Freakish and other things

“… few stenomaskers. Freakish things.” (see post 24 of “Levels of Gregg”)
Andrew, a sharp little bias there?
Go to the National Verbatim Reporters Association website for some interesting reading about speech recognition software and court reporting.
Military courts in the US and Canada have used stenomask reporters for about 50 years — and the system was developed because the inventor thought the practices of the 1940’s were silly — a shorthand writer (either hand or machine) would then dictate the whole transcript onto a tape so typist who did not read or write shorthand (and thus was paid considerably less than one who did understand shorthand) could type the transcript — the the shorthand reporter could have considerably more time to take shorthand. So, the inventor thought, why not dictate directly onto the tape in the courtroom.
It’s worked for the military court system, quite well — in fact, in Canada virtually the only stenomask reporters are retired military personnel.
I think it was a sound idea, certainly sound enough for the time, and with the advent and increasing utility of speech recognition tech, maybe we won’t need stenotype reporters in 20 years. Who knows.
I’m fascinated by speech recognition tech, both it’s successes and it’s failures.
Any and all comment welcome!
Billy (sidhetaba)

(by sidhetaba for everyone)

2 comments Add yours
  1. Andrew: I loved the turn of phrase "Freakish things!"   And yes, they do in fact look very funny. We bought one at work and I had to learn to use it and Dragon Naturally Speaking because my boss wanted to see if I could do transcripts faster.   People would walk into our offices and laugh at me! Even when they knew what I was doing. Very humiliating.   I had a great time learning to speak in it — it's quite different from normal speech — and learning to use the DNS software, and tho I got up to about 145 wpm, I'm pretty sure we should have bought the Professional Edition of DNS, because no matter how i trained it, it would read my "the" as "that" about 7 out of 10 times, so we abandoned it.  But it was really fun to try it.   How long did it take you to be able to stenotype at a reasonable speed.  Internet gathered information says pretty consistently a year!   I do really like the idea that your outlines can get computer transcribed into English text — and i totally get your argument about acccuracy, having seen some very strange things appear on the screen when I've said something quite mundane.   Thanks.   Billy (sidhetaba)

  2. I meant thus: it looks funny. 🙂

    The stenomask is certainly one way to take reports of an event. It is just my opinion that stenotypists can produce a much more accurate transcription. The human mind uses context to determine what words are used. That way, we can tell a phrase like "An unfinished work," from "A nun finished work." The stenotypist can accurately type either one and it will be instantly transcribed by real-time CAT technology. Until a computer is able to consider text exactly as a human does (i.e. by taking in the whole paragraph and knowing that that is what a person is talking about), it will not provide an accurate transcription.

    Imagine holding an object like that to your face for a long court session. Your arm would get tired, don't you think? The stenotype or shorthand is much more ergonomic for the reporter, as the arm and hands are usually relaxed during operation. Or I suppose you could get a strap to go around your face, but I think people attending the session with moderate psychoses would definitely react in some way, eh? 😉 One word: Fallout!

    I mean no disrespect to stenomaskers; they do a tiring job to produce a product. It is awfully difficult to speak instantly what you hear.

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