This is a short article that was published in the technical section of The Oregonian newspaper. They had asked people to write in with complaints about any gadgets, and just the word “complaint” made me rush to the computer. A photographer came out and took my picture, which was just awful because I was wearing braces on my teeth for a bite problem and couldn’t smile. The photographer coaxed me into smiling anyway and took the most hideous picture ever seen by mankind – and for some odd reason that’s the one the paper published.

Here’s the short story about my awful gadget:

A few years ago I bought a Sony IC recorder and a Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition program to dictate my book.  I thought I could put on the headset while I was doing mundane tasks around the house and dictate the conversations that my characters were always having in my head – Nobel Prize stuff that I never could remember when I got back to my computer.

The quality of the recorder was great, but because it was so compact, Sony had to use small, multi-function buttons and toggle switches with descriptions I could barely see.  I’d have to consult the manual regularly, which was frustrating and stifled my creativity.

Also, I found that those fantastic conversations my characters were having didn’t translate well to dictation.  If I didn’t focus completely on the dictating, my recording sounded like this:  “and, ah, then uh, Sarah said, uh, uh.” I couldn’t make a bed and talk at the same time, apparently.

In addition, the old Dragon Naturally Speaking program had a hard time with my accent.  I was raised in the south, where simple words like “milk” or “bread” are spoken as two syllables:  “Mee-ulk” and “bra-yud.”  Dragon Naturally Speaking translated many perfectly coherent sentences like this: “The end we win end to the store or…” (Then we went to the store.)  They’ve improved the program substantially since then, but not before I gave up.  I typed the book, which took considerably less time and irritation.

I still have the recorder and bring it out occasionally to see if my accent sounds more Oregonian.