Arguably Giants

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Earlier this month I wrote about my interest in trying voice-recognition software. I decided I might as well go ahead and buy the program--it wasn’t that expensive, and I thought it might be helpful. It arrived last week, and having spent some time using it, I’ve decided, typing is better.

I admit I had some fallacious ideas about what using voice recognition software would be like: I thought I could roam around my house and speak my random thoughts aloud and the words I’d spoken would appear, almost like magic, on my computer screen. No such luck! I have to sit down at my computer and wear this annoying little head-set microphone thing that’s jacked into my computer, and then I have to speak VERY SLOWLY AND E-NUN-CI-ATE VER-Y CARE-FUL-LY or the program mishears half of what I say.

I’m a really fast typist--in the neighborhood of 80 or 90 words a minute--and I also like to type. I like how it feels and I like seeing words appear on a page and I like the way it helps me think as I compose. So this program is beyond useless in helping me compose or draft new material--it actually slows me down. However, it is useful if I have to transcribe a long passage of text I can read aloud, provided I am willing, once again, to speak SLOWLY AND CLEARLY--that is about as fast and easier on my wrists than propping the book open and trying to get everything right without once glancing at my screen. Still, the program makes mistakes. Here’s a passage I had to transcribed today, from Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen:

They shut themselves up to read novels together. Yes, novels; --for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they themselves are adding--joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally takes up a novel is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! if the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it. Let us leave it to the Reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans. Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers. And while the abilities of the nine-hundredth abridger of the History of England, or of the man who collects and publishes in a volume some dozen lines of Milton, Pope and Prior, with a paper from the Spectator, and a chapter from Sterne, are eulogized by a thousand pens,--there seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labor of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them.

That’s the passage as it appears in the book. But here’s what the voice recognition software first gave me:

They shut themselves up to read novels together. Yes, novels; – for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom still common with novel writers (inserted gratuitous line break), of degrading by their contemptuous and sure the very performances, to the number of which they themselves are adding – (here it missed an entire phrase) and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine , who, if she accidentally takes up the novel is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! If the heroine of one novel the not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it. Let us leave it to the reviewers to abuse such infusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now roams. Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our photos are almost as many as our readers (forgot the period here) and while the abilities of the 900th a bridger of the history of England, or of the man who collects and publishes in a volume some dozen lines of Milton, Pope and prior, with a paper from the spectator, and a chapter from Stern, arguably giants by a thousand pens, period (and then it freaked out and didn't get the last few lines)

As you can see, “are eulogized” was turned into “arguably giants,” which is a pretty big discrepancy. And even though I was reading quite slowly, the program couldn’t keep up with me and missed entire phrases. Admittedly, I went back and added them very easily later, but still, I had to do that.

I’m not sorry I bought the software, and I will use it. Furthermore, I’m sure that with time, I’ll get better at employing the proper commands and it will get better at recognizing my voice. And I imagine that for someone who can no longer type, this program is just about miraculous. But it’s not the really cool fix I thought it might be for me.

1 Comment

I thought for sure you were eulogizing here, I admire your sticktoitiveness. I wonder what your software would replace that with.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on March 17, 2008 2:01 PM.

Rare, Beautiful, Ephemeral, Glittery and Very, Very Dangerous and Destructive was the previous entry in this blog.

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