Last Sunday, the seventh of August, the life of a great man came to an
abrupt end. Dr Russell Smith, founder and CEO of the now called Humenware,
which started out as PulseData International, died along with his wife when
their plane crashed in the see near Christ Church in New Zealand (see press
release pasted below).
I've met Dr. Smith three years ago in Birmingham in England, and we
instantly connected. I was based in the Middle East at the time, and we
talked about the possibility of localizing the Braille Note, Pulsedata's
flagship product at the time into Arabic. Ever since, Dr. Smith and I will
always seek out each other for a quick chat, wherever our paths cross. He
would always go out of his way when he sees me to say hi and catch up.
Dr. Smith is one of the founders of our industry. His work contributed to
the improvement of the lives of blind and visually impaired persons around
the world for the last thirty years. In an industry where money is scarce,
work is plentiful, Dr. Smith managed to sustain himself for a long time,
making both his life and the lives of millions of people better. He stuck
with it when many didn't, and always managed to find new avenues when others
deserted. Thank you Russell for all that you've done, and may you rest in
From: HumanWare [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, August 09, 2005 4:38 PM
To: Zuhair Mah'd
Subject: Blindness Industry Mourns Loss of Innovative Leader
CONTACT: Jonathan Mosen - 925-566-9265 - email@example.com
CONCORD, CA (August 9, 2005) - HumanWare announced today, with deep sadness,
the death of the company's founder and Chief Executive Officer, Dr Russell
Smith, and his wife Marian who were killed on Sunday, August 7th in the
crash of their Cessna 182. Russell and Marian, as they are known to most of
the blindness industry, were avid fliers who had built their own private
airstrip at their home in Aylesford, New Zealand. On Sunday while returning
home together from Nelson, their aircraft crashed into the sea north of
"Russell devoted his entire working life to developing innovative technology
for people who are blind or visually impaired," stated Philip Rance,
President of HumanWare USA. "In his 30 years of service, he became an icon
and was recognized, honored and admired throughout the world." Rance added,
"His death, at age 60, is a huge loss to the blindness industry as a whole.
Both he and Marian will be greatly missed by family, friends, and colleagues
all over the world."
Dr. Smith graduated from University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New
Zealand, with B.E.(Hons) in Electrical Engineering and went on to complete a
Ph.D. degree in 1972. His doctoral research concerned new techniques for
designing transducers and information displays for under-water sonar
systems. He joined the Wormald International Group in 1975 to head a new
division which would develop the SonicGuide sonar mobility aid for the
blind. The benefit of Russell's earlier research in sonar techniques was
instrumental in ensuring the successful launch of this innovative product on
to the world blindness market. In 1976 Russell was appointed the first
Manager of Wormald International Sensory Aids Ltd, which became Pulse Data
International Ltd in January 1988 after a management buyout. In January
2005 Russell finalized a merger of the company with Canadian-based VisuAide,
and the new combined company was renamed HumanWare Ltd.
"Russell Smith was one of the fathers of our industry," notes Jim Halliday,
President Emeritus of HumanWare USA. "In the 30 years since we first meet,
he has inspired and driven the development of an amazing list of
technological firsts that have and will continue to create opportunities for
people who are blind or visually impaired." He emphasizes, "Russell's
legacy will live long after the rest of us are gone!"
Some of the "firsts" Smith's company have developed include:
Sonic Guide (1976) - the world's first sonar-based electronic travel aid.
Mowat Sensor (1978) - the world's first hand-held electronic travel aid.
Viewscan (1980) - the world's first portable, high contrast, large print
reading system employing a hand-scan camera and a flat-panel display using
7,000 light pixels.
Viewscan Text System (1983) - the world's first portable, large print, word
Keynote (1986) - the world's first portable, talking word processor.
The Viewpoint VGA (1989) - the first video magnifier to support a split
screen computer connection with an industry standard computer display.
SmartView (1995) - the world's first video magnifier to introduce built-in
date, time, and calculator functions.
SmartView Xtra (1999) - the first video magnifiers to achieve "plug and
play" capability with a wide range of PC display formats.
BrailleNote (2000) - the world's first true Braille PDA
myReader (2004) - the world's first low vision auto-reader
As well as being Chief Executive of the HumanWare Group, Russell was
Chairman of the Board of the group's Europe, Australia, USA, and Canada
subsidiary companies. Rance acknowledged, "Although we are a very solid
company with teams in place to manage effectively well into the future, we
will all miss Russell's inspiration and guidance, his tenacity, and his kind
humanity. He and Marian will leave a huge void in all of our lives."
A memorial service will be held in the US to honor of Dr. Russell Smith -
Date and location to be advised.
HumanWare designs and manufactures innovative technology for people who are
blind or visually impaired. The company's products include integrated speech
and Braille technology, a range of video magnifier solutions, screen reading
software and speech synthesizers. For more information about HumanWare,
175 Mason Circle
Concord CA 94520
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