Technology in Court Reporting




Court Reporting TechnologyFor most court reporters, the days of using a pencil, a steno pad, and Gregg Shorthand are long forgotten, if they were ever even known.  Many court reporting graduates today have never experienced a world without computers, especially in the profession of court reporting.  Though anticipated advancements have been made over the years, the technology in court reporting that exists today is almost mind-boggling.

Computer Aided Transcription and Realtime Writing

Computer aided transcription, referred to in the industry as “CAT,” is technology that utilizes highly specialized software to interpret the strokes made by a court reporter on a stenography machine.  As the court reporter presses applicable keyboard combinations, the software immediately translates the machine shorthand into English.  Realtime writing refers to computer aided transcription which is performed by court reporters whose steno notes require very little editing and can, therefore, be instantly read on a monitor by the participants in a legal proceeding or other type meeting.  This type of court reporting service is very beneficial for producing transcripts almost immediately, as well as allowing participants to mark or copy and paste certain spots in a transcript that can make a proceeding or meeting more productive.

Voice Writing

The technology of voice writing continues to develop and improve.  Using the human voice instead of keys on a stenography machine, voice writers speak directly into a device called a “stenomask” to record legal proceedings and other meetings.  These court reporters can accomplish the same impressive results using speech recognition CAT software as their stenotype machine counterparts.  In the same way input from a stenography machine is translated, the CAT software interprets the voice patterns made by the court reporter and translates those patterns into English text, which is then displayed on a monitor.  The stenomask is constructed with a voice silencer which prevents what the court reporter is saying from being heard by the other people in the room.  Speaker designations, punctuation, inaudible gestures, as well as the spoken testimony, are “written” by the court reporter voice writer.

Broadcast Captioning

Broadcast CaptioningClosed captioning was first demonstrated in the early 1970s.  After a decade of development, in early 1980 the first regular use of captioning began on a small number of programs.  To view the available captioning, a special decoding unit attached to a television set was necessary.  As technology continued to develop, it became apparent that it would be more cost-effective to have closed-captioning equipment built directly into television sets.  With that idea came the passage of the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990.  That Act requires new televisions to have decoder circuitry built in when they are manufactured.  In 1996, Congress required that video programming distributors provide closed captioning for their programs, and, as a result, the demand for better technology has continued to evolve.  Read Broadcast Captioning for further details about this career.

Captioning is not the same as subtitles; however, many people do not distinguish between the two.  Though there are some additional beneficial uses for captioning, such as assisting people who are learning English as a second language, the primary focus for broadcast captioning is to aid members of the population who are hearing-impaired.  Court reporters referred to as “broadcast captioning reporters” or “broadcast captioners” produce speech-to-text captions which can be read on the television screen within seconds of the information being said.  In addition to providing entertainment, this service can be vital to hearing-impaired people, such as alerting them to dangerous weather conditions.  Broadcast captioners use the same skills that are essential for judicial court reporters.  Though the software is slightly different, the tools required for input of the spoken word or inaudible gestures are the same.  Broadcast captioners use the same stenotype machines and stenomasks to perform their duties as those used by judicial court reporters.  

Society for the Technological Advancement of Reporting

The Society for the Technological Advancement of Reporting (STAR) considers itself to be “the driving force in the development of state-of-the-art court reporting technology.”  This organization of approximately 600 members is active in promoting the advancement of technology in the field of court reporting.  Providing a platform for its members to network and exchange information about particular technologies, it allows for meaningful discussion on how certain products might be improved.  Members evaluate products to determine the benefits available and present their ideas to the product manufacturers in one united voice.  Members of STAR also receive valuable discounts from the court reporting supplies companies of Stenograph and Pengad.

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Written by , CCR on 1/11/2013 Suzanne has been a court reporter and worked in legal communities for over 18 years.

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