Re: Screen readers and how to develop them: A historical perspective

Me and my sister agree!

Don Marang

There is just so much stuff in the world that, to me, is devoid of any real substance, value, and content that I just try to make sure that I am working on things that matter.
Dean Kamen


--------------------------------------------------
From: "Alex Midence" <alex.midence@xxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 9:14 AM
To: <programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: Screen readers and how to develop them: A historical perspective

Hi, Don,

For someone like you, braille isn't a viable solution.  Your case is
special and understandable.  You can't read braille unless you can
feel your way across a line.  About the most sensitive organ remaining
to you short of your tongue for this purpose is probably the tip of
your nose and, that would be ... well ... Let's just say that audio
tech is a wonderful thing.  We can't have folks giggling at us when we
read, you know.  =)  I'm talking about kids who grew up blind and have
two perfectly functioning index fingers (never could read with my
pinky, can anyone?) and a mind to go with them.  They should be able
to use both braille and audio to good effect.

alex M

On 12/20/10, Don Marang <donald.marang@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
My older sister was upset at me because I was unable to learn braille! My remaining fingers are just too insensitive now from nerve damage and endless blood tests. She has been a teacher at a blind school for at least 20 years
and is a huge advocate for braille litercy.  She even reads braille while
she is driving!

Don Marang

There is just so much stuff in the world that, to me, is devoid of any real substance, value, and content that I just try to make sure that I am working
on things that matter.
Dean Kamen


--------------------------------------------------
From: "Alex Midence" <alex.midence@xxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Monday, December 20, 2010 6:03 PM
To: <programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: Screen readers and how to develop them: A historical
perspective

Glad you liked it.  I was hoping someone on this list would have
personal recollections of this time and the tech available.  Neat how
there was braille output as far back as the 50's.  It's a shame that
that stuff is stil as expensive as it is.  Perhaps, some day, as
happened with speech technology, blind people will see the price of a
braille display drop to something affordable as in, under a thousand
dollars?  Same for a braille printer/embosser.  I am enormously
concerned at how many of the blind kids I have met recently have poor
braille reading skils and don't really seem to care that they are
bordering on illiteracy.  Having something or someone read to you is
not the same as direct input from a written document to your mind
without an intermediary.  In this age of electronic texts, you would
think that braille would explode in popularity since you no longer
have to fill a room with tomes of the stuff.

Alex M

On 12/20/10, Rasmussen, Lloyd <lras@xxxxxxx> wrote:
That was fascinating.  Dr. Stoffel worked at NIH for a period after he
wrote
that article.  I could go on and on about this ancient technology, but
had
better do it off-list.

People had produced braille from computers since the 50's.  The first
speech
for a blind computer user was for Jim Willows, an engineer  at the
Lawrence-Livermore Laboratories in 1968 (letters and numbers played out
through a digital-to-analog converter).

The context of this article ...  Votrax devices had been on the market
for
several years, but the SC-01 chip was put into the Type 'n Talk in 1981.
This device had built-in letter-to-sound rules, so you didn't have to
send
phonemes to it as you did the earlier V S A and VSB boards. These three
devices took RS-232 data and either acted like terminals or interpreted
terminal sequences and sent the data along through another serial port to

be
displayed.  They were not screen readers running on the computer whose
screen was being read. It was revolutionary to think that you could buy
a
$300 Type 'n Talk instead of a $5,000 talking terminal to speak the data
coming from an RS-232 device.  The Echo II synthesizer (using the T I
technology) was added to the Apple II at about this time. By the end of
1983 there were screen readers for the Apple II and for the IBM PC.

I worked a little bit with the FSST-3 and the VERT terminal, and heard
Deane
Blazie demonstrate the TotalTalk at various conventions.



Lloyd Rasmussen, Senior Project Engineer
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress   202-707-0535
http://www.loc.gov/nls
The preceding opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of
the Library of Congress, NLS.


-----Original Message-----
From: programmingblind-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:programmingblind-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Alex Midence
Sent: Monday, December 20, 2010 3:24 PM
To: programmingblind
Subject: Screen readers and how to develop them: A historical perspective

Hi, all..

I thought this was rather interesting.  It is an article written in
1982 about some of the techniques used back then to write screne readers
or
"talking terminals" as they called them.  I was struck by some of the
predictions the author made with regard to the future, some of wich came true and others which did not. There was also a very interesting section

on
speech synthesis and how to get the hardware and software to do many of
the
things we take for granted nowadays like starting and stopping speech,
repeating previously spoken text, deciding what to say as an acronym and
what to speak as a word, punctuation levels and so forth.  It was
fascinating stuff.

http://web.archive.org/web/20060625225004/http://www.edstoffel.com/david/talkingterminals.html

Oh yeah, and get a load of the prices for that stuff! Keep in mind that
was
in 1980's money too.  Put like a 33% markup on it and you might
approximate
what it would cost in today's money.

Alex M
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