In this weeks Talking Tech for June 2 2020, David celebrates his 30 years at the Royal Blind Society of New South Wales (RBS of NSW) now Vision Australia by discussing some of the tech highlights over his time working as a technology specialist since June 4 1990
With these notes, you get the whole list, enjoy.
Unusual or Meaningful Tech Over the Last 30 years
When I started work for the then RBS of NSW (now Vision Australia) on June 4 1990, my tech on my desk was a Keynote PC Plus based on a Toshiba 1000, a Braille & Speak note taker, and of course a telephone land line.
Tech sitting on my desk 2020 for general everyday stuff, iPhone, wireless charger, Apple Watch, AirPods, QBraille Braille Display, EmBraille Braille Embosser, iPad, phone and tablet stand, MacBook Pro, Magic keyboard, Surface Pro, work Toshiba laptop, Samsung S10, Google Home, Amazon Echo, and HomePod: plus my audio studio setup for podcasting and my radio program.
Ever since I started working in the technology field after being a Social Worker for 4 years as a drug and alcohol counsellor, I have always enjoyed sharing my technology findings and suggestions with others.
In no particular order, this is a list of all the tech that I have personally used for both home and work.
Where some of the tech still exists when it first came out and where it has evolved to now, I’ve put the updated version in both the old and current tech lists.
Interestingly, there are over 10 products that are Assistive Tech related that have lasted the test of time and are in the old and current technology lists.
Where some of the products may not be that well known, I’ve put a short blurb next to each one.
Oddly or not, I wish some of the devices that are no longer around still were, as they did some great specific tasks, for example, The Braille and Speak, and the ABC Courier.
A couple of the products mentioned in the Old Tech list were available before 1990, but they were widely used at the RBS for training and work place assessments, so I’ve stuck them in.
Whilst I loved my Apple IIE with the Echo Synthesiser in the mid 1980’s, I still remember the freedom I felt when I got my first IBM compatible computer with the Artic Business Vision MSDOS screen reader and synthesiser (I could use a much wider range of programs than that compared to the Apple IIE).
In some ways I’ve gone back to Apple (Macs) for home computing (which used to be the name of my BBS by the way), but of course, for education and work as far as screen reading is concerned, it is still Windows and JAWS.
David Woodbridge 2020
1. Old Tech
If you haven’t heard of some of this stuff, use good old Google, should still be some info floating around.
Keynote PC Plus (Toshiba 1000 laptop with KeySoft note taking software and installed speech hardware synthesiser).
Keysoft for MSDOS.
Keysoft across portable devices such as the Voice Note, Keynote Companion, BrailleNote Touch (current today).
Braille & Speak (Braille keyboard based simple note taker with speech). Loved this device as you just turned it on and started taking notes straight away.
Braille Lite (Braille & Speak with a 40 cell Braille Display).
Type & Speak (Braille and Speak with a QWERTY keyboard).
Inca QWERTY Keyboard for MSDOS (with two Braille display lines).
Navigator Braille display for MSDOS.
Artic Business Vision MSDOS screen reader.
Artic Business Vision internal PC speech synthesiser Card.
Artic Transport (you could upload the screen reader to the MSDOS PC from the external speech synthesiser).
Artic Gizmo Pad(an external navigation keypad for Artic Business Vision).
Arctic Winvision Windows screen reader.
I still remember when Windows came on the scene and there was a lot of concern that people who relied on screen reader technology may be left behind, but software like Winvision and others mentioned below came to the party, although it was a bit of a wait.
OutSpoken for Mac for System 6.07, 7 and 8.
I always thought it was great that Outspoken for the Mac used the internal sound for the software speech synthesiser (Fred who is still around today) and did not have to rely on speech synthesiser hardware.
Remember from System 9 until Mac OS 10.4 Tiger, there was no screen reader for the Mac: Outspoken was discontinued and there was no VoiceOver.
OutSpoken for Windows.
Enlarge for Mac (3rd party screen magnification for Mac).
CloseView for Mac (inbuilt screen magnification).
System Zoom is now the inbuilt screen magnification for the Mac.
Double Speak external speech synthesiser that worked with a number of MSDOS screen readers.
Accent SA external speech synthesiser that worked with a number of MSDOS screen readers.
Keynote Gold PCMCIA, PC Card or Keynote Gold external speech synthesiser (had driver to be made available to other screen readers, other than KeySoft or Master Touch).
Master Touch MSDOS screen reader (could read direct video writes, caused quite a few of DOS apps to be accessible out of the box).
