I'm suddenly absorbed by studying French Braille. "Why?", you ask. Simple short answer: Marcel brought home a copy of Marvin Gaye's record album "What's Goin' On?" and it had a Braille label on each side of the jacket, made with one of the early personal label makers. It took me back to when I was young and had a Dymo. I felt so powerful, "I can personalize anything!" I proudly punched out my name on blue plastic tape and stuck it on my Beatles White Album.
So I was curious, what did the labels on the album cover say? One label had more writing than the other, so they didn't both say "Marvin Gaye" for instance. It seemed like every couple of characters I could translate using the English Braille alphabet, but it was spotty. Some I couldn't figure out. So I tried the French alphabet with the additional accented letters. That seemed to help, but only to a point. It wasn't consistent with either. Some letters from the English alphabet worked and some from the French, but not all. Then it dawned on me: maybe the labels are on "upside down". That was it! I then translated one side of the cover to read "Marvi Gay" and the other side "M. Gaye - Ûat's Go". I'm still learning the codes for contractions, but it appears that the French "U" with a circumflex accent is substituted for "Wh" in English. Now I'm fascinated.
This speaks to the ludite in me, the idea of a tactile language. Language that passes through your skin.
While researching I learned that there are now electronic gadgets used to translate Braille to audio "for those who can’t cope with Braille", as the marketing says. I don't begrudge anyone something that makes their life easier, but at the same time it made me that much more intrigued by the early form.
Other than my short bursts on my hardwired desktop PC I do not lead a life of gadgets. I don't own a cell phone, or an I-pod, or a Kindle, or a GPS, or a cordless phone, or even a microwave. I still hang my clothes on the line, as I've done my entire life. It's not part of a trend or an effort to lead a "sustainable" life. It's in my bones. It's what's natural to me.
Now I'm dreaming of finding an antique Braille typewriter like this one:
"Louis Braille was born on 4 January 1809, in the small village of Coupvray near Paris, France. Thanks to his innovation, blind people all over the world can lead productive and independent lives. His father was a saddler and the young Louis enjoyed playing in his father's workshop. During one of his playful adventures Louis accidentally punctured his eye with an awl, a sharp tool used to punch holes in leather. Despite the best care available at the time, infection set in and soon spread to the other eye as well, leaving him completely blind." ~ [source]
Louis’s father made him a set of leather letters he could trace, but he wanted a better system. You can read more about his invention of the Braille system on the Parisian Fields and Louis Braille School websites.
The method of handwriting Braille is with a slate and stylus. Interesting, considering young Louis's accident, that the stylus is also called an awl. Writing with this system requires the type to be assembled from right to left, essentially writing backwards.
"The Optophone is a device, used by the blind, that scans text and generates time-varying chords of tones to identify letters."
The Optacon [Circa 1975]
"The hand held camera moves over a line of typed print recognizing the contrast of dark type on white paper. The left index finger lightly rests on an array of 144 pins. As the camera recognizes the optical contrast (shape of the letter), the image is converted to a shape made by the vibration of the pins." ~ [source]
The above photo is of a beautiful Braille embroidery piece stitched by renowned artist Richard Saja
Braille Street Art:
Braille graffiti deserves an entire post unto itself, so I'll be working on that soon. Ciao for now.