TTY software finally available for Mac

Originally appeared in Silent News, April 2001.

Intelligent Products’ newest communication software, SoftTTY, celebrates the first release that provides the ability to use a TTY on a Macintosh, as well as a handful of other new features.

This program has all the features Mac users will need, including an answering machine, which allows for storing of incoming messages on the desktop, the transfer of messages directly to disk or sending messages to a printer.

The program began development in 1995, but only recently was completed. Adam Skwersky, the developer of SoftTTY said, “When I began this project, I was a full-time student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. School was my top priority, so development was very slow. Finding time to work on this project was the main obstacle.”

SoftTTY, currently available for $74.99 through a number of websites and places, came to fruition through frustration. Skwersky, who grew up postlingually deaf, said, ” I was frustrated with an old TTY that could barely function as an answering machine. My desk was cluttered with old TTY printouts from important conversations. I could never remember which letter was for which phone number in my TTY memory. I had other important things to do like finishing up schoolwork!” Skwersky also was frustrated with the high costs of computers and TTYs during these days.

With this seemingly unorganized fashion of communicating, Skwersky realized, “Why spend another $500 on a TTY if you could get your computer to be a TTY? Could software turn a computer into a TTY? Could it be done inexpensively?”

He then reasoned that since PC emulators were being written for Macintoshes and Macintosh emulators were written for the PC, he probably could figure out how to develop a TTY emulator.

“Five years later, I have!” Skwersky, who is currently a software engineer at Rational Software said in an e-mail.

SoftTTY is not designed to replace the TTY, however. “I think for many years to come, TTY’s will be still be in use by a great majority of deaf people. For as long as TTY’s are still in use, SoftTTY can be a player,” the engineer says.

When asked what he says to people who already have both a Mac and a TTY, Skwersky says, “Simply put, your TTY experience will be vastly enhanced. Imagine being able to copy and paste into your conversation. Imagine entering both voice and TTY numbers into your ‘phonebook.’ Then, when you dial voice numbers, the TTY will dial the relay automatically and ask the relay to call your friend and give them the number. Imagine being able to save/search/categorize all your conversations and messages, without ever using a TTY printer again?”

Making reference to the popular iMacs and iBooks, he continues, “If you have an iBook, maybe you should rename it ‘iTTY’? No matter where you go with your iBook, you’ll have a TTY.”

With these features, it’s easy to see how deaf Mac users can maybe finally get a break in the PC-dominated world.

Updates to the SoftTTY program will be available for free of charge through the website at www.softtty.com, and Skwersky welcomes questions or feedback from users.

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