Monthly Archives: December 2010

Once upon a time…

Once upon a time, there was a little company called Chester Creek Technologies. This company designed fantastical devices to help people tame a terrible beast. This beast was called “The computer.” A horrible, scary creature, these brutes ran rampant across town, farm, and city, multiplying at a seemingly impossible pace.

Now, not too terribly long ago, in a place not too terribly far away, someone decided it was time to stand up to the computer. Behold the advent of the keyboard and the mouse — to tame the rampaging techno-beast, to allow the citizens of the world to put the creature to their own uses. But that someone left out a very important piece. Like a seven pound claymore of olden times, not everyone could wield a keyboard effectively against the computers.

Enter Chester. Chester Creek was founded to help everyone combat the beastly computers. With keyboards and mice for every individual, the crew at CCT are the armorers of the masses who were not equipped to use standard keyboards and mice.

At Chester Creek, a small group of people worked diligently daily. Jim, Jack, Meg, Kathy, Tasha, Karen, Cari and Melissa. On this particular day, however, the sky had opened up and divulged not the soft, white, gently drifting snow they had come to expect, but instead spat forth a slushy, slippery mess of freezing raindrops. And diligently they went to work, regardless of the harrowing conditions happening around them.

The rain, if you could call it that, fell doggedly upon the cobbled streets of their native town, and cars continued to traverse the hilly slopes upon which the city sat, while the girls of Chester Creek glanced occasionally and nervously out at the inclement weather foisted upon them by an indecisive climate. As the sun crossed the sky, hidden in banks of fog and cloud, the cars and trucks began to shift, slip, and slide along the streets. It was an ice storm.

Now, as you may know, an ice storm is also a fearful thing, almost as terrifying as a feral computer. The roads become treacherous, impossible to traverse without harm of conveyance and possibly self. In order to stay safe for family, friends, and furtherance of their noble cause, it was determined that the crew at CCT was effectively trapped.

Hijinks, of course, ensued. While there were no groceries to be had for dinner, the abundance of chips, tea, and snacks was mighty indeed, and down the hall there resided the mystical dispenser of noms, a machine that would exchange refreshments and victuals for coins. When the conversation grew stale and the office confining, the girls set out on an adventure across the maze of halls, from which they eventually returned safe and sound.

Kathy, resident artist, took the time to spruce up to work spaces, painting walls vibrant reds and deep blues as the whim struck. Karen took care of a prodigious great stack of paperwork, and in fact will have nothing to do for days. Meg, ever watchful of her whimsical, willowy wall stood guard to ensure that the sly Tasha did not abscond with it to hide forever its inconvenient branches. Melissa spent a goodly time building a box fort, in which everyone frolicked joyfully. And I? Well, I wrote up this completely fictional story for your enjoyment.

We aren’t really trapped. The roads are looking icky, though. Wish us safe travels!

Also, your computer is unlikely to go on a rampage and tear off your face. No worries. Just so you know. Because I’m sure some of you were terrified. You can admit it. It’s ok. Really.

Introducing TextSpeak!

“As technology has come to play an increasingly important role in the lives of all persons in the United States, in the conduct of business, in the functioning of government, in the fostering of communication, in the conduct of commerce, and in the provision of education, its impact upon the lives of the more than 50,000,000 individuals with disabilities in the United States has been comparable to its impact upon the remainder of the citizens of the United States. Any development in mainstream technology would have profound implications for individuals with disabilities in the United States.”

(Findings and Purposes, Assistive Technology Act of 1998, Finding 3)

We are so happy to be introducing our newest assistive technology product to you today!  This is a collaborative effort that we have been working on for a while, to bring you TextSpeak through Chester Creek.


TextSpeak is a perfect on-the-go AAC (AlternativeAugmentative Communication) solution.  This intelligent text generating speaker and keyboard combo creates speech anywhere, right at your fingertips, and paired with any of our Chester Creek keyboards, including our large-print and large-key keyboards, allows individuals with speech impairment to be heard.  Great for students who need unlimited vocabulary, TextSpeak works right out of the box, can be programmed to male or female voices, and has 30 programmable phrases.  Small, light, and portable, TextSpeak is also an item you can throw in a backpack or purse for use as needed in social or work situations, and works from both battery and AC power sources.

