Tuesday, November 30, 2010

To All the Ships at Sea

There is a certain sound my computer makes just as it crashes. It is different from the other dings and alerts I usually get. This single, loud, somewhat prolonged “beep” is generally followed by a blue screen.  Obviously, it is not a pleasing sound.

On Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, Maggie’s talker was making that noise. There was no blue screen, but something was clearly wrong.  Because I am such a techie, I went right to work. I looked at the device, turned it over and turned it off and back on. If that did not work, I was lost. It did not. The talker came back on fine, but there was some weird code on the screen. All the icons were there, but instead of the words describing what they were, there were just lines. This was new, different, and more than a little troubling.

The thought of a four-day weekend without Maggie’s dynavox was daunting indeed. This is her lifeline. It’s not only how she communicates, but it’s how she keeps herself entertained for hours on end. With the long weekend looming, I could not (or would not) contact anyone to trouble shoot.   I took it down, turned it off and put it on the charger hoping it would be magically fixed overnight.

It was not. Thanksgiving morning brought more of the same loud protracted beeps every time she hit the switch. I touched one of the icons on the screen and it did not beep. Hmmm. Perhaps it is something with the switches. Could it just be on some strange setting?

In order for Maggie to access her dynavox with the switches, it has to be set on “two switch” and “scanning.”  Periodically the scanning setting defaults back to a different setting and the switches will not work. I can just fix that but this was different. This sound was something I have never heard before.

There are different settings possible for different types of users. Most users just press the icons on the screen, so the default setting is “touch enter.” There are several others but I have never really looked at them because Maggie does not use them. When I went into the settings pages I expected to see the default “touch enter” setting. I could fix that and then deal with the beeps next.

Much to my surprise, it was not on the default at all. Rather, the setting was on “MORSE CODE.” Suddenly the beeps made sense and so did the strange lines on the icons. Maggie was communicating in Morse code.  I have no idea how that happened and did not even know it was available. There is a chance that Maggie got in there herself and randomly changed it. She looked quite pleased with herself as Steve and I figured it out.

We live about three miles from the Pacific Ocean. Hopefully she wasn’t sending any distress calls out into the night. 


  1. Your Maggie never ceases to amaze me! Make sure she doesn't get her Dynvox talking to your satellite dish or she could REALLY cause some trouble!



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