Tech Tuesday: Quickly transcribe old wills and documents with speech recognition software

OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software is very efficient for use in converting the printed word into editable, machine-encoded text. But how do we deal with old, handwritten documents? My husband bought a dictation machine a few weeks ago and I thought I'd put it to the test by transcribing my 5 x great-grandfather's 4-page, handwritten will.

The Olympus VN-8500 PC Dictation Machine
The Olympus VN-8500 PC Dictation Machine
and a copy of James Rice's Will
(Click the image to see a larger version.)

The gadget is the Olympus VN-8500 PC Dictation Machine with Nuance's Dragon NaturallySpeaking Recorder Edition software. Purchased from Argos, the machine itself is amazingly small and as light as a feather.
The last time I used speech recognition software was about 15 years ago when these programs left a lot to be desired. Although I'm not a complete snail when it comes to inputting on my keyboard, neither am I a proficient typist capable of dozens of words per minute.

Therefore, I set about my task and I have to say that I'm impressed with the accuracy of the transcibed recording. Firstly, I had to create a profile and 'train' the software to accept my voice but once this is done it becomes a very useful tool for converting speech to text quickly and efficiently.

Whilst trying to decipher some of the words in the will I hesitated a few times during dictation, nevertheless this posed very few problems for the software. After the program transcribed my speech there were one or two corrections required but I'm sure the accuracy will improve the more times I use it.

If you don't want to buy the dictation machine, Nuance also provide stand-alone speech-recognition software where you speak directly into a microphone attached to your computer.

I've had this will for a couple of years now but I've been putting off typing it up because the task seemed so monotonous and time-consuming. This little personal note taker has provided the answer and I also found it fun to use in the process.

Disclaimer - this is my own personal opinion and I have no affiliation to Olympus or Nuance.

[Why Tech Tuesday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

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I enjoyed reading this post. I may look into getting some form of speech recogniton myself. I recently transcribed a 1914 handwritten letter from my great-great-grandfather and it took awhile.

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