Friday, October 24, 2008

Hooked on Digital Transcription

Back in August, I blogged about the possibility of using a USB footpedal and transcription software for doing transcriptions of digital material. You can read that blog post here

I found several online sources for the Infinity USB foot control, which I ended up purchasing through It retails for $58.50USD plus shipping (and plus another charge at customs) which brought it to around roughly $100CAD or so. I could find only one retailer locally, who did not have it in stock, though it was roughly the same price as having one shippped to Newfoundland from PCDictate.

The unit is pretty basic: three pedals and a USB cable. The pedal unit comes with no software of its own, so I installed the free PC Express Scribe Transcription Playback Software from NCH Software. Instructions for configuring the foot pedal using a handy installation wizard can be found on the NCH website.

Plugged in, and software installed, click Options/File Type to set the software to play whatever digital file type you need (I used MP3 for my test), then click the LOAD button on the software to load in your file.

I loaded in a copy of the interview I did with Red Bay, Labrador resident Alice Moores, who I blogged about here and whose interview you can listen to here. I opened up MS Word, and then transcribed a short bit of the interview, as follows:


DALE JARVIS: When your mother hooked rugs, what did she use them for?

ALICE MOORES: Traditionally rugs were hooked for the Grenfell mission, and most of the rugs that she did, she did for that, but they also did rugs that they put on the floor as well, just rugs to throw down around. Mostly what I would see my mother make is poked mats.

DJ: OK, so what is the difference?

AM: Well, those two types of mats are very fine as you can see. [ALICE INDICATES MATS SHE HAD PRESENT DURING THE INTERVIEW]. The traditional Grenfell mat is hooked with a silk material, or t-shirts or whatever they could find, but the poked mat was just large pieces of rag poked through large holes in large brin. So they would just take a hook which didn’t have the hook on the top, but was just straight, and they would poke the piece of material through the hole, so that it was tight. It wouldn’t come back, but it would have long pieces of rag on the top. And so that, they would throw on the floor. But those here were more used, or more hooked to be used as displays, or people put it on their chests, or things like that. Sometimes it was used on the floors but not often.

DJ: And where would people get the brin?

AM: The brin I guess was found… I’m not sure where they would find the brin, back then. I guess it was potato sacks and some of it, well, first when the mats were being made it came about because of Sir Wilfred Grenfell, who thought it would be a good way for the women to add to the income of the household, because the men were doing what they could with the fishing, and he found that this was a way that the women could, in the beginning, get clothes for their children. Because what was happening was, people were very poor and it was very difficult to be able to get things for their families. So they would do the mats for Sir Wilfred Grenfell and the Grenfell Mission and in turn they would send in clothes and different things the women could use for their children. Now a little bit later they started to get paid for them. And so he would send in materials and probably in the beginning he was sending in the brin as well, but then as time went on they probably used potato sacks and they would wash those out and clean them up, and they would use that.


All in all, a very handy combination of tools for anyone transcribing oral history/intangible cultural history interviews. One note: you do NOT need the foot pedal to use the software. You can load a file into the software, and then use hotkeys in place of the footpedals (F9 for play, F4 for stop, etc). For researchers and students on a budget, you can simply use the software without having to purchase a foot pedal, though for longer transcriptions, I can see where the foot pedal is useful. I got the hang of it very quickly, and know I'll be using it for interviews. The NCH transcription software runs in the background as you type, so you can use whatever word processing/blogging/email software you want to enter your transcriptions into.


Dale Jarvis said...

NOTE: I installed the Express Scribe software on an older computer, and it worked fine, when I installed it on a PC running Vista, no sound. So, I'm playing with it, and will post an update when I figure it out.

Dale Jarvis said...

OK, uninstalled, reinstalled, rebooted, and it is now working...