I love technology: I love the oven, the kettle, the toaster. I loved the TV I grew up with. That’s the one that had an enormous “V” shaped areal that extended out of the top and sat on four screw in legs. It had a button for turning it on and off and a dial that could be set to three locations: BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. The only time we ever spoke to it, (and here I use the term loosely) was when the tube blew up and it had to be taken away for repairs.
I never speak to my desktop, tablet or telephone in the tone we spoke to the telly the day the tube expired. I use slow and measured tones in order that there should be no misunderstanding between us. I pride myself on having articulatory agility, which as every drama student knows, is a desirable ability. Not desirable enough for the technology that I now routinely speak to, which is petulant, defiant and doesn’t listen.
The intuitive claims of manufacturers are either untrue or I am lacking in intuition. Having worked out how to operate the dictation command on my Mac, which is different from other operating systems, that too has demonstrated defiance.
Last week I dictated, and sent, an email to my friend the Artist. It was urgent. It was to tell her that “sin, bed and shit. There is a mistaken paragraph five. Three lying times. Note that.” For good measure I capped it off with a text message that said, “we can spend a softer noon together.” This morning I sent her a text in which I wanted to express my quizzical surprise. “Super warts!” She was surprised and quizzical.
Radio four doesn’t fair any better than me. Siri perked up during this mornings eight O’clock news. I’m pretty certain that Susan Rae didn’t swear and wasn’t speaking to Siri. Siri though, appears to have developed a sort of teenage paranoia. The telephone beeped and Siri sprang into life. and there it was on the phone screen in giant font: The F word. Underneath was Siri’s response. “I don’t know what to say to that.” What is the world coming to when even Siri is offended by something Susan Rae didn’t say?
Since I began speaking to my technology, my friends have changed. They are not the people I thought they were. Who can blame them in light of the way I speak to them? Two of them are almost unrecognisable. Siobhan has become Siob Pain. Beatrice is now Beat Rice.
Making arrangements can be a tricky business. I invited the son, who does not eat meat, when other choices are available, “fir lunch”. Actually, that one probably doesn’t count as he accepts phonetic spelling as logical.
In writing this blog, Dictation has failed entirely for a reason I don’t understand. I will have to revert to the keyboard until the next primary school age child crosses the threshold and sorts it out for me.
I’ve come a long way in my use of technology. From the bad old days when I destroyed photocopiers (happily no longer a feature of my life) I feel I am well on the way to a diplomatic incident.
They say you have to practice in order to get your software to recognise your voice and learn to accurately interoperate what it is you are trying to say. It’s just as important to exercise a little patience and check its work. I’d never make a good teacher as I lack the patience to check, correct and explain or even to do it again. Uncorrected is much more fun!