Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Thursday, February 01, 2018

Throwback Thursday Object: the VersaPoint Duo Braille Embosser

Technology is changing so quickly.  Today’s modern miracle becomes a dusty paperweight almost overnight.  Our museum tries to save these dinosaurs, but the pace of obsolescence and even extinction is so rapid that it is often unclear what is a significant technological landmark and what is an abandoned rabbit hole.  Our object this month, a VersaPoint Duo braille embosser from 2000, turned out to be much more interesting than I initially thought, so I am feeling vindicated about all the other dusty paperweights!
The VersaPoint had its origins in the work of Canadian inventor Roland Galarneau (1922-2011).  I had never heard of Galarneau, but I found an online exhibit that tells his story.  Galarneau, blind himself, completed the first version of his "Converto-Braille" device by 1972, essentially a computer linked to an electric typewriter that could translate print into braille.  In 1982, Galerneau sold the manufacturing rights to his second generation model to Telesensory in California.  Telesensory introduced its version as the VersaPoint braille embosser in 1986.  There were eventually several models.  The "Duo" could emboss braille on both sides of the page, known as interpointing.  In the spring of 1998, Blazie Engineering purchased the blindness (and braille) products of Telesensory, including the VersaPoint. Our example was manufactured under Deane Blazie’s nameplate, although he in turn sold the line to Freedom Scientific in 2001.

Photo Caption: The Versapoint Duo Braille Embosser, a dark gray steel rectangle with controls on the right and a central slot for tractor fed paper to enter on the front.
Micheal Hudson
Museum Director, APH

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Throwback Thursday Object: More 160th Anniversary Materials and Information


January 25, 2018
This week the Printing House celebrated the 160th anniversary of our founding in January, 1858.  But that date recognizes the formal charter issued to the company by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  Our object celebrates the fulfilment of that charter, when the company actually embossed its first tactile pages in 1866.  This engraved print was published in the March 5, 1864 edition of the Scientific American Magazine.  It illustrates a unique iron printing press, designed by famed designer Stephen P. Ruggles, specifically for APH.  The disruptions caused by the Civil War delayed any actual work on the press until an experimental edition of “A Book of Stories and Fables for Children” by the English writer John Gay was embossed in 1866.

Photo caption:  Engraving on paper of a four-legged iron printing press, with a large, spoked fly-wheel in the foreground connected by gears to a central cylinder.
Micheal Hudson
Museum Director, APH

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Throwback Thursday Object: Early Talking Book Studio Microphone

Our object this week is an original microphone used in the recording studio at APH from around 1940.  APH began recording talking books for the National Library Service in 1937.  The omnidirectional dynamic microphone was developed at Bell Labs in the late 1920s. Western Electric developed this “mic” in the late 1930s that was omnidirectional to 15 kHz. Called the 630A, it was better known as the “Eight-Ball,” resembling a black billiard ball used on a pool table.  The "acoustic baffle assembly,” the round grill mounted on top of the body of the microphone, converted an omnidirectional mic into a semi-directional mic useful for studio work at APH. 

Caption, Western Electric “8-ball” microphone.
Micheal Hudson
Museum Director, APH

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