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    Clickable dictation at various speeds is available at the bottom of this page. The transcript of the dictation appears here as well.

    Same source book as last month, a peek back over a hundred years ago as to how business used to be conducted.

    Since sound recordings were invented and commercialized, people have predicted the death of shorthand. This month's selection is from 1888 and praises the "graphophone." The graphophone was one of the first voice recording devices designed for use in office settings to record dictation. The spoken words were recorded on wax and could be repeated over and over again by a transcriber if necessary. Once finished, the wax was shaved down and ready for fresh dictation. My understanding is that clarity of these machines was not great, making it difficult to understand what was said. But it was no longer necessary to dictate to a shorthand writer (or have one spend the time to learn shorthand and then build speed); one could dictate to a machine and a typist could transcribe the recording. No need to have a person taking down dictation when he or she could be doing something else, hopefully more productive as well. Just the same, court reporters frequently read their shorthand notes into machines like the graphophone so someone who didn't know shorthand could handle transcribe. It was faster than having a court reporter type up notes.

The Missing Link in Shorthand, Samuel C. Dunham, 1894, p. 133-134

The First Users of the Graphophone

          Washington, DC, July 13, 1888.  I have been familiar with the graphophone since April 1887 when it was first brought out and began its use as soon as I could obtain the first instrument.  Previously all my dictation had been done directly to typewriter operators or to shorthand amanuenses.  I now use the graphophone for all my work and it is as superior to the old method as is the locomotive to the stage-coach.  The speed of dictation is only limited by ability to articulate and often runs over two hundred words per minute.  The day the first graphophone arrived, I dictated to it a deposition of about one thousand words.  The transcriber, who had never before attempted such work, wrote readily from the dictation of the instrument and made only one mistake in the copy.  Our transcripts are as accurate as those made by direct dictation.  Patent arguments, full of technical and unusual terms, are as correctly reproduced as simple matter.  The graphophone not only saves the time of the stenographer but, by enabling him to accomplish so much more work, it increases his ability to earn.  I can turn out at least twice as much copy per day with the graphophone as I ever could before.  Since June 11, I have been reporting debates in the House of Representatives, and I use the graphophone there constantly.  My transcriber began with only half an hour’s preparation and has achieved highly satisfactory results.  He can readily do what two shorthand amanuenses were before required to accomplish.—E. D. Easton

For more information on shorthand speed building, click here.

Instructions for Self-Dictation Practice:
    Copy and paste the above article into a word-processing document, using double or triple spacing and 12- or 14-pitch type.
    As always, be sure to check your shorthand dictionary for correct outlines before "drilling"!

Dictation Practice:
    Note that the material was counted and recorded for dictation at 100; all other speeds were copied from the 100 take and electronically adjusted and may therefore sound unusual.
    PLEASE ALLOW SUFFICIENT TIME FOR THE DICTATION TO LOAD depending upon your internet connection and the size of the dictation file. Slower dictation files are bigger.

60 wpm 80 wpm 100 wpm 120 wpm 140 wpm

The dictation material above is copyrighted, all rights reserved.


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Gregg Shorthand Pitman Shorthand Speedwriting Shorthand