Master Touch Touch Tablet (25 line by 80 column tablet for navigating with Master touch cursor).
Apollo external speech synthesiser (mainly designed to work with Hal MSDOS screen reader).
Hal MSDOS screen reader (worked with the Apollo speech Synthesiser).
DECTalk Classic(very large external speech synthesiser).
DECTalk PC (internal speech synthesiser card).
DECTalk Express (external speech synthesiser).
DECTalk Access (software speech synthesiser).
All the DECTalks had lovely speech.
ASAP (As Soon As Possible) MSDOS screen reader.
ASAW ASAP for Windows screen reader).
JAWS For DOS MSDOS screen reader.
JAWS for Windows (current today, Windows screen reader).
Oddly, I never liked the JAWS for DOS screen reader, but absolutely like the Windows version.
Eloquence software speech synthesiser (Made famous when first worked with JAWS For Windows V3.2 when JAWS and Eloquence came on CD).
Eloquence still is my preferred speech for JaWS and is what I use on my Samsung S10.
Vocal-Eyes MSDOS screen reader (could be widely configured, used to configure programs in the work place).
Window-Eyes for Windows, Windows screen reader.
For some odd reason, Window-Eyes was never really widely used in Australia.
Dragon for MSDOS.
Dragon For Windows (current today).
Braille To Print for Perkins Brailler. Take the bottom cover off the Perkins, sit the Perkins on top of the Braille To Print which lined up the Perkins keys to springs on the BP unit: then as you Brailled, the box would translate the Braille in to print and print this out on an attached dot matrix printer.: very nifty and would still be handy today.
Jot A Dot, small portable Braille writer (I was always disappointed how hard it was to produce Braille).
PC Kurzweil OCR Reader (internal PC Card supporting the PCKPR OCR software).
Arkenstone Easy Reader OCR software.
OpenBook for Windows OCR software (current today).
Versa Braille (20 cell Braille note taker using cassette tapes).
Pac Mate note taker with 40 cell Braille Display.
One great thing about the Pac Mate was that you could take out the Pac Mate Braille Display and link it up to your computer whilst still using the Pac Mate as it were as a speech output note taker.
In actual fact, I can still use my Pac Mate Braille Display via UsB on my Mac today.
Braille Blazer, portable embosser.
Rainbow Reader (stand alone OCR reading machine).
Eureka A4 (personal Braille input keyboard note taker). Oddly had a vault metre, and a thermometer.
MountBatten Brailler (Braille Writer, embosser etc current today). The fact you can stick in a QWERTY keyboard, type, and stuff comes out in Braille.
Mimic for MountBatten Brailler, LCD display (current today).
Braille Mate (single Braille cell on a note taker, could not see the point).
Light Probe (detects light source - current today).
ABC Courier (deaf/blind communication device with an Atari computer with a small screen/QWERTY keyboard and an Alva Braille Display all in one device).
TeleBraille (deaf/blind communication device).
Talking keyboard plug in box (made any keyboard speak that was plugged in to it).
Nomad tactile and talking diagrams.
Vista plug in PC screen magnifier for MSDOS, had own mouse.
ViewPoint Split PC/CCTV.
Magic screen magnification for MSDOS.
Magic screen magnification for Windows (no longer being upgraded).
Zoomtext screen magnification for MSDos.
Zoomtext screen magnification for Windows (current today).
Fusion (combining both JAWS For Windows, and Zoomtext For Windows in to one package, current today).
Road Runner (portable text reader).
Book Sense (portable book reader).
Parrot or later Voice Mate (record notes and appointments).
Voice Diary (record notes and appointments).
Olympus DM5 Digital Recorder (with inbuilt speech menus).
Business Memo (voice recorder).
IBM OS 2 Screen Reader for OS 2 and Windows 3.11 with dedicated external number pad keyboard (which could also be programmed).
Home Page Reader (from IBM for reading the web - self voicing application for Windows).
PW WebSpeak (self voicing application for reading the web in Windows).
Narrator for Windows XP screen reader for Windows (used to be joked that this was an example of a screen reader not being a screen reader).
Narrator for Windows 10 (current today and yes it can be termed a screen reader).
Talking Microwave late 90’s LG.
Talking Microwave 2020 Cobolt (current Today).
Talking Caller ID for land line telephone.
Nokia Communicator 9210 with Talks which was also for later Nokia phones.
Nokia N82 and other Nokia’s running Talks and the Symbian operating system.
