Monday, September 29, 2014

Business Machines of Antiquity.

This is a lobby display in the office of DepMax in Salt Lake.  It's nicely done, really, and the amazing thing about it in contemplation is that the devices displayed were undoubtedly so routine as to not be regarded as worthy of display in their day.

The machine of the left is, of course, a type righter.  A manual Royal typewriter, to be precise.  Not particularly notable, but in fact revolutionary, in its day.  It wiped out the occupation of scriviner and it was instrumental in converting that male occupation into what ultimately became largely the female occupation of secretary, which didn't really do quite the same things, but where the latter basically absorbed the former to such an extent that the world "scrivner", when used in the law, no longer really means quite the same thing it originally had.  The typewriter also revolutionized all sorts of other writing professions, and there were portable versions, not much larger than the one seen here, for people who had to write on the road or in the field.  Now this is all largely a thing of the past, although a few diehards still will use manual typewriters.  Supposedly conservative columnist George F. Will does.

On the far right is a court reporters stenograph machine. These still exist, but certainly not in this form.  This form used a large roll of paper to type print out the court reporter's shorthand in a continuing roll, with the court reporter having to stop from time to time to change the roll.  This version of the machine is a manual one, like the typewriter, and it slowly supplanted handwritten shorthand, which a few court reporters were still using as late as the 1950s.  When I started practicing law in 1990 this manual type had been replaced by an electric version, much like electric typewriters had largely supplanted manual ones, but otherwise they were more or less the same.

About fifteen years ago or so, court reporter's stenographic machines started showing up with computer jacks, and laptops.  We could, all of a sudden, take a look at the raw transcript in "real time", as the computer translated the shorthand. This wasn't entirely trusted at first, but slowly it came to be, and now the overwhelming majority of court reporters use computers jacked into their machines and dispense with the paper roll entirely.  I've had one occasion on which a computer failure required the reporter to call in a second one, which was justified as when the reporter feels that things aren't working, they aren't.  Still, this photo shows the interesting way in which things have stayed the same, and very much changed.

I don't know what the wooden roll top thing in the middle of this display is.  Probably something having a connection with office work, but I have no idea what it is.

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