RNIB, London

November 14 1980

I visited the RNIB Computing centre in London at the invitation of their chief systems analyst to discuss the possibility of co-operating in exchanges of machine-readable text. The RNIB now produce all new Braille titles on their GEC-based computer system. About half a dozen people are employed typing into terminals in the normal way, but they have also been using a KDEM (indistinguishable from ours) for the last six months. One copy of the text is pre-edited (i.e. marked up for homonyms, paragraph markers etc.), while another is scanned by the KDEM. Quite a lot of pre-editing is done directly on the KDEM as the text is scanned. The resulting text is then processed by a program developed at Warwick called DOTSYS. This outputs the text in a format which can be displayed as braille on a specially built terminal for further editing and is ultimately used to produce the zinc plates from which braille books are still embossed. The KDEM, I was told, worked far too fast for the DOTSYS processor to keep up, though it greeted my arrival by going into 'Panic' mode amidst familiar cries of "Where's Paul?”; judging by the amount of error correction going on on the braille terminal DOTSYS has shortcomings additional to its slowness. Of course the KDEM is only used on modern printed English texts (mostly pulp romances etc.).

We discussed copyright problems and agreed to exchange lists and other information; particular interest was expressed in database systems - they were considering Rapport - and in the possibility of using publisher's tapes as the basis of a new Braille dictionary.