Braille Printing in the Age of Computing, 1972-1989

Galarneau Printer, Model BT-120, CSTM artifact no. 1994.0205.001

Galarneau Printer, 2nd generation, c.1982

The Converto-Braille significantly facilitated the production of braille textbooks and by 1976, Cyphihot-Galarneau Services was providing free braille text-books to students who were blind or partially-sighted. In 1978, the company signed a contract with the Department of Education in Quebec to continue producing braille textbooks across the province. The year 1978 was also when the company was awarded another large grant, which enabled them to replace the Converto-Braille with computers from the Montreal company Tortue.  The program of the Converto-braille was transferred onto computer chips, an innovation that leant to much more sophisticated designs in the following years.[1]

By the early 1980s, a new version of the Converto-Braille was developed. This device, which could be easily hooked up to a computer keyboard, acted as a braille terminal that enabled people to access a variety of data banks and receive a print-out of the desired information, transcribed in braille. Pictured here, this new model consisted of a rectangular, blue-plated box with a red switch and a red, square fuse button positioned in front, below where the paper with the transcribed braille would emerge from a black slit opening. In 1982, a California-based company Telesensory System Inc., purchased the rights from Galarneau to construct the machine. By 1986, the printer was distributed globally as the Versapoint Printer.[2]  

The Converto-Braille experienced another transformation in 1989, when the Converto program was updated and adapted for PC computers. As a pamphlet for Cypihot-Galarneau Services described it, the new program was “a Braille environment for PC computers. Specially designed for users who are not familiar with braille, it functions both as a wordprocessing program and braille transcription software.”[3]  

[1] Cypihot-Galarnea Services, “SCBCG: 1970-1990 Converto Braille” (pamphlet), Canadian Science and Technology Museum Library and Archives, Ottawa, ON.

[2] Printer, Model BT-120, artifact no. 1994.0205.001, Canadian Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa ON, Canada.

[3] Cypihot-Galarnea Services, “SCBCG: 1970-1990 Converto Braille” (pamphlet)