Computer, take a long memo

The attorney with the National Labor Relations Board was churning out stacks of
internal memoranda and letters, but he didn't have an assistant and couldn't type to save
his life.


"These things take a long time to type, at least for me," Brinker said of the
10- to 15-page internal documents that detail his rulings on appeals of regional NLRB
office decisions. Even letters explaining decisions to outside parties generally run two
to three pages each.


Brinker could compose the long memos in two days, but they would take him three or four
days each to type into his Gateway 2000 Inc. desktop computer.


"My hand-eye coordination is below average, and my typing is well below
normal," Brinker said.


He turned to DragonDictate 1.3 for Microsoft Windows, a voice dictation package from
Dragon Systems Inc. of Newton, Mass. Brinker now can produce long memos with Microsoft
Word in a day.


"It saves me 15 hours a week and allows me to spend the majority of my time
reviewing files," he said. Brinker bought the software in 1994 after becoming
frustrated with his word processor.


His Windows 3.1 PC needed an additional 16M of memory to handle DragonDictate. "At
the beginning, the software was a burden on the hard drive," he said, and there were
a few hiccups in implementing the software.


When he booted up the system each morning, it wouldn't run or might freeze in the
middle of an application. His PC has 20M of RAM installed. This has worked well for him,
but he frequently has to clean out files on the hard drive.


About 10 percent to 20 percent of the words he dictates must be retyped because of
speech recognition errors. Brinker pauses between words so DragonDictate can recognize
them. Working in the software's dictate mode, he can type in the unrecognized words.


DragonDictate users can also select command mode, where they select verbally from a
menu of word choices whenever the software doesn't recognize a particular word.


Command mode requires the users to master certain commands. "I decided the
commands were too complex and would take a long time to learn," Brinker said.


Brinker said DragonDictate has always worked satisfactorily for him, but hasn't
improved in its ability to understand his speech.


David Colangelo, an NLRB supervisory attorney, uses DragonDictate 2.51 for document
drafting, legal research and e-mail correspondence.


Colangelo, who is paralyzed from the shoulders down, works at a 100-MHz Gateway 2000
Pentium PC with 32M RAM, Windows 95 and Microsoft Word 6.0.


Unlike Brinker, Colangelo has customized DragonDictate for his purposes. "With
time, it improves in accuracy," he said. When the software can't make out a word, his
most-used words that sound phonetically similar will pop up among the first choices for
corrections.


Other government customers of Dragon Systems software include the Customs Service, the
National Institutes of Health, and state departments in Arizona and California.


Dragon Systems was one of the first speech-recognition dictation vendors to port a
product to Windows NT. Version 2.5 of DragonDictate works with the Windows 3.x, Win95,
Windows NT and Apple Macintosh systems.


The version requires a 66-MHz or faster 486 system with at least 16M of RAM and a
16-bit sound card. Pricing starts at $395, including a microphone. It is compatible with
Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, Lotus Word Pro and other word processors.


Contact Dragon Systems at 617-965-5200.


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