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Review of EZ-SCAN (1993)

Review of EZ-SCAN (1993)

©1993, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (1983, 1993, 2 July). Review of EZ-SCAN. Paper for EXC 729, Georgia Sate University.






Review of EZ-SCAN

By Dallas Denny


EZ-SCAN is a memory-resident software program for MS-DOS computers. It enables an individual to access all keyboard functions via a single switch attached to a joystick port. Selections are made by multiple switch entry. The program works both at the DOS command prompt and in commercial programs like WORDPERFECT or LOTUS.

EZ-SCAN remains inactive until the switch is closed. Then a small rectangle appears, containing a seven by seven matrix in which alphabetical symbols, numbers, punctuation marks, and special keyboard keys such as Enter and Tab are stored. These symbols are selected by two switch presses. As a highlighted bar moves down the rows, a row is selected. Then the bar moves through the various symbols in the row. Upon the second selection, the computer acts to either place a symbol at the DOS prompt or perform a keyboard function. Caps Lock, Num Lock, Ctrl, and Alt do not cause any action, but are instead toggled; they are presented in capital letters when activated. Enter will cause the computer to act on commands previously placed on the DOS command line. Upon the selection of anything other than a toggle, the EZ-SCAN box disappears until again activated by a switch. This enables the individual to study the screen between selections.

The most desirable feature of EZ-SCAN is its ability to actually emulate keyboard presses. The user can load and operate any program on the hard drive or floppy or activate a speech synthesizer, environmental control device, printer, or telephone modem. This provides the individual with the ability to do virtually anything it is possible to do with the computer, albeit at a lower level of productivity  The sole exception would seem to be games which require quick reflexes and rapid action.

The least desirable feature of EZ-SCAN is that it is slow and labor-intensive. Each selection requires three switch presses, and the user must wait until the scan bar reaches the desired selection before activating the switch. Constructing a single paragraph in a word processor could take the better part of an hour, even in a person who is not functionally impaired; those with motor limitations might be slower due to tremor or motor delays which result in faulty selections.

The EZ-SCAN matrix places symbols which are statistically frequently used before less-used symbols, but the program has no provisions for learning. The program could be improved by adding the capability to store and anticipate frequently used commands, especially at the DOS prompt, which recognizes only a hundred or so commands.

EZ-SAN would be most valuable to a person with severe physical limitations but normal or above intellectual functioning. Specifically, it would be most useful for those who can openly operate only a single switch. Those with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or other degenerative diseases can use the program so long as they are able to control even a single muscle. Those without knowledge of DOS and the operation of computer programs would require instructions just as would any computer novice, but those experienced on IBM computers would be able to go to work as soon as they were successfully fitted with a switch.

EZ-SCAN offers a simple and inexpensive way—a slow but powerful way—to interface the physically disabled but intellectually unimpaired individual with MS-DOS computers. Despite its limitations, it can open up the world to extremely physical impaired individuals who would otherwise be helpless to communicate.