Tom Benham
Professor Emeritus, Haverford College

4-Track Tape Player

One of the first products offered, it playedLibrary of Congress 4-track, slow speed Talking Books. Later, when cassettes became popular, a small, compact player/recorder took its place.

Record Level Indicator

Many blind people were interested in recording, either professionally or as a hobby, but they needed some way to read the indicators on the equipment.

Simpson Multimeter

The Simpson Meter was popular among the many blind people interested in the evolving electronic technology. Many built their own gadgets, some were in professional positions.

Capacitance Bridge                             Impedance Bridge

The equipment used for analyzing and building electronic circuitry demonstrates the use of raised-dot dials and balancing tones to provide auditory access to meter readings. Voice technology was not yet available.

In the Mid-seventies, Science for the Blind Products became simply SCIENCE PRODUCTS and the catalog was expanded to include commercially available products which could be used effectively by legally blind people or totally blind people.

In 1975/76 Science Products distributed the first recorded catalogs for the blind. Recorded on flimsy discs at 8 rpm, Aud-a-Buy and Aud-a-Log presented prices and descriptions of products available by mail-order.

Aud-a-Buy presented general products that might be useful to blind or partially sighted persons, or to sighted people for whom they wanted to make a purchase. The catalog was circulated in the fall for the Christmas season.

Aud-a-Log concentrated on audible descriptions and demonstratons of adaptive products produced by Science Products.

On May 12, 1977, while Tom and Lee were presenting a workshop in Memphis, TN, a fire burned the building that housed all that was Science Products to the ground. It occurred in the early morning, when no workers had arrived for any of the businesses resident in the building. Fortunately, there were sample products of all the special instruments and aids in Memphis for the presentation; these were the foundation of the new company that rose from the ashes. An IBM computer with a 1Kb floppy disk system was purchased in 1978 to rebuild the mailing list from charred remains and ultimately replace manual bookkeeping.

 

In the mid-80s a Talking Cash Register was requested for use in a state Business Enterprise Program and the focus of the business changed. Other companies had moved into the market selling commercially available items and CAPTEK INC, incorporated in 1989, focused on doing what we do best: adapting equipment for State Business Enterprise Programs.

The final print catalogs were issued in the 1990s featuring both adaptive aids (Technilog) and low vision aids (Magnilog). Early in the 21st Century Captek launched its first website, accessible by www.captek.net or www.scienceproducts.org.

A HALF CENTURY
OF INNOVATION
FOR THE VISION IMPAIRED

Late 1960s Comprehensive Report/Catalog

This publication followed previous catalogs which emphasized adaptive equipment for the blind and vision impaired. They were sent both to Agencies serving the blind and to individuals. As the product line expanded, the name was changed to Science for the Blind Products.

Craig J-103 Cassette Recorder

The most popular adapted device in the history of Captek/Science Products: The Craig J-103  adapted to 1-7/8 ips and 4-tracks for Library of Congress Talking  Book Casserttes.

Tom's first duplicator: Master on the bottom, Copy above. Later models were three reels high and three racks wide, providing 8 copies at a time.

Nine years after the end of World War II, Tom Benham, blind since age two and an Instructor of Physics at Haverford College, began distribution of recorded open reel tapes to a few blind individuals interested in Science. Reading material was available to the blind through the Library of Congress Talking Books program, but it was of general interest with little to no scientific material.

He enlisted volunteers to read from such magazines as Scientific American, Popular Science, and Psychology Today, built his own open-reel tape duplicator, and solicited subscribers. He begged a few dollars from local charities to supplement the small subscription fees and hired students to assist. He named his small, non-profit company Science for the Blind.

With permission of the lecturer, Tom recorded lectures at Haverford on scientific topics and included them on his tapes, along with personal information about how he adapted equipment to his own needs.

    Soon subscribers were asking him to adapt equipment for them. Ham Radio accessibility was a major need, but interest expanded to encompass a broad spectrum of items.
    Tom used his Physics lab as a workshop and paid small wages to his students to fabricate materials for the projects.
    By 1964 there were too many requests and he moved the operation into a nearby commercial building and sought additional non-profit funds to subsidize the work.
    State programs serving the blind had not yet become aware of the substantial employment opportunities aids for the Blind could support and generally would not provide funds for the equipment, but by the late 1970s awareness was growing and Tom changed the name of his organization to Science Products, gave up fund-raising, and become (on paper) a for-profit company dependent on sales of devices for support.
    In 1989 CAPTEK INC was incorporated as the manufacturer of all products.

    The rest, as they say, is history.