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Tuesday, October 01, 2002
Prescott paralyses

At the Labore conference, delegate's words are displayed simultaneously on a screen as they speak. I have noticed this happening in TV programmes if the 'subtitles' option is chosen. I was intrigued by the mistakes made. I had assumed that the system used voice recognition software but, apparently, the display is achieved by fast typists.

It is reported today that the system was switched off for John Prescott's speech. Surprise. (For the benefit of foreign readers, John Prescott speaks high-speed, often unintelligible gobbets of ungrammatical rambling.)

This reminds me that I visited Prescott, Arizona several years ago. I had hoped to be able to photograph an appropriate notice saying something like 'Prescott Waffles', although that would have been a benign understatement. In the end, I had to settle for 'Prescott tires'. Quite. (Sometimes, there's something to be said for American spelling.)

Here's the paragraph from today's Times Blackpool Diary:
The verbal transcriber that instantly relays delegates’ words to a giant screen for the benefit of the hard of hearing was mysteriously switched off yesterday before the address from John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister.

There are widespread suspicions at Blackpool that this was at Prescott’s request because the transcriber, which has a habit of making mistakes, might have rendered his sometimes tortured discourse even less intelligible. Prescott sought to allay these suspicions at the start of his speech, commenting: “You weren’t couldn’t not understand what I was saying.”
See what I mean?

[I have so far been unable to supply a link for this item - the Times site is a bit of a mess and often screws up your screen. I'll add it later if I safely can - Josh]

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