Braille Monitor January 1985
Dr. Tim Cranmer, Director of Research and Chairman of the Committee on Research and Development of the National Federation of the Blind, has (along with the other members of the Committee on Research and Development) completed work on a new product that should make a major contribution to the employment of blind men and women in many areas. The thing plugs into the IBM personal computer, the IBM XT and AT computers, and a large number of IBM compatibles, converting any of these units to a talking computer capable of functioning with any program. Blind users will have complete access to the information displayed on the computer's screen. The prompts from a word processor will be spoken, as well as any other messages from programs or the operating system. Even the error messages displayed by the computer (for instance, the operating disk is left out of the disk drive; the drive door has been left open; the computer fails in the self-test which it runs before coming operational) are spoken. Even if you have accidentally unplugged the keyboard from the computer, you will get the spoken message and know what is wrong.
This is a totally new technology, never before implemented. We think it will become the standard of comparison against which other computer products intended for use by the blind are measured.
The device consists of two parts: a printed circuit board that plugs into one of the expansion slots of the computer, and a control box connected to the circuit board by means of a short cable. The control box houses a loud speaker and a key pad resembling the touch tone telephone dial. By pressing the buttons on the top of the control box, the operator selectively reads information on the computer screen.
This new technology will be demonstrated at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky, during the first week of July in 1985.
We are looking for that perfect name to identify this new product. You may think of a name that clearly identifies what it is, what it does, who makes it, and so on. For the best name submitted, as determined by the members of the Research and Development Committee, NFB will award to the person submitting the winning entry a prize of $500 toward the payment of attending the 1985 Louisville convention.
Entries must be submitted in writing to: Dr. T.V. Cranmer, Director of Research, National Federation of the Blind, 523 Pawnee Trail, Frankfort, Kentucky 40216. Entries must reach Dr. Cranmer no later than May 1, 1985. Anyone is eligible to submit an entry except members of the Research and Development Committee of the National Federation of the Blind and an immediate family member of a Committee member. In case of duplicate winning entries the first to be received will be chosen.
If you have questions about the device (how it works, what more it will do, et cetera), contact Dr. Cranmer or one of the other members of the Committee on Research and Development. They will be pleased to respond to your questions.
We are fortunate in having a truly knowledgeable and distinguished Committee. They are: Dr. T.V. Cranmer--widely known inventor, expert in computer technology, and long-time leader in Kentucky's programs for the blind; Mr. Jim Willows--electronics engineer and computer scientist at the University of California Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of California; Dr. Emerson Foulke--Professor of Psychology at the University of Louisville, Director of the Perceptual Alternatives Laboratory at the University of Louisville, and Chairman of Kentucky's Braille Action Committee of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille; Mr. Curtis Chong--Computer Technical Support Specialist at the Minneapolis headquarters of IDS/American Express, President of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, and Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota; and Mr. Curtis Willoughby--Circuit Design Engineer with Northwestern Bell Telephone Company in Des Moines, President of Willoughby Enterprises, Inc. (a company specializing in technical aids for the blind), and Immediate Past President of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science.