of January 1987, the subscription price is $10 annually. (This is approximately one-third of the actual production cost, which is subsidized by Clovernook Printing House for the Blind.)" Orders, article submissions, or questions should be directed to:
Deborah Kendrick, Editor -- TACTIC
Clovernook Printing House for the Blind
7000 Hamilton Street
Cincinnati OH 45231
The New Year marked a dramatic change for BAUD; it's now published by MicroTalk, and edited by Larry Skutchan and Peter Scialli. It's published six times a year in three formats: cassette tape, regular print, and Apple disk. For 1987, the subscription rates are $24 for print or tape, $30 for disk. Subscribers outside the U.S. and Canada should add $12 for postage.
When the January/February issue arrived, it contained a number of interesting articles--details about the Apple 2gs; info on APH's Talking Sensible Speller; an exploration of CompuServe; The Kentucky Bureau for the Blind's low-cost electronic braille device; and more. A particularly welcome announcement was that BAUD has gained permission to reprint articles from A+ magazine in the tape and disk editions. As the editors state: "The ability to bring you current articles from a mainstream computer journals, not otherwise available to the blind, will help to keep us all informed of developments in the computer technologies which might otherwise escape our notice." For more information, contact:
BAUD c/o MicroTalk
337 S. Peterson Avenue
Louisville KY 40206
VersaNews has been publishing information of particular interest to VersaBraille users four times a year for the past three years. Faced with rising production costs and (especially) rising postal rates, they've decided to change their frequency. David Goldstein, VersaNews' editor, says that the three (thicker) issues a year should provide an equivalent amount of information while keeping costs down.
Starting with the Fall 1986 issue (Volume 4, No. 3), VersaNews is available in three media: VersaBraille cassette, VersaBraille 2 diskette, and regular inkprint. In the U.S. and Canada, a one-year subscription costs $20; outside North America, a year of VersaNews is $30. All subscriptions must be paid in U.S. currency.
The latest issue of VersaNews was jam-packed with useful articles, including Mr. Goldstein's massive summary of everything known-to-date about the IBM-PC to VersaBraille interface. Back issues of VersaNews are available; each year is compiled on to a single cassette or disk and costs $10. For more information, contact:
VersaNews c/o David Goldstein
87 Sanford Lane
Stamford CT 06905
203-366-3300 Tuesday - Friday
203-336-4330 PMs & weekends
The new 1987 catalog of books offered by Seedlings Braille Books for Children is now available! Many exciting new selections are listed, including several new print/braille easy-readers, and even an ABC book with scratch and sniff stickers! Selections range from these preschool books all the way up to novels for older children such as SUPERFUDGE by Judy Blume.
Their books are entered on an Apple 2e computer using TransciBEX, and are embossed using an MBOSS for the smaller books and a TED600 for the larger books. Therefore, there is no thermoform used; all books have heavy plastic covers and are spiral-bound. Prices range from $4.50 to $18.75.
More information and catalogs are available by contacting Seedlings; please specify print or braille:
Seedlings Braille Books for Children
8447 Marygrove Drive
Detroit, Michigan 48221
We've published several articles about the Ohtsuki Braille Embosser: A general review in March 86, and interfacing information in December 1986. The Ohtsuki is a hybrid device that can produce braille and print. It's manufactured in Japan, and sold through various sensory aids companies in the US. What follows are two short articles that supply some more ways to use your Ohtsuki.
Since my review of the Ohtsuki Braille-Printer in the March 86 RDC Newsletter, I have learned a few more things about it. For those of you who haven't heard, the Ohtsuki is a hardcopy braille device which translates and embosses inkprint under the braille characters (grade one, grade two or computer braille). This is a wonderful feature in the classroom as well as in the work environment. I am surprised how useful it has been in working with my colleagues to have print on my braille notes and rough drafts. It's almost as good as having the sighted world learn braille.
There has been some confusion over whether the Ohtsuki has a grade one translator. Yes it does, in English or Japanese. Another question has been, can a tape based VersaBraille drive the Ohtsuki directly? Yes it can if the proper CCP's and cable are used. [The next article provides details--JK]
It is important to point out that BEX supports the Ohtsuki as one of the Class B braillers. You are able to customize your printer options so as to choose, when printing a file, whether you want the Ohtsuki to generate print with braille or braille only. BEX also gives you a wide range of formatting options. From the VersaBraille, you do not have the page length option of 21 lines--the number you will need for the Ohtsuki to emboss braille with print. There is really no comparison between the power and flexibility of using the Ohtsuki with a BEX-Apple set-up and a VersaBraille alone.
I am also pleased to report that after 9 months of regular use, my Ohtsuki has required no service--the most important feature of all in my estimation.
