Boyd had to go to a meeting in about ten minutes, but before he left for the meeting, he had to check his inbox for an important message. If the message was there, Boyd and Kristal would be on their way to an international conference in October to present the findings of an evaluation he was conducting with some computer access technology for the blind. Boyd sat down at his computer, held down the left Windows key and pressed the letter M. This brought the desktop to the forefront, and Boyd pressed the letter I to move to the Inbox Icon. He pressed enter and Microsoft Outlook was loaded into memory, and he waited to hear the chimes that signaled he had new mail. Until very recently, he had always used the Procomm software package to access the old DHCP and Forum electronic mail system, but this new system was just like the Internet access he used at home. Boyd heard the chimes, and he received a note from the presentation coordinator for the Closing the Gap Conference on Technology in Special Education and Rehabilitation. Boyd pressed enter, and the following message came on the screen. Hello Netwatcher@med.va.gov, I wanted to send you this message and formally invite you to present your paper; "Hanging Ten on the Internet Wave", at our conference in Minneapolis. The conference starts on the Third Wednesday in October and goes until that Saturday afternoon. If you are interested, please send me a confirmation message. Once I have the confirmation, I will send you specific conference information. Boyd held down the Alt key and pressed function key 4 to exit the message, and then, he held down the control key and pressed the letter R to reply to the invitation. After he typed the message accepting the invitation, he held down the Alt key and pressed the letter F to bring up the file menu. At the "Send" menu choice, he pressed enter, and the message was propelled towards Minneapolis, MN. Boyd tried to get Kristal on the cell phone, but there was no answer. He went back to the computer, held down the control key and pressed the letter N to create a new message. At the "To" field, he typed Kristal's email address at UAB. He pressed the tab key twice, and at the "Subject" field, he typed "Letís go to Minneapolis". He pressed the tab key one more time and typed the message to Kristal. When he was done, he held down the Alt key and pressed the letter F to bring up the file menu. At the "send" menu choice, he pressed enter, and the message was sent to Kristal. Since he was done with Microsoft Outlook, he held down the Alt key and pressed function key 4, and the program was unloaded from the computer memory.

It was later that same afternoon, and Professor Julio Costa had just completed his meeting with the Director of the Blind Rehabilitation Center, BRC, in Birmingham, Alabama. He was very impressed with the available services and training for blind people to maximize their skills. He was at the BRC to gain specific information to start a computer training program at the Brazilian Technical Institute, BTI, in Belem, Brazil. He made his way to room Z720, and as he looked into the room, he saw a man working at a computer. He cleared his throat and introduced himself to Boyd Carson. Carson stood up and shook Costa's hand. The man facing Costa was about 6 foot 2, 200 pounds with short dark hair and piercing hazel eyes. There was a bit of grey in his mustache and temples. He had on jeans, and Costa smiled as he read the "Technology, No place for wimps" patch that was on the manís shirt. Costa said he was at the SBRC to get information about computer access technology, and he was told Boyd could introduce him to a variety of equipment. Costa apologized up front that he was not knowledgeable in these areas and hope Boyd would be tolerant. Boyd started his introduction by discussing the concept of Optical Character Recognition, OCR, and Boyd said some people may use the generic term of reading machine to describe these systems. These devices often consist of a flat bed scanner which looks like a copy machine. Printed materials are placed print side down on the flat bed, and a picture or image is made of the printed material. The picture or image is analyzed by the artificial intelligent software and determines whether the letters are an "A, B, or C". These letters and words are sent to a speech system, and the letters and words are spoken to the blind person. It is very similar to the human vision/voice system. Our eyes look at print on paper, and these images are sent to our organic RAM, brain, where they are processed and interpreted. After the information is process, it is sent to the human speech box, and the letters and words are spoken. Carson demonstrated the OCR process, and Costa was amazed how accurate the machine read the print. He asked if these machines could read hand writing, and Boyd said, at this point, they can't, but who knows what the future holds.

 

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