A perfect on-the-go AAC (AlternativeAugmentative Communication) solution.
Instant on, no setup, low cost and simple to use
Light and portable. AC and battery powered
Available with Male and Female voices
Unlimited vocabulary
Talks as you type
No PC required
Speech generating using DSP based Text to Speech
Works right out of the box
30 programmable phrases


Use with your choice of Chester Creek keyboards to better suit your needs.
• VisionBoard Black (pictured)
• Wireless VB’s
• MyBoard-lc
• MyBoard-UC
• LearningBoard (Black or white)
• LessonBoard
• ReaderBoard
Specifications:
• Size: 5.3” L x 4” W x 1.5” H
• 9 volt AC Adapter
• Battery, 9V Alkaline
• Battery life (est.) 100+ hours based on 10 minutes/hour use
• Instruction manual
• Text Speak one (1) year warranty
• VisionBoard six (6) year warranty

As always,

Assistive Technology

Typing can be the ideal solution for those with learning or motor impairments that prevent them from easily expressing themselves with pen (or pencil) and paper, for school work, correspondence, or any one of a number of needs. The problem is that standard keyboards are boring, hard to read, and feature small keys.

Our large-key keyboards feature large print, high visibility, and 1” keys. This makes typing significantly easier for those with sight or dexterity limitations. The VisionBoards, for instance, comes in three color arrangements: white on black, black on white, and a special black on yellow color scheme that has proven very useful for individuals with macular degeneration. We also offer large-key keyboards for kids with bight, fun, color-coded keys to help kids locate letters and stay interested. All of our large-key keyboards eliminate unnecessary and confusing hot keys and are available with or without F-keys.

We also offer a great key-guard made to fit snugly over our large-key keyboards. This is a metal guard that prevents a user from accidentally pushing wrong or multiple buttons. The guard can also aid in use by individuals pushing the keys with a tool.

Our small mice are also a wonderful solution for special needs or dexterity impaired users. Many find the smaller size of a Chester Mouse, TinyMouse, or LittleMouse easier to grip and manipulate. The Chester is a one-button mouse, for added ease of use.

Chester Creek is working on a great new product called TextSpeak, designed to help vocally impaired individuals communicate.  Look for more on this later in the week.

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays, everyone. Stay warm, stay safe, enjoy the festivity, and eat as much as you’d like!

(We will be out of the office on the 24th and 31st, FYI)

New News

Also check out the updated news section of the website, written by yours truly. Hopefully a picture of our “Christmas Tree” to follow.

Top Five Words of 2010

Continuing our countdown of Merrian-Websters top words of the year, we start off with number five.

5. Bigot. M-W defines bigot as “A person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.”

Bigot earned its place on this list when Rick Sanchez, formerly a CNN anchor accused comedian Jon Stewart of being “a bigot,” and implied that everyone running CNN was Jewish.

Even the greatest bigot in the world is forced to admit that the radical coloring on some of Chester Creek’s products is rather attractive.

4. Landing in the top four is socialism: “Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”

The term popped up surrounding a good number of news stories throughout the year, particularly stories about the federal bailouts and the health-care legislation.

Chester Creek does not endorse socialism; FunKeyBoards and Tiny Mice for everyone! But you’ll have to buy your own.

3. The second runner up for the year is moratorium. I’m sure most of you in the US immediately think of the moratorium President Obama placed on off-shore oil drilling after the Gulf spill, and that is exactly why it made the list. A moratorium is “a legally authorized period of delay,” or “a suspension of an activity.”

There are no moratoriums on production at Chester Creek this season. We’re working as hard as always to bring you our great products, in great time, and with great customer service!

2. Pragmatic made it almost to the top of the list. M-W defines pragmatic as “relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters : practical as opposed to idealistic.”

After the mid-term elections in November, politicians across the country began to talk about more pragmatic solutions to the nation’s problems, in response to evidence that that voters were unhappy with the way things had been done lately.

Pragmatism need not prevent you from getting a fun new keyboard for yourself or a loved one any time soon. Our keyboards and mice are fun and practical, with large-print, colorful keys, and sturdy construction all year round.

1. And the number one word of the last year?

“Austerity”

When:
Lookups on Merriam-Webster began spiking around May 1, 2010.
Why:
Austerity figured prominently in news coverage of the economic panic and protests triggered by the debt crisis in Greece.
For example, as the New York Times reported,
“The Greek Parliament passed a package of tough austerity measures on Thursday, trying to stave off economic collapse and help prevent debt contagion from spreading.” (Dan Bilefsky, May 5, 2010)
The definition for this sense of austerity says it all: “enforced or extreme economy.”
The word’s origins are – coincidentally – Greek; austerity comes from austēros, meaning “harsh” or “severe.”

-Merriam-Webster

Even austerity in your budget need not preclude purchase. Chester Creek is offering 15% off our FunKeyBundle for the holiday season – plus free shipping!

