History of SignWriting

 

Chapter 8
People Who Have Made A Difference
In The History of SignWriting

1974-1998


Note From Valerie Sutton: Establishing a written form for signed languages has been no easy task, and along the way there have been some pretty terrific people who have put up with a great deal of resistance and they stuck with it anyway! I want to personally thank everyone for their friendship and diligent hard work...

The purpose of this history chapter is to introduce you to some of these wonderful individuals.


Charles Butler

Charles Butler has been working with SignWriting since the early 1980's. Charles and I were on the phone and in communication by computer frequently, discussing the ins and outs of developing ways to type SignWriting. Charles introduced us to a computer programmer named Steve Heyl, and I remember I visited Washington DC and the three of us met in Steve Heyl's home. That was back when the Macintosh computer had just come out. I believe it was before the Mac512 K, and I remember Steve showing me this "new computer" and we discussed its potential. Steve, with Charles' guidance, worked on an Apple IIe program for SignWriting. Although the program was not ultimately used, I feel very grateful to both Steve and Charles for their input and hard work. It is as though SignWriting has been built brick by brick, and this work was an important brick to "the next step".

Charles also traveled to a dance notation conference called and showed SignWriting at the conference on computer. Charles also taught classes at Towson Unversity in Maryland, and also taught students privately. Charles also developed unusual and creative ways to teach SignWriting, such as placing written ASL on Tarot cards.

In the late 1990's, Charles became very active on the SignWriting Email List and on the new SignWriting List. You can read his email messages on our SignWritingSite:

May 9, 1998 - Standardization of ASL
Charles Butler

April 23, 1998 - Perspectives on SignWriting
Charles Butler

April 8, 1998 - Learning Device/Flashcards
Charles Butler

March 30, 1998 - Flashcards
Charles Butler

March 28, 1998 - Flashcards
Charles Butler

March 22, 1998 - Sign Notation Comparisons
Charles Butler

February 24, 1998 - Transcription
Charles Butler

February 23, 1998 - Help In Research
Charles Butler

February 19, 1998 - Help In Research
Charles Butler

January 9, 1998 - SignWriting Is NOT A Language
Charles Butler

...and here is one of the most recent postings from Charles on the SignWriting List...


Date: Thu, 21 May 1998 00:48:22 -0400
From: Charles Butler <chazzer3@erols.com>
Organization: Ecumenicon
Subject: Intro and comments
To: SW-L@ADMIN.HUMBERC.ON.CA

Hi,
My name is Charles Butler. I have been a free-lance interpreter for the deaf off and on for about 20 years. Unfortunately, I am no longer immersed in the Deaf community as I was 15 years ago so my skills have fallen off.

I ran across Sign Writing when it was still a hand-printed, presstype newspaper in a library in DC about 20 years ago. I was hooked immediately. I started working with a friend to help Valerie make a computer-designed Sign Writer program on the old Apple IIe. With that beginning Steve Heyl and I dickered and struggled with cross-country correspondence with Valerie as she worked with her own programmer in La Jolla to produce both the Apple IIe and the MacIntosh versions. I was able to present this early version at a movement writing workshop in New York City. The rest of the presenters were presenting various dance notation systems, I was the only one with sign language, and everyone was duly impressed at the ease of use of the program at that time. With one swipe of the mouse, I could change the English to fingerspelling, begin to manipulate some of the fingerspelled words into signs and back again. So, you see folks, Sign Writing has been struggling now for 20 years for acceptance and now we are fortunate for it hit BOOM time. Now if only I could get it to be as easy as touch-typing (sigh).

I have taught classes in ASL using sign writing, even by mail, and gotten good results. I hope we can come up with some way of posting our Sign-Writing attempts to the list as I am no programmer.


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Questions? Write to:
Sutton@SignWriting.org