Digital Transcription – Digital Dictation -V- Cassettes

After telling my nine year old, while nagging her to prepare for her piano lesson, that practice makes perfect she asked me how long I’d been practising to type to become so fast at it and to be able to type without looking at the keyboard. My initial answer was ‘oh about 10 years or so’ but after working it out it’s more like 19 years – I must be older than I thought!

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This got me thinking about how audio transcription has changed during the last 20 years.

When I first started training as a legal secretary we used reel-to-reel dictation and typewriters – remember those? We eventually moved on to basic PCs and standard size cassettes. A few years later when mini cassettes were introduced for dictation we thought they were very high tech. How could it get any better?

It was only around eight years ago that I discovered the miracle of digital dictation. Gone were the days of accidentally pressing delete and rewind at the same time and erasing a whole cassette of urgent work (come on we’ve all done it!) and having to sheepishly inform your very stressed boss that ‘this tape appears to be blank.’

The clarity of a digital recording is far superior to that of an analogue cassette; after reusing a cassette 9 or 10 times the audio quality would decrease and the sound would become distorted as the tape gradually stretched. However this is not a problem with digital audio, it’s like having a brand new cassette every time, only better. Oh and no more chewed up tapes!

Another huge advantage of digital dictation is that you can see exactly how long your piece of work is which enables you to prioritise your workload, making for a much more efficient service. That just wasn’t possible when you were handed a rewound cassette.

A recording can only ever be as good as the environment it’s recorded in. If a depth interview is being held in the middle of a crowded coffee shop, or the Moderator has recorded in mono rather than stereo then it doesn’t help the transcriber when producing the transcript. However, with the new advances in digital transcription software we are able to run background noise reduction and convert from mono to stereo to help produce a clearer recording and therefore an accurate transcript – something else that would not be possible with a cassette.

It also got me thinking about how in some ways digital audio transcription has helped the environment and saved money. How? Well not using couriers to deliver tapes means less carbon emissions and less petrol. There is no more sitting around waiting for tapes to be delivered, so time is more efficiently spent transcribing. Global transcription services can be offered because audio files can be sent across the world in minutes, depending on download speeds of course but that’s a different blog altogether!

Digital transcription wins hands down over cassettes, for quality, efficiency, convenience and the production of high quality transcripts, whether it’s focus groups, telephone interviews or face-to-face depth discussions.

Digital dictation has become a transcribers’ best friend and one of the tools which enables McGowan Transcriptions to produce transcripts of excellent quality, with accuracy and efficient turnaround times. Of course this goes along with the many, many years of experience and lots of practice. Practice really does make perfect.

Blog by 
Zara Steel