Re: Some stories

  • From: "tribble" <lauraeaves@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 9 Feb 2008 22:03:38 -0500

Hi Andreas -- I don't have a specific story, but back around 1991 I was 
using a DOS screen reader Called Vert -- actually the top of the line was 
called Vert Plus, which I used at work, and at home I used PersonalVert, 
dubbed "the little PerVert" by those who used it.
Anyway,  VertPlus used a hardware synth called the Prose card.  It was 
developed by a Swedish computer scientist who used his own voice to define 
the various sounds of speech which were concatenated to form words.  The 
firmware had many heuristics to make sentences sound natural, but it was not 
advanced right then (remember 1991 was still pretty primitive in this area). 
But the result of the implementation had some surprises:  First, the synth 
sounded like it had a Swedish accent, and for that reason I nicknamed the 
system "Swen".    What was also funny was that the sound of "j" which 
doesn't occur in Swedish, sounded like "sh" or "h" or even "k" -- so that 
some words, such as ginger, were quite baffling on VertPlus but clear on 
Second, on the Prose card, certain phrases were pronounced so that parts of 
the syllables were compressed or altered depending on the heuristics.  This 
led to some bizarre situations in which the synth would read a perfectly 
reasonable phrase as if it had profanity embedded in it. This made me think 
that the "pervert" title applied more to VertPlus than Vert.    *smile* 
(Note, there was no profanity actually inserted, but syllables were 
compressed so that it could be interpreted that way by someone not used to 
the synth.)  For that reason I always used headphones! (One phrase I 
remember -- an email with the phrase "fudge in cafeteria".  I'll let you 
figure out the result.)

As for programming, I used this screen reader only to read emails and text 
documents and not so much for programming.  This because it was not designed 
for programming and even for text, the command set in those early screen 
readers was quite awkward.  I only bought them because I had a catastrophic 
problem with my vision, and so lost the ability to read print for some 
months. But when my vision returned, I went back to screen magnification. 
Now I again have no print vision yet again but wow, have screen readers ever 
Good luck on your dissertation.
Cheers and happy hacking!

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Andreas Stefik" <stefika@xxxxxxxxx>
To: <programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Saturday, February 09, 2008 7:54 PM
Subject: Some stories

Hello all,

I have recently completed the first draft of my dissertation, which is
on blind computer programmers and using audio to program. In it, I've
created a special C programming environment, ran a ton of experiments,
and written more than any human would probably want to read.

At the very end of my dissertation, I thought it might be nice to
include a section, a few paragraphs, on some "classically bad audio
interfaces." Does anyone have any stories of interacting with a
program, using Jaws or any other interfaces that use audio, that are
so comically bad that they have you scratching your head?

I would love to hear some stories, if folks wouldn't mind sharing.
(The funnier the better)

Just curious,

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