History of the Company

HistoriaA few words about the history of the company

In the 80’s computers were to be useful only for IT specialists and scientists. Such was the attitude of the society. Nothing could be more misleading. Just a few years passed and already every family dreamt about own computer. In the middle of the 80’s first computer companies were established in the country. Due to the political system of that period no business activity could be pursued without special “contacts”, yet every year it was easier.

The first synthesizer speaking Polish available at our market

In the 80’s a few institutions were working on the synthesis of Polish language, yet with no final effect. In 1988, owing to the engagement of the already mentioned group of IT specialists, designing an affordable synthesizer speaking Polish became possible. Marek Kalbarczyk invited an eminent electronics engineer – Jan Grebecki who recorded samples of human voice to cooperate with the group. What was also created was the lector program “Reader” which analyzed the computer work. Its more developed version was presented by Marek Kalbarczyk at the beginning of 1990. a few months later it turned into a real Screen Reader Program called ReadBoard. This achievement allowed to establish a company that undertook to launch the new synthesizer into production. The market received it with great enthusiasm. A speaking computer became a real hit.

Company’s beginnings

The Altix company was founded in 1989 by Marek Kalbarczyk – IT specialist, Eryk Zielinski – economist and translator, dr. Stanislaw Jakubowski and Igor Buslowicz – other IT specialists. The company name was created by Marek Kalbarczyk. ALTIX stands for the key “ALT” and “x”. Then the combination of these keys was the exit from a program, thus it could be understood as the exit from some situation, in other words solution to the problem. ALTIX was to solve problems connected with the equalization of life chances of the blind. The abovementioned IT specialists decided to put their trust in IT technology and seek there chances to improve the situation of that community.

The first president of the company was Eryk Zielinski. In December the sale of the speech synthesizer began. Today it might be hard to believe that as far back Jan Grebecki and Marek Kalbarczyk designed a programmistic speech synthesizer. The sound was generated inside the program. The samples of phonemes which the program used and sent byte by byte sent to printer port were coded in the computer memory. Jan Grebecki was the first person in the world who made use of the electric features of that port. All you needed to do was to insert there a special plug containing a digital-analog converter to receive a sound ready to be amplified.

The synthesizer and the lector program was sold for the first time in December 1989. Due to the fact that nobody offered anything for this field in the market this date is accepted as the beginning of the computerization of the Polish blind. For some time Altix used to be the only company at that market. For others typhlo-IT was too difficult.

Success of the years 1999-2006

The unprecedented development of this field was preceded by a crisis that occurred in the years 1996-1998. The authorities withdrew from any programs financing computer rehabilitation of vision invalids. No subsidy for equipment and computer programs could be obtained and therefore the sale level of the company decreased drastically. Altix was in the most difficult situation due to the fact that being a supported employment enterprise it had to maintain a proper level of employment. Owing to own initiatives and increasing needs of the environment the company survived but nevertheless suffered serious losses. The Help – monthly magazine disappeared and Braille books were no longer published. The crisis was even more painful as it occurred during the operation system transition period, i.e. from DOS into windows. In 1998 basically nobody used a text-to-speech Windows-controlled computer. As far as DOS was concerned there was a collection of speaking programs and Screen Reader ReadBoard, whereas nothing significant was developed for Windows.

In 1999 a modern subsidy system supporting tylpho-IT rehabilitation was introduced. PFRON began the execution of the program called “Computer for Homer”. Lots of the blind and the vision impaired could at last afford computer equipment and thus the Company attends to a few hundreds customers a year. The following products have become real hits:

• Jaws – the best screen reader of the Windows System
• Supernova – the best speaking-zooming software for low vison
• Lunar - great software for the visually-impaired
• next speech synthesizers
• Magic – great software to zoom images on a screen
• MultiLektor – own lector equipment
• Braille notepads - first BrailleLite, next PacMate
• FineReader – outstanding software recognizing black print
• Color Reader, Twinkle, and finally ClearView+ - perfect electronic zooms
• Braille monitors and printers
• Plextalk – DAISY device.
• Altix designed a new version of a speech synthesizer - Speak – running in Windows.

 Preparing Polish versions of constantly increasing range of foreign products cost a lot of work. The greatest of them is JAWS software which requires lots of months to perform translations of next versions.

In 1999 we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the computerization of the Polish blind. Altix assisted the Foundation Szansa in organizing a great international conference and exhibition called “Reha for the blind in Poland”. This event took place in August in the building of the Polish Teachers’ Association in Warsaw. Eight companies, most of which were foreign ones, took part in the exhibition. On that occasion the Foundation presented over 30 persons of merit within this field with honourable diplomas. Among the awarded ones there were the authors and employees of our company. That conference was such a success that the Foundation decided to organize such meetings every two years. So far 4 conferences have been held, the latest one of this series took place in October 2004 when the number of exhibitors enlarged to 15 and the conference itself was broadcasted in the Internet.

Every year Altix organizes dozens of presentations within the territory of the whole country. We also organize open days and computer workshops where many of the blind may take part in free of charge trainings conducted by our specialists.

Altix wins almost all tenders for the equipment for the vision invalids that it takes part in. That is the outcome of the philosophy that we adopted. We are the company that is not directed solely on the profit. We have the best offer in Poland and the products it contains are at competitive prices. What is more we complement it with exceptional approach towards our customers. Some of our profit is donated to the environment of vision invalids. We grant subsidies by the mediation of the Foundation Szansa to both institutions and individuals. The aid increased considerably in the years 2000-2006.

May it still be so.