StenoKnight CART Services: Realtime Captioning
		for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
This article was originally written for Cheap and Sleazy in September 2009.

Review of the Revolution Grand

Back in steno school, I started out on a Stentura 400 SRT. Then I later discovered that the closed captioning company I worked for at the time owned a Stentura 8000 LX that had been gathering dust in a closet, and they lent it to me. I sold the 400 SRT and began using the 8000. But transcribing 40 hours a week at work plus 6 hours a week in class plus several more hours of practicing started to really take its toll on my wrists. I got twinges up and down the sides of my hands, I'd wake up either sore or numb from my forearms to my thumbs, and I started to really get worried that I was doing permanent damage to my body and my future career. With the money I got from selling the 400 SRT, I bought a Gemini 2, and all my troubles stopped. As soon as I felt that telltale twinge, I would just adjust the angle a little bit, and I could keep writing indefinitely without any pain at all. It was a lifesaver.

As I left steno school and went through my first year as a CART provider, though, the Gemini 2, for all its virtues, started seeming less than ideal. It had stacking problems, and there was no way to adjust the sensitivity other than a dial on the bottom that went from 0 to 6 and didn't seem to do anything. It made a loud clacking noise that was sometimes commented on by people sitting near my client. It had no internal battery, so it always had to be plugged in -- a problem in classes where the students were expected to move around the room. Finally, after two years of solid use, the keys started randomly popping off, and I knew I had to upgrade.

I never even contemplated getting a writer from any company other than the Neutrino Group. My time with the various Stenturas had convinced me that keeping my hands locked into a horizontal position would be torture. I had to have something fully adjustable, and the Gemini's the only one in the court reporting/captioning field. I chose the Revolution Grand, the Captioner's Package. I didn't need the audio recording or extra backup features, and I had already bought a tablet UMPC some months earlier, so I ordered the TabletKiosk holder, but not the computer itself. Jason Pardikes was always very helpful and communicative, though the writer did take longer to arrive than originally stated; I ordered it in early September and had hoped to take the November CCP on it, but it didn't come until mid-November.

When it came, though, it was so worth it. The touch was feather-light, it was utterly silent, and the built-in Bluetooth was an absolute dream. Students who were shy about having to use CART could now sit in the front of the classroom, reading off my laptop screen, while I sat 15 feet away in the back of the class, reading my output off my UMPC (connected with Bridge 2.0). Students could get up and give presentations, reading off the UMPC, while I stayed in my seat and read off my laptop. Bluetooth also drastically cut down the amount of time it took to set up the writer -- and no more wrestling with the USB-Serial converter cable! I only discovered a slight connectivity problem when I had to hook up the machine with the USB cable rather than wirelessly: the USB port was positioned in such a way that when I tilted the writer to my ideal angle, the tilting mechanism completely blocked the machine's USB port. So in order to get that cable in there, I had to tilt it less than I might have liked. This was very seldom a problem, though, since I've used Bluetooth 99% of the time since it arrived.

Even though the touch was much shallower and gentler than the Gemini 2, I soon found myself wanting it shorter and lighter still. I tried adjusting it myself, but getting it to the depth I wanted resulted in a sharp decrease in accuracy. Stacking errors skyrocketed and the number bar nearly stopped working entirely. Also, even though I had been very careful when opening and closing the top panels to access the sensitivity controls, one of the screws got permanently lodged in its shaft, and I had to snap it off to remove the cover. I emailed Jason about this, and he told me to send the writer to him. I overnighted it and he got it back to me in two days, vastly improved. The stroke is deliciously shallow, but the accuracy is all there. Stacking is much less of a problem (show me a machine that never stacks, and I'll show you an IBM Selectric), and it takes only a light touch to activate the optical switches. Now, I never had a problem with the Gemini 2's spring-driven, button-like feel; but the Revolution Grand's traditional "Dual Assisted Stroke" mechanism is really like butter. I like it much more than either of the two paper writers I've written on. I haven't tried out any of the modern paperless writers, but I can't imagine that they stroke any more smoothly than this one. One more thing: The first time I took the CCP on my new Revolution, I passed with 20 errors. That's good enough for me.