RE: Windows 8 Blog

  • From: "Rasmussen, Lloyd" <lras@xxxxxxx>
  • To: "programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 1 Sep 2011 17:37:55 -0400

I have read the subsequent messages, up to2035 UTC.  This is the sort of 
discussion which would be frowned upon, after a dozen or more messages, on 
program-l.  We might need to start a BlindProgrammersCafe list for some of 
these discussions.  Also, It would behoove all of us to reply to the individual 
poster more often rather than send an individual comment to several hundred 

I am now going to violate the above rule and discuss some history.

First of all, the sky is not falling.  It has some cracks in it, but they are 
much smaller than they used to be.  I wanted people to start reading this 
particular MSDN blog because we will face interesting times, but I am sure we 
will get through them with some pain.  I would expect the traditional screen 
readers to work in the Desktop app of Windows 8, but perhaps not well in the 
Metro interface, which is apparently the primary UI.  We'll see, probably 
sometime next year.

I wrote my first programs as a blind engineering student at Iowa State 
University in 1968, Fortran for an IBM 360.  Much of the time I would write a 
few dozen lines, dictate them to someone who carefully wrote them on "coding 
sheets" and brought them to the data center where someone else typed them on 
punch cards.  Most of the time, the printout I got back indicated that my 
program had run in perhaps 0.12 seconds, and that it ended on line 260 with a 
syntax error.  A couple of days later I could submit a revised version for my 
numerical analysis course, if I could figure out what to do about that syntax 
error.  Batch programming was not fun, and you had to be a lot more persistent 
than me to get very far.

In 1983,  Here in the Engineering Section at NLS, I could work with a Tektronix 
4051 computer, whose operating system was a form of BASIC for test equipment 
control,  using the IEEE-488 interface, also known as HPIB.  The computer had 
8K of RAM (we later expanded it to 32K).  I could type my code onto its 
keyboard, and by providing statements such as
I could send the contents of a$ to a Versabraille or a Votrax Personal Speech 
System over a serial port.  Programs were stored on slow tape cartridges 
accessed by this expensive equipment.  I could display data by writing musical 
notes to be played by the Votrax PSS.  But if you put an exclamation point in 
the wrong place, the Votrax would reset itself to the default speed and say 
"error".  By 1983, blind people were beginning to use software on PC's and 
especially on the Apple 2, while some others used the Radio Shack TRS-80 or the 
T I 99-4.

I bought my first PC in 1985, running Screen-Talk from Computer Aids, the 
predecessor of GW Micro.  That software couldn't do much more than echo the 
results of DOS commands, and only if they were written in the standard way 
through the BIOS.  Screen-Talk was improved later by linking it up with the 
Prokey macro program, and substitution of the Sounding Board instead of the 
Votrax PSS for its synthesizer.  Screen readers for DOS had to adapt, because 
much data was being written directly to screen memory instead of through the 
BIOS.  This was thought of as a major problem at the time.

By 1988 I was playing with TurboBasic and using a modem on the GEnie online 
service.  JAWS for DOS came out.  The OutSpoken screen reader came out for the 
Macintosh, which had not been accessible at all since its introduction in 1984.

In 1990, Windows began to really take off; I think this was version 3.0.  In 
July, 1992, OutSpoken for Windows became the first screen reader for Windows.  
Later on, Berkley Systems would get into screen savers such as After Dark, and 
lose interest in screen reader development.  By 1994, JAWS for Windows was out. 
 In 1995, after Windows 95 came out, GW Micro released Window-Eyes 1.0, for 
Windows 3.1.  In this era, GW was perhaps 18 months behind the release of new 
Windows versions, while Freedom Scientific was only 6 or 12 months behind.

Currently, GW, FS and other companies have regular meetings at Redmond to work 
out issues, and ever since Vista, a screen reader has been available that could 
deal with much of the operating system on the day of its public release.  But 
there are always rough edges and a lot of things that don't work.  Even FS is a 
rather small company compared to the companies who are drowning us in new 
software, and GW is probably one-sixth as big as FS for total staff.  

There will always be work for blind programmers to do, and there will be a need 
for all of us to exchange information and refine our techniques.  And the 
programs we write will continue to grow in size and complexity.  

Sorry about the history lesson, but I just want us to keep on inventing, 
thinking out of the box, and really solving the world's problems.  We cannot 
afford to complain about each other, nor about the world we inhabit.

Lloyd Rasmussen, Senior Project Engineer
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress   202-707-0535
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 Katherine Moss
Sent: Thursday, September 01, 2011 1:29 PM
To: programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: RE: Windows 8 Blog

Thanks!  I just subscribed!  I'm going to certainly be keeping up with this 
one.  I cannot wait to own Windows 8, but I think that slow-on-the-uptake 
screen reader manufacturers could potentially be a hindrance for all of us in 
this community.  I mean, JAWS 12's reign could end quite abruptly if they 
refuse to adapt the later versions to not use Mirror drivers anymore if 
Microsoft takes them away.  And then if that is the case and screen readers do 
not keep up with latest and greatest technology (and even nowadays, this is a 
problem right now in my opinion), where will we go?  Will we be stuck with our 
current configurations for the rest of our lives?

-----Original Message-----
From: programmingblind-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
[mailto:programmingblind-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Rasmussen, Lloyd
Sent: Thursday, September 01, 2011 12:05 PM
To: NFB in Computer Science Mailing List; program-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx; 
Subject: Windows 8 Blog

I find the blog concerning the development and planned features of Windows 8 to 
be interesting reading.  Of course, it's Microsoft propaganda.  New entries are 
posted every couple of days.  Screen reader users and developers will have a 
lot to get used to (including a ribbon interface for Windows Explorer).  I 
think that this RSS link should work:

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

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