Biographical Sketch

T.V. Raman was born and raised in Pune, India. He was partially sighted (sufficient to be able to read and write) until he was 14. Thereafter, he learned with the help of his brother, who spent a great deal of time as his first reader/tutor.

Three years later, in 1982, he learned Braille. No Braille texts were available, so the only source of reading material was his own class notes and notes prepared from recordings made by his readers. He developed his own system for writing math in Braille, —he could not locate the standard Braille math-codes in India.

One of his first uses of Braille was to mark a Rubik’s cube. He had solved the first two layers of the cube by pointing to each square and having someone tell him the color, but the last layer was too difficult to solve in this manner. So his brother coded the cube colors in Braille. It took him four days to solve the cube the first time; later, he could solve it in under 30 seconds. Working with the Braille cube yielded interesting insights. For example, he soon realized that one color should stay unmarked, since that was easiest to identify. This point can be rephrased in terms of cues: the absence of a cue is itself a very good cue!

Raman received his B.A. in Mathematics at Nowrosjee Wadia College in Pune and his Masters in Math and Computer Science at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. For his final-year project, he developed CONGRATS, a program that allowed the user to visualize curves by listening to them. In his final year, he had 13 readers recording texts for three hours per week each. Raman would paraphrase the recordings to prepare his own notes before recycling the cassette tapes. This took time, but when exams came around, he would have nothing more to study. Recording, paraphrasing, and revising is an excellent way to imbibe study material, and he recommends it to all.

Many of the ideas on audio formatting mathematics come from his experiences in having math read to him, in dictating math exams and having them written by a writer, and in listening to RFB (Recordings for the Blind) books on tape.

Raman was introduced to computing in 1987 with an introductory course on programming in Fortran77. He did his computing with someone behind him to read the display. A major reason for his desire to do graduate study in the U.S. was the lack of adaptive equipment in India.

Raman joined the PhD program in Applied Math at Cornell in Fall 1989. He obtained his first talking computer and his guide dog, Aster, in early 1990, both of which have enriched his life. His own research, which is described in this thesis, has already made learning and doing PhD research easier for him, and he hopes that it will open new possibilities for the visually handicapped throughout the world.