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.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)



Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cranmer Modified Perkins Brailler

Our object this week is one of the first commercially available personal braille printers aimed at the home market. Although researchers had introduced braille printers such as the MIT Braillemboss as early as 1969, they were expensive, balky, and unaffordable for individual consumers.  The Cranmer, priced at under $3,000, could be connected to a home computer and used as a braille embosser or used as an electric braillewriter. It was the last project of Tim Cranmer, as Director of Technical Services for the Kentucky Department of the Blind, and engineered by Wayne Thompson. 

The prototype of this device was the Kentucky Modified Perkins Brailler, developed in 1981-82, basically a manual Perkins Brailler stacked on a chassis full of electronics. The Cranmer Modified Perkins Brailler was its direct commercial successor—introduced in 1983--and included a lot of plastic parts to lessen the weight. Over 1,000 units were sold by Maryland Computer Services (which later became Blazie Engineering). About 30 units were also built by the local Louisville Telephone Pioneers Group. 

A big limitation was paper loading: you had to load your paper one page at a time. Later home embossers used tractor fed paper similar to dot matrix printers used in the print world. The operator’s manual was written by our late colleague Fred Gissonni, and has a good walkthrough if you’re interested in all that the machine could do.

Terrence “Tim” Cranmer was an interesting guy and a true pioneer. His obituary tells you everything you need to know.

No comments:

Subscribe to receive posts via email

* indicates required

Browse Articles by Subject

Follow us on Twitter


Write for us

Your input and support in the evolution of Fred's Head are invaluable! Contact us about contributing original writing or for suggestions for updating existing articles. Email us at


The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the Fred's Head articles; however, APH makes no warranty, guarantee, or promise, expressed or implied, concerning the content or accuracy of the information provided in Fred's Head. APH does not endorse any technique, product, device, service, organization, or other information presented in Fred's Head, other than products and services directly offered by APH.

The products produced by the American Printing House for the Blind are instructional/teaching materials and are intended to be used by trained professionals, parents, and other adults with children who are blind and visually impaired. These materials are not intended as toys for use by children in unstructured play or in an unsupervised environment.

The information and techniques contained in Fred's Head are provided without legal consideration (free-of-charge) and are not warranted by APH to be safe or effective. All users of this service assume the risk of any injury or damage that may result from the use of the information provided.

Information in Fred's Head is not intended as a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Consult your physician before utilizing information regarding your health that may be presented on this site. Consult other professionals as appropriate for legal, financial, and related advice.

Fred's Head articles may contain links to other websites. APH is not responsible for the content of these sites.

Fred's Head articles created by APH staff are (C) copyright American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. You must request permission from APH to reprint these articles. Email to request permission.

Any submissions to Fred's Head should be free of copyright restrictions and should be the intellectual property of the submitter. By submitting information to Fred's Head, you are granting APH permission to publish this information.

Fair Use Notice: This website may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright holder(s). This site is operated on the assumption that using this information constitutes 'fair use' of said copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law.

Opinions appearing in Fred's Head records are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Printing House for the Blind.