A reading machine is a piece of assistive technology that allows blind people to access printed materials. It scans text, converts the image into text by means of optical character recognition and uses a speech synthesizer to read out what it has found.
The first successful prototypes of reading machine were developed at Haskins Laboratories in the 1970s under contract from the Veterans Administration. These large prototypes sent the output from a fixed-font optical character recognizer (OCR) to the input of synthesis-by-rule algorithms developed at Haskins Laboratories.
The first commercial reading machine for the blind was developed by Kurzweil Computer Products (later acquired by Xerox Corporation.) in 1975. Walter Cronkite used this machine to give his signature soundoff, "And that's the way it is, January 13, 1976." 
In the mid-1960s, Francis F. Lee joined Dr. Samuel Jefferson Mason's Cognitive Information Processing Group in the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT to work on a reading machine for the blind, the first system that would scan text and produce continuous speech. Early reading machines were desk-based and large, found in libraries, schools and hospitals or owned by wealthy individuals. In 2009 a cellphone running Kurzweil-NFB software works as a reading machine.
- RLE Timeline 1960-1979 http://www.rle.mit.edu/about/history/timeline-1960-1 Retrieved 3 January 2015