Calculator for the blind


Out of curiosity has anyone made a calculator for the blind? Output could by brail or speech. Input by standard keyboard for a simple calculator (function keys on 28/42/48 wouldn't be a good idea!) or have custom keyboard.

I'd guess an HP41 would be an ideal basis for such a calculator. The HP97 had many good features for this (lots of keys and a built in printer that could be replaced with a brail output?)


Ti made the Calcu-talk, a version of the ti-66 with voice. I think it was made for blind people.


If you are looking for a low cost but fast to market approach (or acquire), I would consider the Hp 38/48G series and take their serial output to a serial speech synthesier (sp). I believe both can be set up to print out their displays and this could be then be translated into speech by the (RS232 serial) sythasier (sp again). The Hard plastic keys of the 38/48 series would be the easiest to attach brail onto and just leave the unneeded keys bare (and intoduce a clear key sequence to get out of any mistaken functions).

The Ti-66 option is very hard to get today.

Hp38/48's are very cheap and easy to get in comparision.

And the 38G is an algebraic, so no need to learn RPN and has that large = key in a unique location that might also be a benefit. Hard durable fold over cover that doesn't come off the calculator. Basic scientific functions just above the regular keyboard. May need to install an applet for serial conversion. But is probably a very good calc for this use.


About a year and a half to 2 years ago someone on eBay was selling an HP 41C with braille keys and it was connected to a voice box. I don't remember what it went for, but it was the first one that I had seen using a 41C.


There is a significant number of products to aid the blind in all facets of social activities. Included are devices to permit blind people to tell the time, take notes, access the Internet, and use calculators. Talking calculators for the blind are available starting at prices below $20. A sophisticated example of such a device is called Braille'n Speak which includes a full word processor for note taking plus a talking clock and a talking scientific calculator. For more details on this and other devices go to, for example, this site: Other devices can readily be found by searching the Internet. The collective term for technology applied to help the handicapped is "assistive technology".


The Panasonic "Compuvoice" from 1981 did this. It was a 4+ function LCD with a small speaker and took aa cells.


Possibly the first talking calculator was the Speech+ from TSI

I have one of these and it's quite cool to listen too -- very mechanical sounding -- and because it instantly responds to key-presses it allows you to interrupt it's speech and make really weird echo-like sounds. It also came with an instruction manual on cassette tape.

It sold for a small fortune (around $1000, I think) when it first came out and several libraries obtained one or two for shared use. Although the web sites I've seen describe the speech chip set as being made by GI, the chips in my calculator say that HP made them, IIRC.

Edited: 11 Nov 2004, 1:51 a.m.


A mechanical calculator, the Cranmer Abacus, has been used extensively by the blind since the 1960s. It is similar to a soroban, but the beads do not slip as easily and the rods are spread further apart.


Some time ago I bought on eBay a nice HP-11C customized for the blind, it was a normal calculator HP labelled with a black box attached in the back with inside a speaker, alternatively it was possible to use also an earpiece. The keys ENTER and 5 were rised for tactile reasons. Indeed a good exeample of customization.


Any chance of some photo's of this beast?

Who made / altered the HP calc? To convert to speech would be tricky, I wonder if they interfaced to the LCD and keyboard and perhaps the enter key would trigger the speach box to say what was on the display?


I suppose the TI 'Speak and Math' (rarer version of the 'Speak and Spell') could be considered a calculator for the blind.


TI's Speak and Math can be a calculator for the blind, to a certain extent. The TI's "Speak &" series are more education devices rather than industrial calculators. I'm not happy that TI cancelled that line in the 80s since the "Speak &" series are excellent learning tools, having a Speak & Spell myself when I was a kid.

I am surpised that HP or TI doesn't have a line built for those needing assistence (maybe I'm not looking hard enough?).

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