Words of the Year & Shameless CCT Plugs (It is our blog, after all.)

As the end of the year draws nearer, Merriam-Webster has compiled a list of the top words of 2010.

10. At the bottom of this list is furtive. M-W defines this as
“done by stealth : surreptitious.”

It makes the list because of the failed Times Square bombing in May. The bomber was described as looking furtively around. Used in a sentence:

No need for furtive, Christmas Eve wrapping – Chester Creek now offers gift wrapping!

9. Coming in at number nine is dissident, meaning, “disagreeing especially with an established religious or political system, organization, or belief; non-conformist.”

It makes the list due to the Novel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who is often described as China’s best known dissenter.

Feeling a need to break the conformity of your office space? Try a fun and funky keyboard from Chester Creek. They’re not just for kids anymore. (Our own Tasha uses a FunKeyBoard at her desk)

8. Eighth on the list is ebullient, “having or showing liveliness and enthusiasm.”

This word was used by many journalists to describe the atmosphere of joy surrounding the rescue of the Chilean miners. Used in a sentence,

Looking forwards to an ebullient Christmas morning? Everyone will love a Chester Creek keyboard or mouse!

7. Ringing in at seven is shellacking,
“a decisive defeat : drubbing.”

President Obama said

Now, I’m not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like I did last night. I’m sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons

of the 2010 elections.

While that is already a good example of use in a sentence, I’ll go ahead and throw in my own:

No need for your checkbook to take a shellacking this holiday season. Save money on our FunKey Bundle Special!

6. Sixth on the list is doppleganger. M-W defines doppleganger as, “someone who looks like someone else,” or, to put it simply, a person’s “double.”

Now, I’ll admit it. I don’t have a clever (haha) little plug for Chester Creek using the word doppleganger. So, here goes a completely unrelated example:

You look so much like Ally Sheedy from the Breakfast Club, you could be her doppleganger!

(I actually hear this all the time.)

Check back later in the week for the Top Five Words of the Year.

Crazy New Tech

Technology as it is used by consumers is evolving at a break-neck pace these days.

Fancy new hard ware includes smartphones, touch screens, and tablets, among other, less mainstream, items.

More impressive is the boom in software and applciations that we are seeing right now.  Even in just the last week I have seen an explosion of articles about new versions and new products.

Google, for instance, is the creator of the Android operating system for smart phones.  One of the characteristics that sets Android apart on the market is that Google has a more open-source take on technology.  This means that they will let anyone create programs, change things, tinker, explore. Their new App Inventor allows users to create their own apps for the Android system.  They have a new maps program, too, which shows the landscape and buildings in three dimensions.  Google has also rolled out some beta devides running their new Chrome OS. Chrome is also the name of their internet browser, and the OS is very similar.  With Chrome, all of a user’s files would be stored in the cloud and accesible on any device.  It boasts lightning quick boot times and ease of use.  Google is also working on or has recently unveiled a music locker, google books, video productions, and place search.

In the same vein, Mac is launching an App store in the next month, Facebook has unveiled a facial recognition technology, search engine Bing is incorporating all new features, browser Opera just realeased version 11, with stackable tabs and extension support, and private users are hacking the Kinect to do some amazing things including a self-directed hovercraft that uses Kinect technology to “see” the world around it.

What crazy new technology are you excited about?

Sickness Season

This is the season of celebration and sickness. It seems like everyone has a cold, or the flu. Here in the office, half of us are sick. A big transfer of germs happens in schools. One solution to this is the Chester Creek keyboard seal. These are thin, clear, plastic membranes that fit neatly over the keys of a keyboard. The seals are for use in home, office, or school, and can easily be washed and sanitized to prevent sharing of icky cold and flu germs.

Adventure Time!

This work week started with a short adventure at Chester Creek.  Jim, owner/entrepeneur/businessman/etc. decided it would be nice to be able to send out personal Holiday cards or emails this year.  And we should take a picture of the staff.  And it should have something to do with Duluth, because we are a local small business in a very unique location.  So we piled in a couple vehicles and drove to Coppertop Church
This is a local landmark, a big Methodist Church on top of the hill.  Duluth is a loing, narrow city, sprawled along the lakeshore, and Coppertop is more or less in the middle.  This morning, because it was so cold (ten below), there were billows of fog gusting around on the lake.  It was really very pretty with a boat coming in.  This is (probably) the boat we saw this morning.  It is called the Hero, and it is from Malta.
Here is one last picture of the Lake, a bit warmer now in the afternoon and with less fog. 
You can watch the ships coming into the harbor in real time by clicking here.
It was nice to be out and about, but it sure was cold today!