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, June 29, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Celebrating Helen Keller

Our objects each week run from the humble to the sublime.  This week is a bit of both.  I was looking through our collection to see what we could feature in celebration of Helen Keller’s 137th birthday on June 27th.  This is a zinc embossing plate that we used back in 1957 to emboss a letter from Helen promoting the “Jewish Braille Review,” a magazine that the Jewish Braille Institute of America had begun publishing in 1932.  It was a contract job the Printing House did for the Institute, but it also shows how supportive Helen Keller was of all sorts of social causes.  That was the humble part and here is the sublime.  Most American only think of little Helen at the water pump, but her adult life was so much more interesting.  She lent her name and her influence to a variety of causes, here just promoting a braille magazine.  I encourage everyone to read one of her modern biographies this week and remember her as a fighter for labor, for equal rights, and for social justice. Photo Captions:  #1, Zinc Embossing Plate used in a clamshell press to add braille to a print reproduction of a letter by Helen Keller. #2, Copy of the original letter by Helen Keller promoting the Jewish Braille Review 
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Quick Tip: Braille Tales. By enrolling in the Braille Tales Print/Braille Book Program, participating families receive six free print/braille books each year until the child reaches his/her 6th birthday.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Razmara Compass

When an observant Muslim worshipper prays, he/she faces in the direction of the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.  It is a sign of unity.  Before the common use of GPS technology, how did the worshipper determine that direction, called the Qibla, when outside a mosque or home?  They used a compass, of course.  Our object this week is an adapted compass. In 1952, the Iranian Hossein Ali Razmara invented a new compass to determine the direction of Mecca.   The new compass was also adapted for use by the blind in this "contact" model. It is small, only about 2 inches in diameter.  The face is open, so that the magnetic needle can be felt. Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Rainbow Peg Board

Our object this week is a solitaire game manufactured in the 1940s by the Albany Association for the Blind in New York.  If you’ve ever been to Cracker Barrel, it is a lot like the peg game they leave on all the tables, but much more difficult.  The board is a green octagon with thirty-three holes drilled in it, each filled with a colored wooden peg.  On our version someone has numbered the holes in pencil, one through thirty-three.  To start the game, you remove one of the pegs at random, then you can “jump” any peg by moving an adjacent peg over it to a vacant hole, removing the jumped peg.  Like the Cracker Barrel game, the object is to have a single peg left at the end.
Photo caption: The Rainbow Peg Board and its colorful box.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Klein Pin Type--Another Method for Writing Tactile Letters

Johann Wilhelm Klein (1765-1848) founded the Blindeninstitut Wien (Vienna Institute for the Blind) in 1804.  We tend to focus on the inventions of the French—and they were significant! —but the Austrians and Germans made important early contributions to education for people who were blind too.  Around 1807 Klein developed pin-type, a portable device allowing the user to emboss capital letters of the Latin alphabet by piercing the paper with needles arranged on a block. With some difficulty, the method could be read both by touch and sight.  Eventually Klein pin-type boxes were also manufactured and used in other European countries and the U.S.  It is a flat wooden box, hinged on one side, a wooden grid in the base holds metal types, each with a raised letter on one end and a series of needles in the rough shape of the letter on the other.  A frame in the lid is hinged to lift up so a piece of paper can be inserted between the frame and a wool pad.  The frame keeps the lines of your type neat and straight.
This example came from the l'Institution des Jeunes Aveugles in Still, France.  That school was founded in 1895.  Although not marked, it is identical to a second example from that school which featured Blindeninstitut Wien markings.  The three accented vowels suggest it is a German language box.  French language sets include many more accented vowels.  The town of Still is located in the much fought-over region of Alsace-Lorraine, which was controlled by Germany between 1871 and 1918.  As with so many other writing tools, the invention of the typewriter made inventions like this obsolete.
Photo Captions: #1 Wooden case of pin type; #2 Detail of the alloy types, with raised letter on top, and needles on bottom.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: The Apple Talking Literacy Kit

Our object this week celebrates the first computer software produced by the American Printing House for the Blind, the Talking Apple Literacy Kit, published in 1986.  Today, we know Larry Skutchan as the head of our TPR—Technology Product Research—area, but back in the mid-1980s, he was just another whiz kid we had hired to dip our toe into microcomputing.  Larry had done a lot of pioneering work on voice synthesis and word processing, so it was only natural that we put him to work on talking software.  The Apple IIe computer was pretty advanced for its time, and worked well with early voice synthesis modules like the Echo.  Larry reminded me this morning that computers were new to just about everybody, even the most basic concepts, like how to turn the thing on.  The Literacy Kit introduced new computer users to the mouse, and the idea of a cursor that you could move around a block of text to edit or insert new material. It included some games, like Dragon Maze and Space Invaders.   The manual came on two audio cassettes and in braille, and the programs were written on three black plastic “floppy disks,” each of which could hold about 1 megabyte of data.  By comparison, most people carry around phones today that can hold 32,000 megabytes, and those are the most basic models!
Photo caption:  The Talking Apple Literacy Kit came in a blue three-ring binder with pockets for disks and cassettes. The first photo is the outer binder; the second is a shot with it opened to show the diskettes.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

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