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.)


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday Object: The Edison Voice Writer

Edison Voice Writer
 Our object this week was found in storerooms at the Delaware County Workers for the Blind in Muncie, Indiana in 2013.  Office dictation equipment was used by professional stenographers who were blind or visually impaired to type documents for others, and also by blind professionals to record letters, notes, or any other material they wished to archive.  The machine stored its recording on a red seven inch “Edison Diamond Disc” which could also be played back on a standard phonograph.  Disc-cutting systems such as the Voice Writer, Sound Scriber, and Dictaphone began to decline in popularity in the 1960s, replaced by tape based systems.

The case was designed for Edison by Carl Otto and introduced in 1952.  If you have never heard of Otto, he was one of the most influential industrial designers of the twentieth century.  He designed soda fountain dispensers for Coca-Cola and electric shavers for Schick.  His Edison Voice Writer design, with its rectangular, gray-brown cast aluminum chassis, and bright aluminum trim won a national award from the Industrial Designers Institute. 

Otto supposedly said in 1945, "We create beauty for useful purposes...not for museums."  But in this case, I guess he was wrong…

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Throwback Thursday Object: Metal "Stampers" for Vinyl Phonograph Record Production

APH started record production of spoken word “talking books” in 1936. Audio books back then came on black vinyl 33 1/3 rpm phonograph records.   The process was fascinating, labor-intensive, and pretty dirty. 

This “stamper”—of which we have quite a few—is an example of just how dirty it could get.  After the acetate or “wax” disk was cut on a machine called a recording lathe, the disk was dipped into a nasty brew in our metal plating shop and zapped with electricity.  A thin coat of nickel silver gradually built up on the outside.  The acetate was peeled away from the resulting stamper and recycled, and the metal stamper was washed thoroughly to get rid of the chemicals.   You made two stampers for each phonograph record, one for side A and one for side B.  

The photograph from 1936 shows the stampers in the jaws of one of our original record presses.  Our last rigid vinyl disc was pressed on May 8, 1987 for a recording of “Those Days," a 1986 family memoir by Richard Critchfield.

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.