Nobody’s Prefect, or The Foibles Of ViceMale Transcription

Once upon a time, in a land far away and long ago, I watched a demonstration of an early form of voice recognition. (Okay, the land was Texas – at Texas Instruments headquarters in Dallas to be precise – and the date was 1981.) It was definitely geeky, and quite funny to watch the frustration as TI’s engineers tried to get their baby to understand what they were saying.

Since then I’ve watched the technology mature, to the point where computers can automatically transcribe voice mail messages (a very inexpensive option on The service can be quite valuable in some situations, such as during meetings where getting the message is important, but picking up the phone and listening is definitely out of order. For those who are data bandwidth challenged on their cell phones, it’s also nice to be able to read the text, and not have to download an audio file.

But I do have to add that the industry still does have a bit of work to do to perfect the technology. Witness a recent transcribed voice mail I got which began: “Ties. So sit hubby Selangor hope you’re doing well….” The first word wasn’t ‘Ties,’ it was ‘Hi.’ I’ll let the reader guess what the rest of the message was, and the only hint I’ll give is that despite the word ‘hubby’ it wasn’t from my wife.

But hey, you win some and you lose some, and most of the transcribed voice mails I’ve gotten have been just fine, such as the transcription of this recent one from my wife: “I tried to call you but I don’t know you might have been sleeping. So maybe you can call us back. Bye.”

Stuart Zipper is the past Senior Editor of TelecomWeb news break and a contributing editor to Communications Technology.