One Ocean Insight blog reader remarked recently that he found it so funny that there was an oceanographer that used Jaws! I had never made that connection myself, perhaps because what I study is not what most people think of as oceanography. What do you think of when someone says “oceanography”? According to my unscientific survey, what comes to mind for most people are the charismatic megafauna, such as whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions. Those of a certain generation may think of Jacques Cousteau, or Lloyd Bridges. In fact, the study of the oceans is a multi-disciplinary endeavor involving chemistry, geology and physics as well as biology. There is also an important branch of the science where engineers develop innovative sensors and underwater vehicles for making new measurements. I’m what is usually called a physical oceanographer, which means I study the physical behavior of the oceans. In particular, I look at where currents are and what makes them move the way they do. So that’s why I didn’t catch the irony about Jaws. But I digress – back to “Jaws goes to Sea”.
For the uninitiated, Jaws is what is called a computer screen reader. The word Jaws actually stands for Job Access With Speech, and it was developed to give blind people access to computers and therefore a whole array of positions in the workplace. Jaws is a Microsoft Windows application that runs in the background on my computer all the time. Everything I type, including this blog, is spoken outloud as I go along. And when I want to read back what I’ve written, or read my e-mail, a report or spreadsheet, I press a certain key combination and voila, I hear the text or numbers read aloud. I even use Jaws to write computer programs. There are quite human-sounding voices now, but I still use a rather robotic sounding one—I find it’s faster and easier to understand. Without Jaws, I would need to rely on a human reader for almost everything I do at work. When I meet with blind or visually impaired students, I emphasize over and over how important it is for them to become skilled with computers and a screen reader like Jaws. Computers are windows to the world, and screen readers have lifted the shade for those with vision problems.
Here I include a few sound clips of Jaws from my computer here on the ship. First, I’ll have Jaws read part of this blog at a relatively slow speed.
Then I’ll have it read at the speed I typically read e-mails.
Finally, I’ll have it read some snippets from a computer program that I wrote today to make maps of our cruise track, at a speed I would use when editing the program.