General Question

gimmedat's avatar

What's the difference between a court reporter's machine and a regular typewriter?

Asked by gimmedat (3943points) June 29th, 2008 from iPhone

Do you know what the machine is called, how it works, and how it’s different from a typewriter?

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3 Answers

delirium's avatar

I think they type syllabic sounds instead of letters.

marinelife's avatar

From Slate:

“It’s called a stenotype machine, and it’s also used for captioning television broadcasts and general office stenography. The stenotype works a bit like a portable word processor, but with a modified, 22-button keyboard in place of the standard qwerty setup. Modern stenotypes have two rows of consonants across the middle, underneath a long “number bar.” Set in front of these are four vowel keys: “A,” “O,” “E,” and “U.”
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How does it work? Court stenographers can type entire words all at once by striking multiple keys at the same time. The left hand spells out the beginning of a syllable, while the right hand spells out the end; all keys are pressed at the same time, and the machine produces an alphabet soup that’s incomprehensible to anyone who’s not trained in machine shorthand.

Stenographers spell out syllables phonetically, but there aren’t enough keys on each side of the keyboard to cover every sound. Certain combinations of adjacent keys correspond to the missing consonants: For example, there’s no “M” anywhere on the keyboard, so you have to press “P” and “H” together to start a syllable with that sound. There is a “B” on the right side of the board, but none on the left—that means it’s easy to end a syllable with “B,” but for words that begin with “B” you need to hit “P” and “W” together.

Each court reporter might use different conventions to represent homonyms or other ambiguous words. At court-reporting school, you can learn one of at least half a dozen machine shorthand “theories,” which teach different approaches and general rules. But any experienced stenographer will work out his or her own abbreviations, especially for words and phrases particular to a given job. “May it please the court,” for example, could be shortened to a quick stroke, as could, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury.”

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