That's what we heard for years when we told people our headquarters was in Stuart, Florida. After we moved a few miles north to Jensen Beach in 1997, we knew we'd probably keep right on hearing it. We're so low key that many people don't realize we're actually one of the oldest companies in access technology.
We began in the late sixties in Rochester, New York, when three recent college grads decided to build a crude embosser to help out a blind classmate. "Crude" means, among other things, that the medium of choice was strips of paper tape. Joe Sullivan of Duxbury Systems recalls seeing this machine at a conference around 1969 as one of several of that era based on teletype machines.
By the early seventies, the three friends were in business in Stuart, Florida, as "Triformation Systems, Inc." Their first enduring success was the LED-120 Braille printer, which was manufactured for over 10 years. An LED-120 could produce a page of Braille in about 8 seconds. Though not always user-friendly, these machines proved very durable and served out a long life at many major Braille publishing houses.
Around 1980, we developed the Plate Embossing Device Model 30, which changed Braille production forever. Until the PED came along to read computer files and stamp Braille dots into heavy zinc, the plates from which Braille books are pressed were prepared by hand in an extremely slow and labor-intensive process. Despite the fact that it generates the force of a ten-ton press and costs $85,000 in 1996 dollars, the PED was a must-have technological advance for Braille publishing houses all over the world. To this day it is standard equipment at every large Braille publisher producing books for the Library of Congress. If you read Braille from your regional library, you've seen the PED's work in the millions of pages that have been pressed from its plates.
Long-time observers will recall that although Triformation experimented with a speech terminal, a telephone modem, and even a small computer with a Braille display and cassette storage (the MicroBrailler), the connection with Braille production proved strongest and led to the founding of Triformation Braille Service. Now flourishing as an independent not-for-profit organization, the Braille service (now named Braille International and still nearby in Stuart) is one of the largest Braille producers in the US.
In the eighties, Triformation had a name change, too--to "Enabling Technologies"--and another breakthrough product, the Romeo Braille Printer. Priced at less than half of many competing products and built in a convenient carrying case, Romeo developed a fierce and loyal following due to its trademark Braille quality and astonishing durability. (It's astonishing even to us; we have seen Romeos that still Braille perfectly even after being 25% crushed in shipping, although obviously we recommend that you do not try this at home).
The nineties were a decade of rapid advances, starting in 1990 with the Braille BookMaker. An immediate hit, BookMaker enabled consumers to produce interpoint Braille on a machine costing less than $10,000 and small enough to fit in a home office.
A few years later, we developed Juliet, with its reliable, high-quality interpoint for under $4,000. Next came TranSend, a control unit that places Braille and small or large print together, line by line, on Braille paper.
In 1996, we developed PrestoBraille, our industrial-strength signmaker, for 3M Corporation, and evolved ET, from the original Juliet. (It's faster with--at 40 characters--a narrower line). We created ET Speaks, our DoubleTalk-compatible speech. ET Speaks automatically vocalizes embosser commands, works with screen-reading software to make your computer talk, and even plays audio files of all kinds of sounds in the popular WAV format, making Braille embossers easier to use--and more fun--for people with all levels of computer experience. ET Speaks is now standard on BookMaker, Braille Express 100, Braille Express 150, Juliet Pro, Juliet Pro 60 and Romeo Pro 50. It's also an option for our single-sided desktop embosser, Thomas.
Next we added Dynamic Braille Scaling at no additional cost to several of our embossers so customers can Braille in different popular sizes, such as Jumbo, California sign Braille, Japanese, or with extra line spacing, by keying in a simple command. We also redesigned the case for Thomas, ET, and Juliet, based on customer requests for a lid which allows access to the keypad at all times yet muffles more noise. We added even higher resolution graphics for more detailed and precise Braille "pictures".
Working with library authorities in the United Kingdom along with Duxbury Systems, we enjoyed developing "Dotty Moon," a factory-installed option for our embossers. Now it is possible to mass-produce documents in the Moon tactile type face using graphical Braille dots to compose Moon character shapes. Moon Type was previously reproduced using hand-cut copper letterforms in an extremely labor-intensive process. Thus, although Moon is famously easy to learn, the limited quantity of materials to read has kept readers' numbers small. Speeding up Moon production with computer embossers should help Moon readers enjoy a much greater variety.
Over the last several years, we've enlarged our machine shop to increase the percentage of embosser parts we make ourselves. This has been so successful that our machine shop is actually doing work for other companies using our extra capacity.
As for embossers, our newest product in personal-sized embossers is the Romeo Pro 50--easily our fastest Romeo ever--with ET Speaks and Single Sheet Feed Tractors as standard equipment. BraillePlace, a large, production-class embosser, was new for 2002. In 2003, we began marketing Gemini, a one-pass print/Braille embosser from Nippon Telesoft that fills a unique niche in access technology.
In 2004, we introduced the Romeo Attaché and Attaché Pro, which have Romeo Braille quality in the smallest physical package yet--under 17 pounds!
People with vital Braille expertise have always known how to find us. In fact, many of them now work here. Nearly one-fifth of our employees came to us with years of experience from other Braille-oriented businesses, agencies and institutions.