Giving in to Voice Recognition

For the last 38 years I’ve kept a journal.   It started back when I was thirteen, paused when I hit 15, and started “for good” at age 16.   Up through 1985 it was pen and paper, then I started to use word processing.

From 1985 to 1989 I used a word processing program called “Paper Clip” with my Commodore 64, which I had hooked up to both a printer and an old black and white TV as a monitor.  I still have that old computer, disk drive and “Paper Clip” program.   I believe I have the old floppy disks (the 5+ inch variety), but I have no clue if it would be possible to transfer those files to Word.

Last summer I started the task of typing up my old journals.   I am a fast typist.  In 7th grade I took typing and had homeroom in the typing room so I practiced a lot.   Back at Patrick Henry Junior High in Sioux Falls in 1973 I was one of only three guys in my typing class.   The reason the girls outnumbered us 10 to 1 was because typing just wasn’t a skill boys were expected to learn.   Most guys took more shop courses (wood working, metals, drafting, etc.) while the girls took things like typing.   You see, guys would likely end up in an office with a dictating machine, while the girls would be the secretaries who would have to type up the work.   Why would a boy want to develop typing skills?   A male secretary would be, well, weird.

I’d love to say I enlightened enough to oppose sexual discrimination back in the 8th grade, but the truth is I loved to write even back then.    I wanted to type.   I was going to be a journalist, preferably a sports writer.  My hero was Sid Hartman, an insider for the Minneapolis Tribune (now the StarTribune) who wrote daily columns about the goings on inside the Twins, Vikings, Gophers and North Stars (the hockey team of that era) club houses.   I could imagine myself following sports for a living.   So I learned to type, and I was one of the fastest in the class — my typing teacher was thrilled to have a boy learn to type and be so good!   In junior high, otherwise lost years for me academically, typing was my best subject.

I remember writing about the Ali-Foreman fight, various football games, and handing my “column” (I’d get to school early so I could write) to friends and have them comment and often argue about my effusive praise of Fran Tarkenton or prediction that Bert Blyleven would be a superstar.    I learned and wrote on an Underwood manual typewriter, and still remember those drills to strengthen the little fingers, slapping the carriage return bar, and making sure that I didn’t type past the little mark representing the one inch bottom margin.

By college I had my own Royal Electric typewriter (I still have it, though I have no idea if I could get a ribbon for it), and for long papers I would go into my dad’s office to use his secretary’s IBM selectric.  That was a sweet machine, and I fantasized about owning a Selectric.  It had a backspace button that automatically whited out a mistake — and if you backspaced ten or so times, it would remember which letters to white out.   It was sleek and easy to type on.   I hit 100 WPM with no errors at one point.

Of course, I never bought a Selectric.  Shortly after college the technology revolution brought the PC age, and at age 25 I got my Commodore 64.   That’s also when I shifted to typing my journals.

Last summer I started retyping my old journals, getting 1973 to 1975 complete.   But as I look at the stacks of paper representing journals between 1975 and 1989 and consider the aches and pains of constant typing, I realize that I lack the time to quickly type them all up.   I’m also not sure my hands and wrists could take it.   So today I went on line and ordered voice recognition software.

The typist in me has been resisting that, the same way I resist texting.   I don’t have that many skills in life, but typing is one of them!   To be sure, most of my writing will still be done via keyboard.    I think through my fingers.   To me typing is the process of writing, I don’t do well with a pen and paper, or by talking it.   I could never create blog entries with voice recognition software, my fingers on the keyboard are integral to the creative process.  But copying already written material?  Yeah, I can see just reading it aloud.

I also have “dream journals” to copy.   These were made from 1986 to 1990 and contain thousands of dreams.   I would become what I called “dream aware” (I’ve since learned the official term is lucid dreaming) and then do experiments, waking up to jot down the ideas I’d type up (on my Commodore 64) the next morning.

I’m not sure how well voice recognition will work, if I find that I’ll use it more often than expected, or end up hating it — I’ll blog the result when that happens.  And who knows — maybe I’ll balance giving in to this new technology with a purchase down the line of an old Underwood manual typewriter.   I’m sure my fingers (especially the pinkies) have gotten lazy and soft being used to these sensitive PC keyboards.   My fingers could use a good workout!

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  1. #1 by pino on June 19, 2011 - 03:15

    So today I went on line and ordered voice recognition software.

    Return it. Buy the iPad 2 and download the free app called Dragon Dictation.

    You’ll be cooler, still be able to dictate AND you’ll be able to blog wireless from your brand spankin’ new iPad.

    • #2 by Scott Erb on June 19, 2011 - 13:46

      That’s tempting. My friend Steve has an iPad, he was one of the co-instructors on the Italy travel course I just did. It was cool — if we were walking in Rome and were lost he could quickly pull up a map, find good restaurants nearby, and get information about when various sites were open or closed. I was impressed!

  2. #3 by Lee on June 19, 2011 - 19:22

    I’ll be interested to see if you like it and will watch for your review. I have long thought this would be helpful for my eldest daughter who has some issues that prevent writing and typing from being good mediums for her to express herself. For me, it would not work well for blogging I fear. When ever I am on the computer the hubbub of our 4 kids is in varying levels of chaos around me!

  3. #4 by Scott Erb on July 2, 2011 - 00:23

    The software arrived. It seems pretty easy to use, but I haven’t really done much yet – it supposedly takes awhile to really learn the voice. But if I speak slowly and clearly, it’s pretty accurate even at the start. When I get a chance to use it more I’ll post on what I think!

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