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Adaptive Technology Pioneer Fred Gissoni, K4JLX, SK


Fred L. Gissoni, K4JLX, of Louisville, Kentucky, died September 21. He was 84. Born blind, Gissoni was the co-developer of the Porta-Braille and Pocket-Braille note-taking devices as well as other adaptive technology. He also authored a popular instruction manual, “Using the Cranmer Abacus.” Gissoni retired from the American Printing House (APH) for the Blind in 2011 after 23 years.

“Fred contributed 60 years of service to people who are blind and visually impaired,” Deborah Kendrick wrote for Access World, a publication of the American Foundation for the Blind. “Fred was known across the United States and around the world for his brilliant intellect, inventiveness, and impish sense of humor.”

A New Jersey native, he became interested in Amateur Radio at a very young age, and his passion for technology continued through his lifetime. Gissoni and Wayne Thompson developed the Pocket-Braille and Porta-Braille in the 1980s, while both were working at the Kentucky Department for the Blind.

With the Pocket-Braille, the user entered data from a Perkins-style keyboard, and the device would render it in speech. The Porta-Braille included a refreshable Braille “display.” He also developed the Janus Slate, a two-sided interline Braille slate that holds a 3 × 5 index card for brailling on both sides. Other inventions he developed for APH included a pocket Braille calendar.

“I also used other ideas that Gissoni came up with or invented,” said Bob Ringwald, K6YBV. “All the time I marveled at his genius, inventive mind, but never knew he was also a ham radio operator, K4JLX.”

“Fred always used an abacus and was never without a slate and stylus,” an APH memorial said. “‘Batteries die, and chips fail,’” he is reported to have said. According to the APH, Gissoni also developed the prototype for its Braille ‘n Speak device. For his work on this device, Gissoni and Thompson received APH's "Creative Use of Braille Award" in 1998. Gissoni also kept a blog, “Fred’s Head from APH.”

Gissoni held an undergraduate degree in sociology from Rutgers University and a master’s in counseling from New York University.

“He is a legend, and he will be greatly missed,” APH concluded.





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