This blog entry is totally dictated. My fingers have not touched a key the whole time I have dictated this. This is really the way a computer should work. Why should I have to be a typist to put my thoughts on the screen?
My favorite Star Trek movie is the one where they rescued two whales. At one point, Scotty has to use a computer of the time to give the engineer the recipe for transparent steel. He starts to speak to it, but learns he has to type. “How quaint,” he says, using his index fingers to hunt and peck. I have always maintained that our computers are really just at the model T. stage of computer development. The computer I am using is pretty stupid, but humans have engineered ways around its simplicity to allow me to dictate this text.
Let’s see how good this is at dealing with homonyms: I want to get two of those before it is too late.”
I still have to solve the problem of putting single spaces between lines of poetry, because this program is designed to double space any hard returns.
Not only can the program take dictation, it can also obey commands such as “close window”, and it can work its way through menu items instructed by verbal commands. A moment ago I dictated the command in quotation marks above, and the silly thing closed my browser. Fortunately the automatic backup had saved everything up to that point, so that I did not lose anything. In order to avoid the problem, I typed the command, thereby cheating a little bit.
The reason I am using this dictation program is not frivolous: a combination of arthritis and a little tremor in my fingers is making typing and mouse operation a bit difficult; as a result, I am hoping to forestall an inability to use the computer by becoming proficient at dictation. [aside: the word “dictation”printed as “dictatorship”. maybe this program knows more than I do.]
Another feature of a dictation program, particularly when writing poetry, is a tendency to supply homonyms—that is, words that sound like each other. For the poet, this can be an unexpected source of divergence and inspiration. I suppose, in order to achieve or maintain truth in writing, I should indicate happy accidents which have been delivered by a dictation program. I’ll have to think about that.