Jimmy Fallon and the History of the Stenograph

stenograph court reporting

Photo credit: GalleryOfShorthand.org

Thank you, Stenograph machine, for making it possible to document an 8 hour deposition of an Indian geophysicist testifying about the analysis of the Earth’s atmospheric processes. Whew!!


Do you watch Jimmy Fallon? My favorite segment is his weekly “Thank You Notes.”
Here’s a funny one from last year’s holiday season that still brings a smile to my face.

As 2014 comes to a close, I find myself pondering such issues as where I’ve been and where I’m headed in 2015. Over the years, as a court reporting firm owner, I’ve been blessed to provide a wide range of deposition solutions to smart and hardworking clients. Technology has been a key factor, over the years, in streamlining the services that Stevens-Koenig provides. With that said, I thought it would be interesting to share some insights about the history of stenography. So much has changed, yet so much has stayed the same!

Humble Beginnings
The first stenograph machine was created by Miles Bartholomew and patented through his company, The Stenograph Company, in 1879. His machine looked amazingly similar to today’s keyboard design. It had (and still has) only 22 keys that, when pressed in combination, form words. Stenograph writers can capture as many as 300 words per minute using a combination of letters or phrases. What has changed drastically since that 19th Century model is the technology that creates the final product –the spoken word translated into writing.

Stenograph Diamante product image

Photo credit: Stenograph, Diamante product image

Stenograph Today
Words are still written phonetically, such as “na-moan-ya”, but what was once verbally dictated from a long strip of paper, much like that from an adding machine, onto a recording device (tape recorder) is now automatically translated wirelessly through computer programs that recognize the series of letters as the word that was (in this example) said, “pneumonia.” Steno “theory” is taught in court reporting schools, but court reporters are always finding ways to write words in their own “theory” and creating briefs (shorter way to write a word or phrase) that are quicker and more efficient. For that reason, not every reporter can read another reporter’s steno notes. Today, computer translators help simplify the process.

Realtime – Real Saver of Time
Typists and carbon paper (for copies) used to be part of the process. Today, words appear on an attached LCD display. When those words are transferred via modem to the attorney’s laptop during a deposition, it is called “realtime.” Realtime delivers words to the attorney’s screen almost as fast as they are spoken. Readback is instantaneous, rough drafts are available at the end of the day, and final copies are available quicker than ever before.

Full Circle Record Keeping
Much has changed since Mr. Bartholomew’s invention of the stenograph machine back in 1879. Since then, technology has vastly improved the convenience and turnaround time for transcripts. However, the end product remains the same – dictation, testimony or proceedings written verbatim on a 22-key steno machine from which a final document is created to benefit the legal process.

Thank you, Stenograph Machine, for making it possible for
Court reporters to capture the record since 1879.