Back in the Day: A Look at Transcription Technology Through the Ages
What is shorthand?
If you’re like me, as a child you wondered, “What is shorthand? And if there’s shorthand, why is there longhand?” I couldn’t understand why, if there is a system of writing that is so much faster and shorter, we didn’t just use that one. I also couldn’t imagine how the loose-looking squiggles, loops, and sloped lines that made up shorthand could refer to words and sentences. Well, now that I’m in the transcribing business, I know a little something which I will share with fellow-wonderers.
According to reporter Dennis Hollier, shorthand “is a way of compressing language. You are the machine that does the encoding and decoding. And your brain can do it in real time at very, very high speeds.” It allows practitioners to write more than twice as fast as they can in longhand– up to the record-breaking 280 wpm!
The most popular systems of shorthand were used for about a hundred years following their invention in the mid-19th century. Shorthand was a primary method of transcription from dictation and discourse. Every secretary used it, for medical transcription, business transcription, legal transcription. As keyboard transcription became faster and more portable, handwritten shorthand has become less favored, but some people still rely on it. (See Dennis Hollier’s article on using shorthand with a smart pen!)
Dennis Hollier Jun 24 2014 theatlantic.com
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