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  1. Abbreviation
  2. Bezenshek Shorthand
  3. Boyd's Syllabic Shorthand
  4. Closed captioning
  5. Court reporter
  6. Dutton Speedwords
  7. Eclectic Shorthand
  8. Franz Xaver Gabelsberger
  9. Gabelsberger shorthand
  10. Gregg Shorthand
  11. Handywrite
  12. Isaac Pitman
  13. Morse code
  14. Personal Shorthand
  15. Pitman Shorthand
  16. Quikscript
  17. Rebus
  18. Shavian alphabet
  19. Shorthand
  20. Shorthand Language
  21. Short message service
  22. SMS language
  23. Speedwriting
  24. Steganography
  25. Stenograph
  26. Stenomask
  27. Stenotype
  28. Teeline Shorthand
  29. Thomas Natural Shorthand
  30. Tironian notes
  31. Transcript



This article is from:

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


A stenotype or shorthand machine is a specialized chorded keyboard or typewriter used by stenographers for shorthand use. A trained court reporter or closed captioner can write speeds of approximately 225 words per minute at very high accuracy. Many users of this machine can even reach 300 words per minute.

The keyboard looks more like a compact piano than a regular alphanumeric keyboard. Multiple keys are pressed simultaneously (known as "chording") to spell out whole syllables, words, and phrases with a single hand motion. This system makes realtime transcription practical for court reporting and live closed captioning.

The first stenotype machine on a punched paper strip was built in 1830 by Karl Drais, then still a baron. An American stenotype machine was patented in 1879 by Miles M. Bartholomew. A French version was created by Marc Grandjean in 1909.

Most modern stenotype keyboards have more in common with computers than they do with typewriters or QWERTY computer keyboards. Most contain microprocessors, and many allow sensitivity adjustments for each individual key. They translate stenotype to English internally using user-specific dictionaries, and most have LCD screens. They typically store a full day's work in non-volatile memory of some type, such as floppy diskette, hard drive, non-volatile RAM, or flash card. These factors influence the price, along with economies of scale, as there are only a few thousand stenotype keyboards sold each year. Top-end models sell for approximately US$ 4,000 each.

Keyboard layout

This is the keyboard layout of the American stenotype machine:

Stenotype Machine Keyboard Layout

In "home position," the fingers of the left hand rest along the gap between the two main rows of keys to the left of the asterisk (little finger on the "S" to forefinger on the "H" and "R"). These fingers are used to generate initial consonants. The fingers of the right hand lie in the corresponding position to the right of the asterisk (forefinger on "FR" to little finger on "TS"), and are used for final consonants. The thumbs produce the vowels.

The system is roughly phonetic, e.g. the word "cat" would be written by a single stroke comprising the initial K, the vowel A, and the final T.

To enter a number, a user presses the number bar at the top of the keyboard at the same time as the other keys, much like the shift key on a QWERTY keyboard. The illustration shows which lettered keys correspond to which digits. Numbers can be chorded just as letters can. They read from left to right across the keyboard. It's possible to write 137 in one stroke by pressing the number bar along with SP-P, but it takes three separate strokes to write 731. Many court reporters and stenocaptioners write out numbers phonetically instead of using the number bar.

There are various ways to combine letters to make different sounds; different court reporters use different theories in their work. Although most writing is similar, most stenographers cannot read another's work, as it is highly personalized.

Some court reporters use scopists to translate and edit their work. A scopist is a person who is trained in the phonetic language, English punctuation, and usually in legal formatting. They are especially helpful when a court reporter is working so much that they do not have time to edit their own work. Both scopists and proofreaders work closely with the court reporter to ensure an accurate transcript.


This is a basic chart of the letters of this machine. There are, however, different writing theories that represent some letters or sounds differently (e.g., the "*F" for "final V" in the chart below), and each court reporter develops personalized "briefs" and alternate ways of writing things.


The following example shows how steno paper coming out of the machine represents an English sentence. Notice that key combinations can have different meanings depending on context. In the first stroke of the word "example," the "PL" combination refers to the letter M. In the second stroke of the word, that same key combination refers to the letters P and L.

English text rendered in steno shorthand

The initial Z is also commonly chorded by the entire initial bank, STKPWHR, in order to avoid thousands of potential conflicts.


Stenograph is by far the largest manufacturer of American stenotype keyboards with an estimated marketshare in excess of 90%. Their top models are the Stentura and the paperless élans. There were two other large manufacturers in the 1980s (Xscribe, with the StenoRAM line and BaronData, with the Transcriptor line). Stenograph purchased both companies and discontinued their products. The current manufacturers in the U.S. include:

  • Advantage Software (Passport)
  • Neutrino Group (Gemini)
  • ProCAT (Stylus)
  • Stenograph (Stentura, élan Mira, Fusion, and élan Cybra)
  • Stenovations[1] (Digitouch)
  • Word Technologies (Tréal)

See also

  • Stenomask
  • Closed captioning
  • Court reporting
  • Remote CART
  • CAT Software
  • Telecommunications Relay Service
  • Captioned Telephone

External links

  • Slate: What's That Thingy Court Reporters Type On?
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