Monday, March 26, 2012

CART Problem Solving: Expensive Machines

CART Problem Solving Series

Sitting Apart
Handling Slides
Classroom Videos
Latin
Superscript and Subscript
Schlepping Gear
Late Hours
Expensive Machines
Communicating Sans Steno
Cash Flow
Lag
Summer
Test Nerves
Ergonomics
Speech Recognition, Part I
Speech Recognition, Part II
Speech Recognition, Part III
Speech Recognition, Part IV

I'm going to address today's CART problem over at The Plover Project Blog. It's a pretty simple one, and one that I've railed against for years, but I might have found some sort of workable solution for it.

CART PROBLEM: Steno Machines are too expensive.

This solution isn't intended to help out professionals. I own a professional machine (an Infinity Ergonomic), and I wouldn't part with it for anything. But even entry level steno machines cost over a thousand dollars, and it's seriously affecting the future of our profession. Why? Because buying one is too much of a financial risk for most people to take, especially considering the 85% average dropout rate of steno schools across the country. I firmly believe that unless it becomes as easy to dabble in steno as it is to take up any other computer-based activity (playing video games, writing software, composing music, et cetera) that the number of stenographers in this country and around the world will continue on its slow but steady trajectory downwards. Not enough people are giving it a try, and it's very hard to convince prospective CART providers, captioners, and court reporters of how fantastic our job can be when we require such a huge and non-refundable up front investment. The Plover Project is my way of giving the hobbyists, curiosity seekers, and would-be students a chance to try out this marvelous technology before they commit to it. The software is completely free, and the hardware costs only about $45, which is a much more reasonable amount for someone to lay out on a whim than $1,7500 (the sticker price of a new Stentura Protege). For more on this subject, please read my essay CART, Court, and Captioning.

I've recently made a pretty useful breakthrough in my quest to produce an efficient low-cost steno machine: I discovered how to make steno-style key toppers for the $45 keyboard. They cost only pennies to produce, and they give a much more natural feel to the keyboard, making it easier for new learners to switch their muscle memory from qwerty to steno. I've actually written pretty much all of this post (except for the HTML, because I haven't gotten around to putting angle brackets into my dictionary) on the qwerty keyboard with the new key toppers, and it's really not bad at all. Want to see how it all works? Read the post!

The Plover Blog: Towards an Affordable Steno Machine

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