A Braille Note Taker is a portable computer with four key elements:
A rechargeable battery.
A Braille keyboard for input.
A Braille display for output.
Software that is highly customized to be efficient for input and output via Braille.
These devices were extremely popular before the advent of tablets, cell phones, and other mainstream personal digital assistants (PDAs) with accessible software. A Braille note taker is much smaller than a regular laptop (because it has no screen, only a 20-character Braille display), making it both easier to use and quieter than a Braille typewriter or slate. This meant that they were especially useful in college classes and corporate meetings where quick and quiet note taking is essential.
Early note takers typically ran using an entirely custom software, allowing the interface to be specially created to be as quick and efficient as possible to use with Braille input and output. This software generally included a word processor, calculator, calendar, to-do list, contact manager, built-in manual, and the ability to import and export files from a DOS computer. Some models also supported BNS BASIC, a custom programming language created for the Braille ‘N’ speak line of Braille note takers, allowing users to write programs to provide any other required features (though in practice, most programs written in BNS basic were games created by high school students).
As tablets became more popular in the mainstream market, later Braille note takers would borrow this software and customize it to meet their requirements. The PAC Mate, for example, was an extremely popular Braille note taker that ran Windows Mobile 6.0, and later Braille note takers would begin to run highly customized versions of the Android operating system.
Today, many users who are blind will opt for a cell phone and pair it with a Bluetooth Braille display to replicate the features of a Braille note taker, rather than having to pay for an extra device. However, because of their extreme efficiency, small size, and long battery life, Braille note takers are still popular with many users who depend on quick and efficient note taking.