Steno Writers – What Are They?

\nSteno writers, also known as writing or shorthand machines, are seen most commonly in courtrooms being used to take down legal proceedings, but they are also increasingly being used to transcribe TV shows and movies for closed captioning. These devices appear to be typewriters or keyboards that are missing keys, and they do in fact have far fewer keys and a vastly different layout than a standard QWERTY keyboard. They are laid out in three rows, two for the fingers and one for the thumbs and have a total of 22 keys.\n\nWhen stenographers use steno writers, they spell things phonetically rather than typing them out. Additionally, multiple keys can be pressed at the same time to produce different words, numbers or even punctuation, something that is sometimes referred to as chording. This unsurprisingly produces something that appears to be gibberish to most people, but stenographers are usually trained in multiple versions of short hand to be able to use these devices and understand what they have recorded. Advancements in technology have enabled users to upload dictionaries to their machines making it easier for laymen to decipher dictations.\n\nWhile learning a number of short hand languages and becoming facile at using a steno writer can take years, this training provides substantial results. Being able to type at 100 words per minute on a standard keyboard is considered impressive by most, but stenographers are required to produce a minimum of 180 wpm to pass the most basic certification exam. The current official record on one of these machines is an incredible 375 wpm!\n\nOlder versions of these devices used steno pads to record dictation from a court reporter or user, but most systems used today are fairly similar to computers. While they do not have an operating system since they are basically specialized word processors, writers today are portable, lightweight and save dictations to a memory card or disk of some sort. In fact, high end machines, such as those used by professionals, have built in WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, and they have a digital display screen and USB ports. Some top of the line devices boast an eight to 10 hour battery and the ability to save different settings for key pressure sensitivity.