A few weeks ago I took a trip with Jerome to interview a professor. The interview will be part of Volume 2 of Jerome’s tetralogy on organic gardening, and the draft of that book is just about done. I took our minidisc recorder along. We have a tiny stereo microphone that plugs directly into the recorder, making a handheld package that you can just turn on and set down on a table to record a conversation. Later you can connect the recorder to a computer and copy the audio file from it.

The interview needed to be transcribed, of course, and having typed for a living for many years I volunteered to do it. I’ve done some transcribing on the computer before, and although it is pretty straightforward there is one thing that makes the process unwieldy: the need to switch between the program that is playing the audio file and the program you are typing the transcript into. On my computer I have to select the audio program with the mouse, play a snippet of audio, stop the audio, select the word processor with the mouse, then type the snippet. Lots of moving hands off the keyboard.

What I needed was a single program that would both play the audio and allow me to type the transcript. Even better if it had keys to let me play, pause, rewind, and fast forward the audio without moving my hands from the keyboard. This is simple enough that I was sure there was such a program available for free. And I found a pretty good one here, called Express Scribe:

It was still a tedious process, taking me maybe six hours (with breaks) to transcribe ninety minutes of interview. But being able to play the audio without moving my hands from the keyboard made a big difference.

Incidentally, the content of the interview would have been horrifying if I hadn’t become numb over the years to the horror of what goes on among the “experts” to whom American society regularly entrusts its health and welfare. We were told about a situation in which an expensive technological solution is actually worsening the circumstances it is touted as curing (to the tune of thousands of horse and cow deaths annually), while the simple and inexpensive alternative is being suppressed by the companies and universities who would lose money if it were adopted. I’m sure it’s the sort of story that John Mesko has heard many times over.


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