Braille Monitor July 1985
Maryland Computer Services (MCS) is an interesting company. Its president, Deane Blazie, is a quiet, unpretentions man. He has been coming to NFB conventions for a number of years, and MCS has been a convention exhibitor for several years running. He has never pushed himself forward or insisted on having the spotlight, but he has been there throughout the past several conventions. A little over a year ago, Mr. Blazie donated a Thiel Braille printer/terminal to the National Federation of the Blind for use at the National Center for the Blind.
Recently, Mr. Blazie provided us with a rundown of the MCS product line. Understandably, he's proud of his products and works to promote them. His enthusiasm no doubt shows in what he says and how he says it. One would expect that from the president of a company. Here, then, is the description (Mr. Blazie's, not ours) of the technological devices currently available from MCS. Note that Mr. Blazie does not give prices. For further information contact: Maryland Computer Services, Inc., 2010 Rockspring Road, Forest Hill, MD 21050, telephone 301-879-3366.
CRANMER PERKINS BRAILLER
When Tim Cranmer built the first prototype model of the CRANMER PERKINS BRAILLER, it was his goal to give the blind, Braille-reading computer user a hard-copy printout at an affordable price. By combining microprocessor technology with the proven reliability of the Perkins Braillewriter, he met this goal and then some.
The CRANMER PERKINS BRAILLER
(CPB) is really a three-in-one product. First, it allows a blind user to produce hard-copy Braille from whatever computer system it is connected to. The ASCII code is represented in what is becoming known as "computer grade Braille." If the host computer is capable of running a grade II translator, the output can also be printed in the popular grade II Braille.
Second, the CPB serves as a Braille terminal. Unlike paperless Braille devices currently on the market that have from 20 to 40 cell Braille displays, the Cranmer Brailler gives the user the full page. When the CPB is connected to a telephone modem, a blind user can directly access any number of available data bases, and read an entire page at a time.
Finally, the CRANMER PERKINS BRAILLER is still a Braillewriter. With the traditional six-key keyboard, the user can enter Braille characters in any grade Braille desired. One can write either directly on the paper or into the 4K buffer memory. By using the line editor, the user can correct before actually putting the dots on the paper. A cassette tape input/output port at the back allows for transferring of written data to and from the buffer.
The CPB can use any size of single sheet Braille paper. This means that teachers can utilize their APH quota supplied paper supply. For educators, the most popular application to date has been interfacing with the Apple He computer. And while regular text is the most common item to be printed, the CPB also has a graphics mode. This means such things as maps, charts, diagrams, and flow charts can be created and printed on the Cranmer Brailler in raised dot fashion.
For the past several years, Tim Cranmer's original idea has proven to be a benefit to Braille users in education, vocation, and personal use.
THEIL BRAILLE PRINTER/TERMINAL
A full page of braille every nine seconds! Hard to believe if you've ever produced Braille on a slate and stylus or braillewriter. But with the THEIL Brailler Printer/Terminal continuous feed paper can be Braille embossed at a speed of 130 characters per second, or approximately nine seconds a page. Developed and manufactured in West Germany, and distributed and supported in North America by Maryland Computer Services, Inc., the THEIL has quickly earned its place among high-tech products for the blind. About the size of a suitcase, the THEIL serves as both a Braille printer and terminal. When connected to micro, mini, or mainframe computers, it can receive ASCII characters and emboss in either grade 1/computer grade or grade II Braille (depending on whether the host computer system is capable of running a grade II translation program).
As a printer the THEIL is used most often in environments where a large volume of Braille material is needed. School systems with considerable Braille textbook or classroom handout requirements, handicapped student services offices on college campuses, rehabilitation centers for the blind, or materials productions centers are places where you'll likely find a THEIL.
A blind computer programmer who needs to "look" at his program, needs it in a hurry, and wants to read entire pages at a time, can benefit from interfacing his THEIL directly to his host computer. In both education and vocation, a characteristic of the THEIL is "Braille productivity." Smaller and quieter than earlier highspeed Braille printers, the THEIL incorporates microprocessor technology in generating its Braille. Controlled by either the 5-key built in keypad, or a detachable ASCII keyboard, it can easily and quickly be configured to interface with a wide variety of computers.
TOTAL TALK PC
The fourth generation of talking computers for the blind has arrived, and it's the TOTAL TALK PC (TT-PC) from MCS. With the Talking Telphone Directory, the TOTAL TALK and TOTAL TALK II terminals, and the ITS system as its heritage, the TOTAL TALK PC represents the most advanced technology in a computer for the blind and visually impaired.
