Personal Communicator CD-ROM and ASL Browser Web Site

asl browser graphic           sample communicator screen          

The CD-ROM was created in 1997. Unfortunately, it is now out-of-date and will not run on modern operating systems, such as Windows Vista and Mac OS X. The ASL Browser is still available online. You can also check out Signing Savvy, a similar, but newer product.

Content Expert: Professor David Stewart
Co-PI: Patrick Dickson
Director of Software Development: Carrie Heeter
Lead Hypercard Programmer: Randy Russell
Lead Director Programmer: Brian WInn
ASL Browser Programming: Brian Winn

The Personal Communicator was developed in 1994-1996 funded in part by a grant 3 year grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In 1995 the Personal Communicator won Discover Magazine's Software Innovation of the Year Award. The software was originally created using Hypercard. Randy Russell served as lead programmer and Susanna Tellschow was lead artist. As digital video and compression technology improved, we were able to rerecord the ASL signs, expanding the raw number from the original 300 up to beyond 2500 signs. We added English synonyms, increasing the number of English words covered to more than 4500. Brian Winn, working with Carrie and Tim Mallos, redesigned the interface and ported it from Hypercard to Macromedia Director, making it a cross-platform, Mac and Windows product.

All of the recorded sign videos plus explanations from David Stewart of how the signs are formed can be viewed online at the ASL Browser web site. Last year the site had more than 9 million visits. Kyle Tait and Brian Winn designed the web site. Tim Mallos was responsible for videotaping the signs. Lisa Lockwood was our signer. Kurt Besecker supervised digitizing and processing of the signs.


-- "An outstanding site in its subject area." Web Feet, Summer, 2002
-- selected for MERLOT database as a distinguished, high-quality source of learning material, November, 2000 and June, 2002
-- September 2001 Site of the Day at’s Site of the Day
-- licensed by the CIA for use on their internal network, 2002
-- September 2001 Site of the Day at
-- featured on Spanish and World Languages/Cultures website, March 2001
-- rated "Wonderful!" and awarded 4 stars in the 3/21/2001 syndicated newspaper column "Surfing the Net with Kids."
-- four stars on "Surfing the Net with Kids” national column, March, 2001
-- New on the Net selection of the month, Electronic School magazine, 1999
-- included in the Scout Report for Social Sciences, 1999
-- Discover Magazine's Software Innovation of the Year Award, 1995.

Word Processor


English-ASL Dictionary


ASL Playroom


ASL Browser

A Tool for Learning and Communicating in American Sign Language

The Personal Communicator creates a common ground for communicating in American Sign Language (ASL) and English. Using hypermedia technology, the Personal Communicator is a user friendly program that brings ASL communication capabilities to the desktop and notebook computer. With more than 2500 digital video signs and 4500 English words (plus variations on these words) the Personal Communicator can be a useful tool in communication, education, and other environments.

The Personal Communicator includes a simple Word Processor that will convert your typed English text into American Sign Language signs and Speech for learning or communication purposes. The English-ASL Dictionary allows you to look up word meanings and signs. The ASL Playroom is for you to not only learn new signs, but have fun along the way. Included in the playroom are clickable objects that react to the user with audio and video feedback, and give the user the sign for the object they selected. The ASL Browser contains the complete ASL Browser Web Site on the CD-ROM for your convenience. The ASL Browser provides a straightforward interface to accessing over 2500 signs. (NOTE: The program does not convert English syntax to ASL syntax.)

The Personal Communicator was partially funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and developed by the Communication Technology Lab at Michigan State University.

Version 2.4 of the Personal Communicator CD-ROM is new and improved and runs on Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP and MacOS 8 or newer (OSX via Classic) and requires at least 32 MB of RAM.

"Classroom and futuristic screen backgrounds make learning fun as the Personal Communicator helps deaf children, and their hearing peers, to communicate better."
New Media Magazine


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