Dr. Bliss on Optacons

From: Bill Gerrey (bilge@skivs.ski.org)
Date: Fri Feb 16 1996 - 12:26:21 PST

>From JBliss@aol.com Tue Feb 13 16:34:12 1996
To: bilge@skivs.ski.org
Subject: Fwd: Returned mail: Cannot send message for 3 days
As you can see, I had trouble sending the forwarded message to you and the
list. What did I do wrong?
Jim Bliss
   ----- Original message follows -----
To: nfb-rd@lothlorien.nfbcal.org
Dear Bill,
You are correct about the threshold adjust problem with the Optacon II. As
you know, the Optacon threshold adjustment is very critical and small changes
allow maximum information to be teased out of the image. In the RID and
earlier models of the Optacon, the threshold adjust was analog. In the first
models of Optacon II shipped too few bits were used in the threshold adjust
A/D converter When I first became aware of this I insisted that Canon
increase the number of bits, which they did. However, it is still not as
good as the analog version.
With respect to the number of pixels in the tactile image, I think the 144
(24 by 6) pixels in the R1D and earlier Optacons is superior to the 100 (20
by 5) in the Optacon IIs. I suspect the extra 4 rows help catch decenders
(which don't occur in Japanese) and tests I conducted indicate that the extra
column can increase reading rate as much as 20%.
I think there is a chance something can be done about the demise of the
Optacon. From a business standpoint, it doesn't make sense for anyone to
:continue the manufacture if the expense of transitioning the manufacture from
TSC and upgrading the design to correct these problems has to be paid for out
of sales revenues. However, if funds were available from government or
private sources (domestic and international) then I believe the project could
be done. A first step in making this happen would be to develop some
evidence of the need and demand.
I would be willing to see that any letters from blind people urging Optacon
redesign and continued manufacture get to possible funding sources.
Jim Bliss
Dear Jim,
I'll try to send it; we'll see if it goes.
Thanks for the comments. I don't know if you read my first
comment; we should go hunting and retrieve old units for
rehabilitation. Richard Oehm, (408) 971-6250, has a proven
record of making good ones out of dead scraps. Although he is
busy as a birddog with his TV equipment bizz, he could train a
couple technicians to put old Optacons back on the air.
One question you might be able to answer is, "Where are they?"
The cupboard shelves are unknown to many of us, but we suspect
that they are there.
 Anyhow, given the world-wide market of restructuring factories,
maybe in eastern Europe even, Optacons will "rise again" if we
show enough interest.
Cordially, Bill Gerrey

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