With the incredible advances in technology in the past twenty years, stenography has become a lost art, with fewer and fewer individuals interested in becoming a court reporter. Stenography is the practice of using special symbols to enable the writer to write quicker and take up less space than normal writing. Each system has numerous glyphs to represent common words, phrases or ideas that may need to be communicated.
The first modern stenography was developed in England in the late 1600s. Timothy Bright published a book with 500 symbols that each represented one word. Thomas Sheldon created a book describing how to abbreviate words by using some of the original Latin characters in the word. This system was immensely popular, and was used by Sir Isaac Newton and Samuel Pepys. In modern times, stenographic systems are used for recording courtroom interactions, journalism and live television subtitling. These established stenographic systems may be obsolete in the next few years because of audio recording technology and voice-to-text software.
Voice recording has been dramatically improved since its inception in the late 1800s. Magnetic tapes and microphones were introduced in 1935 and 1925, respectively. This technology was first used in World War II, mainly to play prerecorded radio programs. The magnetic tape recorder was commercialized over the next few decades and became a tool for journalism, espionage and other audio professionals. Magnetic tape was such a huge breakthrough in audio technology because a lot of data could be stored in a much smaller space than a record, plus it had higher quality audio to begin with, and also did not degrade over time. Soon cassette tapes were invented, enabling even higher quality in less space.
By the late 70s, digital audio recordings were emerging. Through the next several years different standards of recording fought to be the standard technique among the audio industry. Eventually, the CD replaced the tape, and now audio can be stored on a computer.
Today’s methods of audio recording are the easiest ever because of standardized formats, ease of storage and overall accessibility. As a result, there has been marked reduced attendance at court reporter schools. Voice-to-text software is harnessing the power of today’s high quality microphones to record speech as text. If these algorithms are perfected so that they can record speech with 100% accuracy, then stenography would be obsolete. But even if voice-to-text software isn’t perfect yet, sound can easily be recorded on a computer. Most computers can hold hundreds of hours of sound, and microphones can be purchased for as cheap as $10. Cell phones can also record dozens of hours of audio, and are much more portable than computers, making them ideal for applications like journalism. All in all, the art of stenography seems to be dying at the hands of technology.