Based on the powerful Hewlett Packard 150, the TT-PC is a fully integrated talking computer, designed specifically for a blind user - no added on speech box here! With an MS/DOS operating system and 256K internal memory (expandable to 640K), the TT-PC uses either a dual 3 1/2" disk drive, or the Winchester hard disk drive. This gives the user between 1.4 and 14.8 megabytes of disk storage.
Used as a teminal, the TOTAL TALK PC can work with a wide variety of mini and mainframe computers. There's even available a special IBM emulator card that now eliminates the protocol converter box when working as a 3278 terminal. As a stand-alone desk-top computer, the TT-PC can run a wide variety of off-the-shelf software packages. Programs such as WordStar, Condor I and II, Vlsicalc, and Lotus 1-2-3 work fine. Any data that reaches the screen can be spoken out a character, word, line or entire screen at a time by using TOTAL TALK PC's speech pad.
Speech rates from the TT-PC are adjustable by the user up to 720 wpm. This means the blind operator can get through his material as fast as he can listen. Besides this speed capability, the user can reprogram keys to compress multi-key stroke commands into one push of a button, conduct word searches through text with a single key stroke, and tell the computer to jump a given number of lines through material to scan information.
MCS has also written special software specifically for the blind. The popular TIM (Talking Information Manager) program comes with the TT-PC, and allows the blind user to create easily, retrieve, and update data files. Automatic Form Writer lets the blind clerical worker efficiently fill out preprinted forms. The MCS Large Printer Production program gives ink-print hard copy in print sizes ranging anywhere from 1/10" to 2 1/2" tall characters. And the Braille Production package lets even a "Braille illiterate" compare and produce grade II Braille materials. The TOTAL TALK PC is not a toy nor a "fun and games" computer. It is intended for the student or worker who is serious about his computer needs, who needs productivity to compete in the sighted world, and who may have to put in 10-12 hours a day on his computer. MCS supports the TOTAL TALK PC with a full-time customer service and training department. Both Hewlett-Packard and MCS support it with software and hardware accessories that allow the TT-PC to grow with the user.
Manufactured by the DEST Corporation, and marketed in blindness applications by MCS, the READY READER is an optical character reader for typewritten material. When connected to the MCS TOTAL TALK PC (with Scantext software), the READY READER becomes a very special data input device.
The READY READER will recognize 12 popular typewriter fonts or styles, and read an average full-page of text in approximately 2 5 seconds. Mixed fonts on the same page are no problem; neither are columns, colored paper, legal sized paper, or reasonably good copies. The READY READER can alsoautomatically feed up to 75 pages stacked together. For a blind user, READY READER means the typewritten memo, report, correspondence, newsletter, or manual that crosses the desk can be read quickly and independently. For the sighted operator in the same office, READY READER can also be used to input data into the company's data base or word processor without time-cornsumming re-typing. In Braille or large print production centers, the addition of the READY READER to the MCS production system speeds up the entire process and improves productivity beyond its normal level.
As an example, a blind person desiring to read a seventy-five page typewritten manual could read the pages into his READY READER, set his TOTAL TALK PC to terminal mode, press the "read" button on the Reader, and step out for lunch. Thirty minutes later, the manual would be on disk, and accessible through synthetic speech on the TOTAL TALK PC. (Once there, it could also easily be reprinted in large print or Braille.)
READY READER represents a good quality, fast OCR at about one half the price of traditional print reading systems for the blind. It also represents one more barrier down in the area of education and employment for the blind.
THE AUDIODATA/IBM PC KEYBOARD
The AUDIODATA keyboard is a powerful, cost effective and simple way for blind and visually impaired people to gain speech or large print access to the most popular and widely used personal computer available--the IBM PC. Until now, blind or partially sighted people who wanted access to personal computers had only two options--expensive, specially designed and often technologically obscure microcomputers or cheap, low functioning voice box addons. No more. Now with the introduction of the MCS AUDIODATA/IBM PC keyboard, visually impaired people have an inexpensive and powerful means of taking advantage of the many benefits of IBM's family of personal computers.
By simply plugging the specially designed keyboard into any IBM PC or PC/XT, the user gains audio access to the computer. And with the addition of an inexpensive monitor, the computer will display its information up to many times the normal screen size.
The result is access to the full power of the most widely used office computer without the budget breaking price tag that so often accompanies equipment for the visually impaired worker. The power of the AUDIODATA is the power of the IBM PC with virtually all attendent software. In fact, the MCS/AUDIODATA Keyboard runs everything from Visicalc to Wordstar to Lotus 1-2-3. On the job it means sighted and visually impaired employees can share the same work station. The AUDIODATA is economical, easy to work with, and in many cases, can be self taught.