Stenographer Machine Equipment and Court Reporter Keyboards

Perhaps you've decided to go to school to become a court reporter. Now you are wondering about the equipment you will need in school and afterwards when you begin working in the legal system. You will need to rent or own a short hand machine known as a steno machine or sometimes referred to as a "writer". There are manual machines and you can usually purchase a used one for $75-$250. Students starting Theory and Theory Review will need a stenotype machine and the manual will work for Theory. This is a low-tech and low cost option to reduce your costs. If you do not want to invest money in the beginning most schools have computer labs where you can use their equipment, or rental plans for steno machines. The better option is to have a computerized writer so you can use the computer tutorial and hook into your computer at home for practicing. You will also be able to send your notes and files to your instructor. You can purchase a computerized writer for approximately $400-$1200. After graduation and when you are working in the field you will want to look into other steno machines, many come as packaged deals with software and stands included. They can run from $1500-$5000, with the top end writers including many helpful tools such as audio recorders built in so you can play back the actual verbal exchange for accuracy. While this may seem expensive a good writer is definitely an investment in your career.

Components of a Steno Machine

A steno machine has a phonetic alphabet and groups of letters to stand for different phrases. Learning stenography is like learning a new language and the types of languages are called theories. The key board of a steno writer is arranged into three sections. The left section writes initial sounds of words only, the right section writes final sounds of words, and the bottom section writes all the vowel sounds in between. You write the words down by sound, syllable, and spelling. For example, if you were to write the word "car" on a typewriter or regular keyboard, you would type the "c", "a", and "r", in a three-step process. On the steno machine you would write "KAR" all in one stroke. The stroke "KAR" would translate as "car".

A steno machine keyboard has 24 keys and a number bar, the arrangement of the keyboard looks something like this:

1/S 2/T 3/P 4/H * 6/F 7/P 8/L 9/T D
S K W R * R B G S Z
5/A 0/O E U

Letters are combined to represent those letters that are not on the keyboard. You are using shortcuts to write letters or words, that is why it is called "shorthand". The numbers are written by striking certain letters along with a number bar.

If you find a used machine you should contact your school to find out if it is compatible with the "theory" they will teach. Most schools will have you use a SRT (student real time) model. Your school should be able to help you with all of these choices, and many have a link on their websites.