The tools we use to create transcripts have certainly improved over the years. Sometimes it’s hard to recall exactly how transcripts were actually created before the days of notebook computers, wi-fi and the Internet. We asked some of our court reporters and videographers to share their fond memories of yesteryear’s equipment.
When Paper Transcripts Ruled
Did you know that the first “steno” or shorthand machine was built in 1830 by German inventor Karl Drais? Until the computer age, the first steno machines were actually similar to intelligent recorder-printers that enabled court reporters to capture and print the written word at very high speeds.
As recently as the early 1990s, court reporters brought their own steno machine and a large supply of steno paper to every deposition. Every few hours or so, they’d stop and change the paper supply to make sure they didn’t run out during a deposition. They’d also have to keep an eye on the printer ribbon to make sure it didn’t fade or run out of ink, resulting in an illegible transcript.
As the deposition progressed, printed stenographic code would spit out of the machine in a continuous roll of steno paper that fed into a print basket. If someone had a question about earlier testimony, the court reporter would have to look back through the paper trail and translate their stenographic code into English.
According to Michele Eddy, a veteran court reporter who stopped using older steno machines when she received her first laptop computer, re-translating stenographic code was not always a fast or easy process. “Nowadays, of course, our steno machines share the spoken word instantly, via wi-fi or the Internet, to our notebook computers,” she said, “and there is no need to translate the stenography. Today’s computer-aided translation (CAT) software does most of the work.”
Eddy stopped carrying steno paper years ago, although some court reporters still like to have it on hand as a backup. She relies on her steno machine’s back up system and also uses tiny SD cards to store backup files. Much more convenient, don’t you think?
Video Depositions on VHS Tapes? Yes!
When was the last time you popped a VHS tape into a VCR to watch a movie? Have you ever done so? VHS tapes are just about obsolete these days, but there was a time that they were used to record video depositions. Once created, the tapes were labeled, stored in boxes and kept in a storage area until they were needed – maybe weeks, months or even years later.
Now, imagine that someone wanted to review a certain deposition. Look-ups were nowhere near as instantaneous as they are today, because the actual videos were not initially uploaded to a computer network. Instead, the process was more like going to the library, looking through a catalog of tapes and searching through storage bins to locate the one you wanted.
According to Paul Stagnitto, Operations Manager at Merrill LAD, archive VHS tapes of depositions can still be found in many established court reporting service and law firm storage facilities. Now, the bigger question is: who still has a VCR on hand to play them?
Today’s videographers use compact, fully featured digital video cameras to create a digital video record of the deposition. This digital record can be instantly accessed and shared by multiple parties via the Internet. In many cases, the actual video file is combined (synchronized) with the written transcript so that viewers can see the spoken word alongside or below the video footage as it is plays.
Looking up specific testimony is fast and easy. Most software packages will take you right to the exact place in the deposition where the specific word or phrase was used. Even more convenient, if the files are stored in an online repository, anyone with login rights can access them from the comfort of their office. No need to look through storage bins of VHS tapes or printed transcripts.
Technology has brought the world of court reporting and video depositions very far over the past 20 years. It’s exciting to think of where the next wave of invention will bring us!
- A Profile for Success: Meet Sue Terry, RPR/CRR/LSR/CLR (merrill-lad-magazine.com)
- The Simplest Way to View & Digest Deposition Video (merrill-lad-magazine.com)
- Best Practices In Selecting A Legal Services Provider – Legal Video (merrill-lad-magazine.com)