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Medical Electronics

Reading Aid for the Blind

A project was funded by the Veteran's Administration to design a reading aid for the blind, due to the large number of blinded veterans.  Grandpa and a young Captain recently discharged from the Army, Win Pike, designed and tested a reading aid.  It had a stylus which contained a scanner consisting of a light source, a vibrating mirror, and a photocell.  The scanner scanned vertically, while the operator scanned horizontally by running it along printed text.  An oscillator was amplitude modulated by the output of the photocell and frequency modulated by the position of the scanning spot.  This created chirping sounds that were unique to each letter. 

The best test operator was a man named Joe Piechowski, from Morrisville, PA.  Piechowski was blinded at age 6, and having attended special schools for the blind, and worked in the rubber and metalworking industries, was quite mechanically adept.  He was only partially successful at best with the reading aid, so the conclusion was made that the technology was not mature enough to release.  In fact it would remain until the desktop computer era for a successful machine that could recognize a wide variety of characters.


Grandpa With the Reading Aid 1946.

Publications on the Reading Aid
V. K. Zworykin and L. E. Flory, "An Electronic Reading Aid for the Blind", Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 91, No. 2, 1947
V.K. Zworykin and L. E. Flory, "Reading Aid for the Blind", Electronics, Aug. 1946
L. E. Flory, "Electronic Reading Aids for the Blind", Final Report of work done under the Committee on Sensory Devices of the National Academy of Sciences on Subcontract 13 of W-49-007-MD-347 (superseding OEMsr 1407) to June 30, 1946.  This 43-page report is the most detailed and concerns earlier versions of the device as well.

Reading Machine

Win Pike with the Reading Machine 1949

The reading machine was a true character recognition device, but limited in its use to a special font designed for it, which accordingly limited its usefulness.  The machine consisted of a scanner, signal processing circuits, and a matrix that gave a unique output for each input character.  The output of the machine was a series of magnetic recordings on a drum for each letter. Win Pike built the machine.  

Publications Concerning the Reading Machine
V. K. Zworykin, L. E. Flory, and W. S. Pike, "Letter Reading Machine", Electronics, June 1949.
U.S. Patent 2,615,992  Apparatus for Indicia Recognition

Television was applied to medical imaging to increase its capabilities and to allow multiple viewers.  One application was a microscope using ultraviolet light.

The sanguinometer automated blood cell counts by combining television imaging with electronic counting.

Sanguinometer, circa 1948