Self-introduction & pointers to some information sources

From: Joe Sullivan (
Date: Tue Jul 30 1996 - 13:14:09 PDT

Thanks to John Miller for inviting me to join this list; I'm
looking forward to doing a lot of listening as well as making
a contribution when it seems appropriate.

My company, Duxbury Systems, Inc., has been making software
for braille for a long time now (21 years), and braille for
scientific and engineering purposes has been a subject of
interest for almost that whole time. We did a table for
print-to-braille translation of full Nemeth Code
back in 1985, for instance, and have supported
several other math/science codes as well, at various times.
Still, a persistent question has been: what, really, are
we to translate FROM? Sure, LaTeX, various SGML DTD's (most
recently the now-discarded HTML 3.0), ad-hoc coding
languages such as the one we used in 1985, or the "equation
editors" of various word processors all have their good
and bad points, serving some purposes and people well and
others less well. The point is: the print world hasn't
really got its act together for math and science notation
yet either, and that inevitably impacts the chances for
building useful bridges to braille. Has anyone noticed that
neither Netscape nor Microsoft's Internet Explorer as
bothered to put in math rendering? Yes, it is true that
no HTML with math tags has been officially adopted (HTML 3.0
was just experimental), but that hasn't stopped those major
Web Browsers from adding all sorts of nonstandard "extensions"
for the purpose of fancy eye-catching stuff on screen. But
still no math -- commercially, it just doesn't sell. All
of which is a darned shame.

Nevertheless, ever optimistic, I think things are about to
get better. The work Dave Schleppenbach reported on is one
indication. And HTML 3.0 may be gone, but a later edition
with math is in the works, and maybe this time it'll stick.

A small aside, following up the point John Miller made about
getting Web documents into braille: our latest version of the
Duxbury Braille Translator does import HTML (under the
SGML/ICADD filter).

If any of you want to know more about Duxbury, we're on the
Web at

It is also possible to join a list of Duxbury users or
prospective users, by sending just the message

  subscribe duxuser

to the address: <>.

Putting on another hat, I am also involved in several BANA
committees, including the committee on Computer Braille Code,
and am chairman of one of the committees (Committee II, the
basic design committee) of the ICEB research project to
explore a Unified Braille Code. UBC has its goal the bringing together of both technical codes (or actually all four, counting
the very different BAUK codes) with the literary braille code.
In other words, we are already trying to address Paul Price's
point, so that the code for computer notation is the same
as that for math and chemistry -- and both are just logical,
consistent extensions to literary code. No relearning! But
of course there are controversies, as surely many of you are
aware. If you'd like to learn more about UBC, there are
two documents available: (1) a rather technical Committee
II report of March 1995, and (2) a more easily read
"Introduction to UBC" that I wrote earlier this year. (A
version of the "Intro", leaving out some of the examples
in more advanced technical notation, recently appeared in
the Braille Monitor.) These are rather too long to send
directly to a list like this, but I expect soon to put
them up on the Web, and will announce here when they're ready.
In the meantime, if anyone wants one or both, I would be
glad to send e-mail in your favorite electronic format:
WordPerfect 6, any Duxbury format, or ASCII formatted braille
in 32- or 40-cell page width. (Please send any requests to
me at <> or <>. I'm
away a lot -- including the rest of this week -- so replies
can sometimes be delayed.)

Another way to learn about, and moreover participate in, the
UBC project is to become an observer on one or more of the
working committees, all of which work mainly through list
servers. Committee I (on comparing BANA and BAUK codes) has
finished, but the others are still in session. They are:

II - Extension of the Base Code (Basic Design)(currently
  we're on Chemistry and related subjects)
III - Contractions
IV - Foreign languages (in English context)
V - Format
VI - Rules-writing

To obtain permission to observe on any or all committees (a
formality -- no one has ever been turned down), you should
e-mail the chairperson of the U.S. delegation to ICEB, who not
coincidentally is the chairperson of BANA, namely:

  Dolores Ferrara-Godzieba <>

Of course, you can also contact either me at the e-mail
address given above, or the chairperson of the UBC project,
Darleen Bogart, at <>, or the
President of ICEB, Joan Ledermann, c/o
<>, with any questions or comments.

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