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A Brief History of Stenography

Today’s technology has made it much easier for stenographers and their jobs that the industry has come quite far in the last few thousand years.
Paisley Hansen Oct 5, 2019


In 2014, anyone who followed the award winners at the Dallas Film Festival was introduced to the world of stenography through a humorous, but true-to-life movie entitled ‘Verbatim”.
In the film, a bizarre courtroom exchange is re-enacted according to the exact wording of the transcript from a real-world case involving attorney David Marburger and a government employee who asked to have the term “photocopier” defined.
While this is just one of the more amusing aspects of stenography and having things on permanent record that are somewhat incredulous, the true nature of court reporting aids in the resolution of verdicts and presentation of both prosecution and defense.

Overall Purpose of the Industry

If you are engaged in a legal battle or you have been summoned to a deposition, your case will be documented by a stenographer. A court reporter in Portland Oregon might be present to help preserve the record of the testimony and the accuracy of the information received.
They often work silently, completely focused on capturing each word, interjection, pause, and vocal nuances with remarkable efficiency. However, today’s technology has made it much easier for stenographers to their jobs, and the industry has come quite far in the last few thousand years.
Yes, the art of record-keeping and tracking notes or conversations for reference by judicial or governing authorities has been going on since the invention of pictorial and written language.

The Early Invention of Writing

Court reporting can be dated back to the introduction of writing, as stenography (simply known as shorthand) is simply the act of writing something down. The Sumerians developed cuneiform, which relied on pictures carved into clay through a wedge-shaped stylus. While primitive, it was effective and was used up until about 100 BC.
As cuneiform matured, it also included the use of phonograms, with groups of symbols being instantly recognized as a particular sound.

Influence of the Orient

The Imperial Chinese were also quite skilled in the art of shorthand and appreciated the efficiency of having records at immediate disposal for governing advice. The Chinese invented the Running Script and Cursive to increase the efficiency of recording perpetrator confessions.
Using these initial records, official transcripts were drafted to be used in imperial courts. The individual characters were given an abbreviated form, and the flow of the calligraphers' pen grew to include a more elegant and complex script known as Standard Script.

Western Developments

With their massive empire and highly-complex civilizations, it should come as no surprise that the Romans gave the Western world the shorthand that most closely aligns with the stenography processes of today.
A Roman slave named Marcus Tiro was tasked with creating a script to help aid in his accuracy of taking dictation from his master, a Roman Senator named Cicero. The subsequent system relied on Greek symbols, abbreviations for Latin letters, and uniquely designed symbols and signs that Tiro created.
This script, called Tironian Notes, spread to the scribes of other Roman Senators. During the Middle Ages, the monks were instrumental in making popular once again.

Modern Evolution

Since those days, the system of shorthand has continued to evolve as language, culture, and communication have continued to change. New forms included signs and symbols used to capture vowels, consonants, and double consonants, diminishing the number of strokes needed, but also easily adapted for a number of languages from around the world.
The year 1877 brought the first shorthand machine to the industry, and 30 years later, a court reporter successfully marketed the first commercial Stenotype machines. This groundbreaking design is what has informed all of the stenography inventions and equipment ideas since then.
Current models now include LCD screens and recording capabilities that are sent to online document repositories. Many are also equipped for real-time reporting with translation software.
The spoken language is a wonderful gift that human beings can enjoy, and the power of stenography allows millions to enjoy the spoken word. This is an industry that preserves more than just a conversation or dialogue. In part, it preserves global culture.