This was another significant point for me on my tech travels. I went from using a brick mobile phone which did not speak, to the Nokia 9210 which spoke via Talks when you opened it up and used the QWERTY keyboard (the actual phone on the front did not speak), and then the run of Nokia’s (again with Talks) where the phone spoke.
Freedom Box talking interface to Windows - self voicing application, name later changed to System Access Mobile network.
System Access Screen reader for Windows (could also run off a USB stick).
SAToGo (run System Access from a Webpage).
System Access Remote Access Manager (remote Windows PC support).
Guide Connect early 2000 (later sold to Dolphin Systems).
Guide Connect (Dolphin Systems, simple to use menu driven self voicing application offering a number of applications for Windows, current today).
Speaking menus on iPod nano/Shuffle (speech came from PC Windows or Mac).
Talking set top box (Hills Set Top Box).
I can’t remember the name of this, but before land lines had a hands free speaker phone so you could instruct someone over the phone, there was a gadget that you placed the receiver of the phone on and it turned the phone in to a hands free phone for microphone and loud speaker.
2. Current Tech
A few main stream bits and Bobs in here as well.
The first 10 or so products listed below appear in both sections, and whilst they have ben updated or changed, are still around amazingly.
Keysoft across portable devices (current today - BrailleNote Touch).
JAWS for Windows.
JAWS Tandem (part of JaWS but fantastic tool for remote Windows PC support).
Window-Eyes for Windows (this has only recently been discontinued).
Non Visual Desktop (NvDA) screen reader for Windows. Can be completely run as a stand alone screen reader.
Supernova screen reader for Windows (combines Braille, screen reader, and screen magnification).
Dragon For Windows.
OpenBook OCR for Windows.
Mimic for MountBatten.
Magic screen magnification for Windows (no longer being upgraded).
Zoomtext screen magnification for Windows.
Fusion (combining both JAWS For Windows, and Zoomtext For Windows in to one package, current today).
Narrator for Windows 10 (happy to now call it a screen reader smile).
Guide Connect (Dolphin Systems).
Dolphin Pod (use your TV to access entertainment options of Dolphin Guide Connect - plug in box).
Plextalk Pocket daisy player (seems to be no longer available).
Victor Reader Stream (daisy player and all the other things it does).
Victor Reader Trek GPS (plus Victor Reader Stream options).
Envoy Connect (basic daisy player.
Focus 14 and 40 Braille displays.
VoiceOver for Mac from 10.4.
VoiceOver for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple Tv.
We had the nervous times again when we went from MSDOS to Windows, now it was going from mobile phones with keyboards to touch screens. Apple hit the nail wright on the head with VoiceOver and continues to lead the way.
When the first iPhone came out in 2007 with no speech, this perhaps made some folks a bit worried on how long it would take for accessibility to be within the phone.
I’m not 100 percent sure when this came out, but I think in the early 2000’s, there was a Dell PDA that had a rubber overlay keyboard with the Maestro software running with speech output, that allowed a person who was blind to use the touch screen PDA, I always thought the Maestro was pretty cool for what it allowed me to do.
Talkback for Android.
Voice Assistant on Samsung phones/Tablets, and Galaxy Watch.
Synapptic software for Android.
Various iPod nano (latest version had version of VoiceOver on it before device was discontinued).
Various iPod touch.
Various Apple TV.
Various Apple Watch .
I did an unofficial launch of the iPad in Brisbane at a conference in 2010, Apple’s smart home tech at a show in Melbourne in 2015, and the launch of Apple Pay in Australia also in 2015.
Interestingly, when the iPhone 3GS came out with VoiceOver in 2009, that is when I started doing audio demos on the Vision Australia website which then turned in to my podcast iSee feed in 2011.
Various Macs since 2005 at home.
My first Mac was a Mac mini, and I remember complaining to Apple Sydney that I couldn’t play DVD’s on it because the Mac wanted a monitor and I didn’t need a monitor as I was using VoiceOver.
At this point in January 2009, this is when I became an Apple Accessibility Ambassador and still am today.
I still use the Alex software speech synthesiser as it still remains the only speech synthesiser that breaths when it is speaking,, and is what I use when I produce Add to iTunes now Music as a Spoken Track from a document (like this one).
It is interesting how Apple has gone back to the iPhone SE 2020 with the Home button, and adding the physical Escape key back to the MacBook Pro Touch Bar and the much better keyboard with the cursor cross.
At work, as long as I can remember, we have always used Toshiba laptops including my current work Toshiba laptop today.
I have my own Windows Surface Pro for testing.
Magic Trackpads and Magic Keyboards.
