3.814 a story of scanning (50)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Fri, 1 Dec 89 23:14:04 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 814. Friday, 1 Dec 1989.

Date: Thu, 30 Nov 89 21:34 CST
Subject: Optical Scanning

May I interject a few words in defence of the much maligned
Kurzweil scanner? My evidence takes the form of a brief
narrative--an optical conversion narrative, you might say. But
Humanists interested in the writing process and its ineluctable
mysteries might find it worth noting.

Several months ago I committed myself to revising a substantial
(65-page) typewritten manuscript, produced at a time when I had
no access to a computer. I could not face the prospect of
keyboarding these pages, especially since I knew that I would
ultimately use only half of them. My initial attempts to revise
in pencil onto the typescript and input a workable rough draft
failed miserably. Without being fully aware of it, I had become
hooked on word processing, especially the capacity to move blocks
of text around at will and generate multiple versions.

Sitting idle in the basement of the local computation center was
a Kurzweil Discover (7320?), and in the space of an hour I
had a usable ASCII DOS file in my hands. I never systematically
calculated the accuracy levels obtained. But for my purposes it
really didn't matter: hiatuses were clearly marked by tildes, a
spell checker quickly cleaned up obvious mistakes, and most of
the quoted material required careful rechecking anyway.
Revisions went quickly because I could bypass the mind-numbing
work of typing and could now see the essay with fresh eyes.

I don't claim my experience justifies the purchase of a Kurzweil
4000 (assuming such machines aren't already consigned to the
elephants' graveyard of technology). But if you find yourself
staring blankly at a stray and revision-resistant typescript, you
might consider experimenting with OCR techniques.

Alvin Snider
University of Iowa
Iowa City