Cybernetics for the Blind: The Reading Machine “Luch” (The Ray)

anthropology and technology, human-machine interactions

This essay for the inaugural issue of Technology and Language looks at a particular technical device that was to give access to the written word. In the late 1960s Rostislav Muratov proposed the model of a reading machine named “Luch” (Ray). “Luch” was designed for blind people to provide comprehensive access to books, newspapers, and magazines. Muratov understood blindness as “the loss of information” and assumed that his invention would appeal to a desire to participate on one’s own terms in the circulation of knowledge and information. Then as now, however, people were content to have texts preselected for them.