Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 126

A Labor-Saving Machine for the Lawyer's Office

American Law Review, Vol. 25 (1891), p. 436-7.

We hope that our readers will not get an idea that this paragraph is a paid advertisement.  One of the editors of this REVIEW has had in his office for nearly a year, a machine called the phonograph, invented, as is well known, and perfected by the wizard of Menlo Park, Mr. Edison; and during a part of that time he has had in constant use two of those useful and labor-saving machines.  Many of the editorial "Notes," "Notes of Recent Decisions" and "Book Reviews," which have appeared in several past numbers of this magazine, have been dictated on one of those machines, and afterwards transcribed by a type-writer of no more than ordinary skill and capacity.  Prior to calling in the aid of the phonograph, the writer of this paragraph had, for many years, done all his literary work and correspondence by the aid of stenographers.  He is now able to say that Edison's phonograph equals in accuracy any stenographer that has ever put pencil to paper, provided the person who uses the machine delivers his record accurately to the cylinder,--that is to say, dictates clearly and distinctly.  But it would be difficult, notwithstanding this, to balance the relative advantages and disadvantages of the stenographer and the phonograph.  The phonograph is not subject to the ordinary infirmities of human flesh.  It does not get sick, or get intoxicated, or go a fishing, or otherwise disappear and disappoint you when you want it most.  It is always there, and generally ready for use.  Nor does it tire out.  If you are in an emergency and under a pressure, it will work as long as you can, and without grumbling.  But it is a delicate instrument, and sometimes it gets out of order; and then you have to wait (unless you have two of them) until you can telephone to the main office, and until they can send a young man out to make the necessary repairs.  This does not often [437] happen, but when it does happen it sometimes affords annoyance.  To avoid this, one who has a considerable amount of work to be done should have two of the machines in his office or library.  This statement shows that the phonograph cannot be successfully used at a place remote from the main office, except by one who is sufficiently expert to keep it in repair.  A man who has always been in the habit of writing every thing out with his own fingers, who has spent half of his strength in making saw-teeth on paper,--does not readily take to the use of a stenographer, and especially at an advanced period of life.  So, a man who once gets used to dictating to a stenographer does not readily change to a phonograph, especially if he is an old man and if his habits have become a little fixed.  But when he has once changed and inured himself to the change, he will find that it is just as natural to him to think and talk to the little revolving cylinder as to think and talk across the table to the intelligent and bright-eyed stenographer.  He will learn that some points are necessary to be attended to in dictating to the phonograph, which he has been accustomed to neglect in dictating to the stenographer.  The phonograph does not take distinctly the two letters f and s, and it sometimes confuses p and b and k and g with each other.  All these things may be overcome by careful and distinct dictation.  In dictating names, unless they are ordinary names like Smith, Johnson, etc., the "dictator" should spell them out carefully.  A lawyer in dictating a brief should never omit to spell out carefully the names of the cases he cites.  The cost of each machine, with battery, cylinders and outfit, will foot up to about a hundred dollars a year.  On the whole, we feel that we are doing our readers a service to commend to them this useful machine; and we add that we make the Missouri Phonograph Company no charge for this notice, although it is, like ourselves, a corporation, and (what we are not), "bloated."