I have discovered a new toy. The Power Macintosh line came equipped with a sound card, a microphone, and a built in speaker. Software for both text-to-speech and speech recognition are available free from Apple. I have toyed with this software before but lost my focus and moved on to other interesting things. Lately, my interest has been renewed, as my wrist and hand are a bit sore.
To cut down on mouse and keyboard use I have combined the capabilities of the free software from Apple, with a piece of freeware from MacSpeech Inc. called ListenDo!. Using these two pieces of software I can verbally command the computer to open programs, files, move items to the trash, empty the trash, close windows, quit applications, etc. etc. I have just set this up today; I have 66 verbal commands configured.
Talking to the computer takes some getting used to. My computer is called "Seven" because it is a 7300 and because the word seven does not sound like any commonly used words. This prevents confusion on the computer's part.
"The Teenager" was talking to a new baby-sitting client on the telephone. She was in the kitchen; I was happily computing at the other end of the house. The computer was obeying my commands unerringly. When her telephone conversation ended, she came back to my office to have a little talk with me about manners.
"You know Mom," she said, "it isn't polite to talk to someone from across a building while they are obviously on the telephone!"
"Hmm... Yes..." I mumbled, not really paying attention.
She left me to my meandering. My computer and I were experiencing some quality time when "The Teenager" rushed into my office, clearly annoyed.
"Mom," she said, "you have to stop talking to me from across the house. I can't hear you and it is really, really annoying!"
It finally came to me, she did not know that I had been talking to the computer. All those clipped commands I uttered reached her as abrupt demands that she could not quite hear. Because my tone was so "commanding" she felt compelled to investigate my wishes and a little nervous about what it was I was being so abrupt about.
"The Teenager" had no problem whatsoever believing that I had been sitting by myself in a back room of the house talking firmly to a computer. Nothing seems to surprise her when it comes to her mother's behavior. She was relieved that the short, clipped commands were not directed at her.
My next project will be to obtain the means of digital dictation. I have mixed feelings about this. I wonder if dictated prose will differ significantly in style from that typed on a keyboard. I know that my style of writing with a pen differs from that written on a keyboard. I wonder how dictation software will alter my writing.
The change is not imminent, as I do now own hardware capable of operating the software needed for dictation. The hardware I own is rather dated, though more than adequate for ninety-nine percent of my needs and desires. I think though, as I grow older, and the aches and pains of longevity overtake me, that I will move towards voice operation of my digital life. There would be many advantages, immediately evident is increased mobility. I would not have to park my body in a chair in front of a monitor, for hours-on-end, while my mind wanders free.
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