Health · On writing · Technology

Writer’s Cramp, and more about Voice Recognition

I have a touch of writer’s cramp. I have just typed that sentence, and am typing this one too, because the Speech Recognition feature of Windows 10 has interpreted the phrase “I have writer’s cramp” in the following ways:

  • I have written square
  • Only when writer’s cramp
  • I can wreck it’s a
  • I her writings gwent
  • It happened right and can
  • I had writings cram

That’s exactly what appeared when I pronounced those four words six times in a row. The first and second lines were the most accurate. They each managed to get two of the words right. After that it seemed that my computer was playing that stupid game where people pretend to mis-hear what you say, for “comic effect”.

Back in November 2017 I also experimented with dictation, on a Mac Book Pro. I had damaged my left hand, tried typing one-handed and then found that the built-in dictation service on the Mac was good enough to save me some time. I have just reviewed my pieces from back then and hadn’t realized that five of them, one after another, were all connected. First, a note about typing one-handed, then a piece about Voice Recognition, then around a thousand words transcribed from an interview with Robert Plant on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show (which was on BBC Radio 2 at the time). The final two pieces were about the Clarence Carter recording of “Patches” (which links back to dictation software) and the concept of “Urgent Care”, which explained how I had damaged my left hand in the first place

The pain in my right hand and forearm appears to have been exacerbated by the unfamiliar experience of writing dozens of pages by hand over the last week. That’s why I’m calling it writer’s cramp. It’s a long time since I held a pen or pencil for so long to make notes. I bought my first PC in 1988, and had an electronic typewriter before that, so I have spent over 30 years using a keyboard for the bulk of my drafting and writing. Last week I wanted to record a few things the old-fashioned way, pen on paper, and it seems to have triggered the pain in my hand and forearm. I am well used to soreness in my right forearm. There might be a touch of RSI, or some carpal tunnel problems, but if so they’ve been brewing for a long time. I first felt pain in that part of my arm over 20 years ago and modified my behaviour to minimize the damage. By then I was using a mouse (no such thing with my first computer). It had probably made things worse, so I started using it with my left hand. I also stopped using a plectrum when playing guitar. In those days we were often rehearsing for 3 hours at a time. That fine-motor grip on a small piece of plastic seemed to be the biggest cause of the pains in my arm, so I started to strum open-handed.

I had hoped to dictate most of this piece, but have had to revert to typing, in shorter bursts, and with more frequent breaks than usual. I have not been able to make the Speech Recognition feature of Windows 10 recognize my words. In that piece about “Patches” (referenced further back) I noted that I have often used Clarence Carter’s words to test Voice Recognition software. Here are the opening lines of the song as dictated on the Mac Book Pro: “I was born and raised in Alabama, on a farm way back up in the woods. I was so raggedy folks used to call me patches, you know papa used to tease me about it because deep down inside he was hurt because he done all he could.“

It’s a whole different story trying to dictate in Windows 10. Instead of “I was born and raised in Alabama, on a farm way back up in the woods” I have been given the following:

  • I was born into a in Caliban corner from way back in the woods
  • Clinton is all handling in Alabama on a cone way back up in the woods
  • I was brought to an Alabama on come from way back up in the one
  • I was all Greg in Alabama on the are way back and all

I am not impressed, and have been typing through the pain.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s