Law Office Computing
Digital Voice Recorders Expand Dictation Systems
I am somewhere, lost in space, dictating this column into one of the most remarkable little machines that I have seen in a long, long time. It is called the Walkabout Tour portable Dictaphone. The Walkabout is a digital device that allows you to create dictation files in a digital format that can then be placed on the hard drive of your computer where they are later subject to transcription or attached to an e-mail message that can be sent over the Internet to your secretary. Instead of recording dictation to a tape, the Walkabout records the dictation to a small memory card chip about the size of a matchbook cover. Walkabout comes with a PCMCIA card carrier into which the memory card recording chip fits. The PCMCIA carrier fits into the card slot of your portable computer where it interacts with the special software called Boomerang. Boomerang senses that you have placed a recorded chip into your computer and provides you with various options and choices about what you want to do. Because Walkabout is a digital voice processor, you are able to choose among various items that are contained on the memory card. Let's say, for example, that you have dictated two drafts of letters and two memos and you only wish to send one of the memos to your secretary. Each one of the memos will be identified separately on the screen of your computer and you can highlight and send that memo alone. At the other end of the Internet connection, your word processing pool will pick up an e-mail message to which your dictated file is appended. Using special transcription hardware that plugs into the game port of the computer at the other end, they are able to transcribe the material just as they would with a traditional transcription machine.
Now that's pretty cool, you say, but what is the real value of all of it? Lots I say!! The first major value is the fact that because this is a digital voice processor instead of an analog tape machine you are able to insert, modify and edit material that you have dictated. No longer are you required to append to the end of a dictated tape some changes that you thought of after the fact. With the Walkabout device you may go back to any place in any of the items that you have recorded and add, modify, edit or erase to your heart's content. That's a big change from analog tape recording where you pretty much get what you say.
One of the other advantages of the digital format is that you do not have to finish a dictation project before you start on the next one. You could start two memos and two letters all at the same time, leaving out addresses, names, details that you want to go back and later insert and then pick up all of that dictation an hour, or a day, or a week later. Finally, the digital voice processing technology frees you, pretty much, from the constraints of time. You can dictate and send to your word processing pool at any hour of the night or from any time zone without having to conform your activities to the times that your office is open. Moreover, you are freed from the necessity of seeking out a local Federal Express provider to send a tape overnight.
Perhaps one of the most potentially significant aspects of digital voice processing is that fact that all of your dictated material can now be stored along with the rest of your computer files. As the law business moves increasingly from a paper world to an electronic world, digital voice processing files become manageable documents in the same way as images and text. In the new Eastman Workfolder /DMX software that I will tell you about sometime this fall, you can put the voice file away just like any other document. Even though the files are large compared to text files the greatly expanded storage capacity of modern computers makes the retention of the file in its original format totally sensible.
On the other end of the system, the word processing pool loves the Walkabout. Here is what my secretary, Carolyn Scott, had to say:
"Unbelievably cool, and EASY. . .
I'm a total convert, the foot pedal is extremely responsive and once I got all the settings juuust how I like them, I could go fast, fast, fast! I love my computer and it patiently waited for me thru all kinds of interruptions to come back to this project.
I kept the Boomerang window reduced to the task bar because I haven't figured out how to "turn it on manually"...it auto turns on upon recognizing the .boo extension, and I wanted to tweak and twitch and play. It's so simple that took all of 10 minutes.
Send me more!"
That's all well and good, you may say, but it must cost an arm and a leg. The fact is that depending upon which of the various components of the system you think you need, the price is perfectly competitive with traditional dictating equipment. Incidently, if you don't like to use computers (why are you reading this column?), you can hand the chip to your word processing pool and they can process it in the same way they would a traditional tape. Call your local Dictaphone Rep and ask for a demonstration. Once you try it, I think you probably will not want to go back to the old tape-based system you have used in the past.