From Court Reporting to Stenography – Technology is Evolving

Previously, there were court reporters documenting work in the courtrooms. Through 1960s, early scribes used paper books and the shorthand or speed writing methods. Responsibilities of the court reporting have not changed over the years but the way it is done has been evolving from time to time.

The most common technique for court reporting at present is machine shorthand, with the use of a stenograph. Stenograph machines were invented for the first time in the 1920s, following the development of the typewriter.

Before the invention of computers, all the notes were taken on the stenograph machine with the use of speed writing techniques and English letters based on the different theories taught in business schools. Once an individual is certified at 225 words per minute and meets the certification requirements, their court reporting career will begin.

The court reporting involves taking proceedings down on the machine and giving the paper notes to the transcriber who will transcribe them into a readable way on paper. All the official proceedings should be present on non-erasable onion skin with three pieces of carbon paper between the four sheets of paper. This process was very monotonous and time consuming, especially to separate all the types of sheets of paper. These sheets were then distributed to the Court and among the parties. This was the general process followed in the situation of a deposition, the court or the court proceedings.

After the invention of erasable paper things became flexible. In the 1980s, copy machines made it likely to type only the relevant original and photocopy the rest of the three copies for distribution.

Court reporting experienced a drastic change with the beginning of computer era in the 1980s. Stenograph machines were attached with hard drives, which wrote notes onto the disks directly. Those disks were again inserted into another computer for the purpose of translation. Computers were heavy and expensive during that era.

However, computers have become smaller and less expensive in the recent years. Even more so, the traditional method of writing on a stenograph, and hard drives developed are much more powerful. Today, court reporters can directly translate into English on a screen which can be viewed promptly during writing.  Computers can also be connected for a direct feed, which can be streamed over the Internet.

Along with the traditional courtroom work and deposition, court reporters can also work from home or anywhere captioning the news, which can be streamed to millions of people around the world. They can also work remotely in a classroom by providing transcription to deaf students, which allows them to graduate college or law school.

From the carbon paper to wireless technology, court reporting has experienced a technical evolution over the period in the last couple of decades.

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