Still think it is great that I can use the Magic Keyboard not only with my Mac, but my iOS devices including the Apple TV.
I thought the Magic Trackpad was amazing when it became accessible via VoiceOver with Snow Leopard.
There is just something nice about plonking your iPhone, AirPods or Appel watch on a wireless charger and not having to worry about cables.
Be My eyes and Aira using 2 way video communication via Smart phone for assistance.
Various tablet/phone stands.
Xbox One/One S (with Narrator).
Kindle eBook stand alone Readers.
Samsung Tab One (originally to drive my App driven coffee machine in 2017 as the iOS version of the app was not accessible).
Samsung Galaxy S10 smart phone.
Smart TVS (Samsung in particular).
RIVO keyboard (custom keyboard to navigate mobile platforms for iOs/VoiceOver, Android/Talks, and
Orbit Reader 20 (first cost effective Braille Display).
Brailliant BI14 small Braille Display.
ElBraille Windows 10 docking station with a Focus 14 or 40 Braille Display.
Sort of reminds me of the Pac Mate in some ways.BrailleSense U2 (Braille note taker).
InsideOne Windows Braille Tablet with 32 cell Braille Display.
A unique take on a Braille note taker as the Braille input keys are moulded in to the glass as well as the controls.
Tap With Us Wearable Keyboard supporting VoiceOver for iOS.
Dot Watch (smart Braille watch).
Sunu Band (wearable sonar device for O&M).
Mini guide (hand held sonar O&M device).
Buzz Clip (attach to clothing or cane sonar O&M device).
O6 (navigate iOS with VoiceOver).
Orcam OCR etc wearable device.
Accessible Radio (Sangean Accessible Radio).
Accessible charging Power Bank (Energrid).
Large print USB keyboards black/white, white/black, yellow/black.
Code Jumper from APH for teaching coding.
Swift Playgrounds on iPad/Mac for teaching coding.
3D printing (Ballyland 3D objects to teach coding).
Dash robots for Swift Playgrounds
Tello Edu Drones for Swift Playgrounds.
Bose Frames (3D Audio Reality sun glasses).
Bone Conduction Head Phones (AfterShokz).
ID Mate stand alone Bar code scanner.
QBraille braille display and BT keyboard.
ViewPlus EmBraille, portable embosser.
Amazon Echo Dot, Echo Plus, and Echo Show.
Google Home, Google Mini, and original Google Hub.
Olitech EasyFlip 4G Feature Mobile Phone with speech/physical keyboard.
Smart Vision 2 Android phone with speech/physical keyboard.
Smart Home Tech: for example, AC Controller for Split AC, video doorbell, switch’s, weather sensors, vacuum cleaner etc.
Tile Tag Tracking devices.
Beyond the usual assistive tech of screen readers. Screen magnifiers, Braille displays, Braille note takers, reading machines or OCR software etc etc, the devices that have stood out for me have been (and a few add ins here):
Outspoken for Mac,
Braille & Speak,
The ABC Courier,
Artic Business Vision/Winvision,
IBM OS/2 Screen Reader,
Nomad Tactile Talking Diagrams,
Arkenstone Easy Reader/OpenBook,
Victor Reader Stream,
Victor Reader Trek,
Talks for Symbian,
Talkback for Android/Voice Assistant for Samsung,
Speaking menus in iPod nano,
VoiceOver for Mac, iOS, Apple Watch, and Apple TV,
Hardware MacBooks, iPhones, iPads, Apple TV, and Apple Watch,
Olitech 4G Easy Flip Phone,
Magic keyboards and Magic Trackpad,
App Store’s for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows,
Tap With Us wearable keyboard,
Sunu Band and Mini Guide,
AfterShokz Bone Conduction head phones,
JAWS For Windows and Eloquence,
Narrator for Windows 10,
Smart TVS (mainly Samsung),.
Be My Eyes and Aira,
Wireless charging, and
Tile Tracking Tags.
For me, I think the main technology
Microsoft Windows 3.1 access (keeping in mind Outspoken had been out for a while for Macs) mid 1990’s.
Mobile and Smart phone access in the 2000’s (Talks for Synbian and VoiceOver for iPhone) plus VoiceOver for the Mac in 2005, and
Smart speakers and Smart home tech in 2010-2020.
Things we still need to conquer:
On going message and change for accessibility across mobile/desktop apps, and the huge one, the web.
Access to self service kiosks.
Accessibility in white goods.
Accessible EFTPOS terminals (Apple Pay sort of gets around this).
An accessible Foxtel cable box in Australia.
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