I am writing this article using speech to text recognition software.
I simply say a sentence out loud, like this one, and it appears on my computer screen. You may be forgiven for assuming that my laziness has reached new levels, but in fact, a minor operation on my hand has left me unable to type. Or at least, only able to type with one hand, which I dislike because it makes me feel like one of those poor chimpanzees forced to write the complete works of Shakespeare in order to prove the theory of infinite possibilities. I am not interested in infinite possibilities, I am interested in the possibility of knocking off early and setting up the camping chair on the porch.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that this software could be a boon to writers everywhere. No more editing as you go, no more screen headaches, no more RSI. Just ideas as sound waves, propagated through the air in the constant, unbroken communion between man and machine. Would you like a cup of tea?
Yes, please, darling. I’m just using speech to text software to write my piece.
Dupuytrens disease is an hereditary condition that sees a build up of superfluous connective tissue in the hand which causes one or more fingers, over time, to contract into the palm. Once it has started, the process is irreversible, and when you reach the stage where you can’t let go of a pub door handle or pick up a pint, the only option is surgery.
Ahead of my operation, I was asked what it was I would like to be able to do again after the procedure and the physiotherapy that follows. To be able to write again, I said. To be able to ferry a small glass of port to my lips on a summer’s eve. To be able once again to play, if not Liszt, then at least Rachmaninov. To pleasure, if not a woman, then perhaps a barnyard animal… Dad, is this sweetcorn OK to eat even though it’s three days out of date?
Yes, it’s fine. Could you just give me 10 minutes? I’m trying to dictate an article and the machine will write down anything you say.
That’s not a machine, that’s a computer.
Yes, I know. Look, I’m losing my flow here.
Fine, then. Be like that.
Of course the truly liberating thing about this software is that you no longer need to be tethered to your desk, or indeed any desk. As the app is also available on mobile devices, the world is your office. Now I am putting on my action sandals and I’m going out for a walk to continue my article. What about this tea you said you wanted?
I’ll have it later.
It’ll be cold.
I’ll put it in the microwave.
Yuck. What a waste.
How is that a waste, if I’m going to drink it?
Well, it sounds horrid. Are you going to the pub?
No, I’m working.
Right, here I am walking in the park. This is freedom. I am at large, but I am still writing my article. What could this mean for writing? Will we all become ‘speakers’ instead? A new version of those bluetooth headset phone people who startle you in the street by shouting ‘They’re open to offers’ or ‘Two weeks in Mauritius. Legend!’, apparently to themselves. Of course, once upon a time almost all human communication was oral: Stories, verse and, of course, folk song, which was one of the primary reasons our ancestors invented electricity.
One of the downsides of being out and about with this new technology is that daylight on the screen makes it difficult to check that what you are saying is rendered correctly in the document. And so I have decided to head to a large, shaded spot I know that is not only open to the public but also offers free wifi, so your article can be sent off or published as soon as it is completed.
I think it was Hemingway who described writing as essentially re-writing (I’d love to check this but of course I am unable to look it up at the same time as talking). With the use of speech to text, re-writing becomes unnecessary, or at least, unlikely. And so time, that most precious of commodities, is returned to the author, who is free to pursue those aspects of life that feed the imagination and ignite the fires of one’s soul. What can I get you, sir?
Could I have a taste of that IPA, please?
Certainly. Very tropical. Been selling a lot of this.
Oh, yes, that’s lovely. A pint of that and a bag of nuts, please, Sean.
Of course, there may be some issues with punctuation in the finished piece. Punctuation can be terribly important. The use of a colon, for example, can dramatically change the meaning of a sentence. For example: ‘Margaret ate her dinner’ versus ‘Margaret ate her colon’.
But overall this software is a wonderful gift to writers everywhere. Particularly those who are fazed by the blank page. Now you can simply begin speaking and your story can be told. Who are you talking to, mate?
I am dictating an article into my phone.
You a writer?
You should write about me.
My feet keep bleeding. One of them’s gone black, look.
Put that in your article. People will be interested in that.