This article builds on the information provided in David Holladay's "Interfacing the Ohtsuki Braille Embosser with BEX and the Apple" in the December 86 issue of the RDC Newsletter. There are four elements in establishing a serial interface between the tape-based VersaBraille and the Ohtsuki: the Ohtsuki's switch settings; the appropriate cable; the VersaBraille's overlay; and creating upper-case data in the VersaBraille.
The Ohtsuki switch settings are the same as those shown in David's article; they establish an RS232 interface using software (also called X-on/X-off) handshakes:
To connect the two devices, you need a cable that crosses wires 2 and 3. Depending on the gender of the VersaBraille, a 3F or 3M cable from RDC would work fine.
Load the Hardcopy overlay into the VersaBraille and modify the CCPs as follows:
The Ohtsuki requires around 50 milliseconds to process each line of data. Setting CR = to 32 makes the VersaBraille pause at the end of each line. The VersaBraille must be set at CRLF; and your text should only contain <CR>s, not linefeeds.
For single sheets let the Ohtsuki Printer PE (Paper Empty) control take care of the number of lines on a page (PL = 0). If you are using the Ohtsuki continuous fan-fold paper with the Form Feed detection hole, set PL = 20 for the Ohtsuki mode or PL = 25 for the braille only mode. (If you lose characters after a Form Feed, insert NULLS in your data.)
All the data sent from the VersaBraille must be in locked uppercase in order for the Ohtsuki grade 2 back-translator to function correctly. This means that you must enter 'chord-U' to establish uppercase lock before typing any data into a VersaBraille page. Existing text that was entered in lowercase will create garbage back-translation on the Ohtsuki, even though the braille is embossed correctly.
The default setting for the Ohtsuki Printer is the Ohtsuki mode, uncontracted print under contracted grade 2 braille. If you wish a different mode, for example grade 2 braille only, send <Esc> B <CR>. The carriage return is a must to make the printer perform correctly on the first line of data. Check the Ohtsuki manual (or the December 1986 RDC Newsletter) for other possibilities.
Street Electronics Inc. has always demonstrated a great willingness to support the handicapped applications market. It's important to remember that all the possible customers of devices for people with disabilities is a tiny number when compared with the general computer market. Yet Street has continued to modify and improve their speech hardware and software.
Their first device was the Echo 2, a speech synthesizer circuit board for the Apple 2 plus (and later, 2e). Then came the Echo GP, a serial voice output device, which could work with any computer. Next came the Cricket, an external speech synthesizer and music and sound effects generator for the Apple 2c. Hot on the heels of the Cricket came the Echo Plus, (its functional equivalent) a speech synthesizer circuit board with sound and music effects for the Apple 2 plus and 2e.
And now Street Electronics is shipping the Echo 2b, a speech synthesizer for the Apple 2 plus, 2e, and 2gs. The Echo 2b does not have the music and sound effects capabilities of the Echo Plus and Cricket. Why not? Well, the Apple 2gs has excellent music and sound capabilities itself, so duplicating those features on a plug-in board doesn't make a lot of sense. Also, most people in the special applications for the disabled market don't want the music and sound effects capabilities. (In fact, we've received confused phone calls from several people wondering why the music-and-sound-effects disk that came in the box didn't have screen review.)
Street has more than compensated for the loss of those features by adding some wonderful goodies. When you purchase an Echo 2b, you get a circuit card, four disks, an external speaker, and an excellent manual. For the first time, the Echo manual focuses on TEXTALKER. It provides a clear tutorial with many examples as well as advice on modifying programs to work with TEXTALKER speech. The disks include both ProDOS and DOS 3.3 versions of the spiffy new TEXTALKER, 3.1.2. They also contain helpful talking programs: a simple talking textfile reader, a simple program for a non-vocal person to build sentences, and more. The ProDOS version of the talking textfile reader comes in handy to read the Echo 2b manual, supplied in ProDOS textfiles as well as print.
The external speaker answers the needs of many blind users. The front is tilted to better direct sound output to the user; it has a volume knob and a mini headphone jack. You get excellent quality from a small package: it measures 3-1/4 inches deep by 5 inches wide; it's 2-1/2 inches high in the back slanting down to 3/4 of an inch in front. Also included with the Echo 2b is a special jumper wire which allows you to route all of the Apple's sounds to the Echo 2b's speaker. This provides even better sound quality for the Apple 2gs. It's also nice if your application programs make lots of beeps and boops--when you connect up this jumper wire, all audible output from the Apple can be limited to your headphones.
All in all, the Echo 2b seems like the right device at the right price: it lists for $130. It's available now from all the usual suspects, including Raised Dot Computing.