Following is a hilarious email I sent to family and friends regarding the Point & Speak speech recognition software which was then being marketed through AOL. I have since received advertising in the mail for an upgraded program which is supposed to set up more quickly and be more accurate. I have not tried the new program, as I feel I have no use for it. I like to be in full control of what I am typing and feel that accuracy is worth the extra time spent keying in entries. You may find otherwise; perhaps the new program is meant for you.

Subj: My experience with speech recognition software
Date: 5/9/00 11:25:25 PM Pacific Daylight Time
From: Ummamum
To: (e-mail addresses are omitted for the sake of privacy)

Hi Everybody!

Late last month, I ordered AOL’s Point & Speak, a speech recognition software program. With it, you’re supposed to be able to click in an area (in an e-mail or document or whatever) and start talking into a headset microphone. The software automatically recognizes the words and types them for you. It’s a neat concept, and it could save a lot of time IF ONLY it would work properly. You see, the English language is sort of funny. Certain words are difficult to distinguish by sound, like “of” and “have” (did he say should have or should of?). Others… well, read this entry from the Petitt Family Journal dated 5/9/00, which I copied and pasted below. I think you’ll get a laugh.
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The new Point & Speak software has not worked very well. I get more wrong words than right ones sometimes, despite having carefully installed and initialized the software on May 4. This involved reading into the microphone for over half an hour, so the program would become accustomed to the sound of my voice and how I say my words. Then I had to copy a document into the program (I used all of the April Journal) and say into the mic any words that the program failed to recognize. After all that, here are some of the zany errors I encountered:

I said into the mic: I can’t help falling in love with you
Point & Speak typed: I can’t help fully unload with you

I said into the mic: Amazing grace! how sweet the sound
Point & Speak typed: Amazing grace House sweep the sound

I said into the mic: Britney Spears
Point & Speak typed: Brady Spears (What? Did she have a sex change?)

Then there are the errors which occurred when reading the Introduction to Chronicles 1999 (Chronicles was an earlier version of the Petitt Family Journal):

I said into the mic: Congress has impeached President Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice in the matter of his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Point & Speak typed: Congress has in peach President Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice in the matter of his affair with White House intern Monaco whiskey.

I said into the mic: As for our family, we had an eventful year but a lovely Christmas.
Point & Speak typed: As for our family, we had uneventful year bought a lovely Christmas.

I said into the mic: …she is no longer “zoned out”…
Point & Speak typed: …she is no longer sold out…

I said into the mic: As for his behavior, it’s typical for a nine-year-old except for some mouthiness now and then.
Point & Speak typed: As for his behavior, it’s typical for a nine-year-old except for some Month-Ended-Down then.

I said into the mic: …he has moved in with Kathy and commutes to work each day.
Point & Speak typed: …he has moved in with Kathy and commits to work each day.

I said into the mic: Jim and Kathy
Point & Speak typed: GM and Kathy

I said into the mic: Dan & Joyce are okay.
Point & Speak typed: Dan and choice are okay.

I said into the mic: Patrick Ringer is selling Marie’s house. Patti may buy it.
Point & Speak typed: Patrick greater is selling Marie’s house. Patti may buy at.

I said into the mic: We paid for most of Joe’s orthodontia.
Point & Speak typed: We paid for most of Joe’s Orthodox a.

I said into the mic: We now pay Joe $3 per week in allowance
Point & Speak typed: We now paid Joel $3 per week in allowance

I said into the mic: Then we will be debt-free!
Point & Speak typed: Then we will be dead free.

I said into the mic: …we’ve talked about taking a trip… possibly Jamaica, Florida or Hawaii.
Point & Speak typed: …we’ve talked about taking a trip… possibly Jamaica, Florida or why he.

I said into the mic: …empty tote boxes waiting to be filled with organized stuff
Point & Speak typed: …empty tote boxes waiting to be filled with organized of

I said into the mic: Go For It!
Point & Speak typed: Goal for it!

And this is just the tip of the iceberg! There were numerous other errors, including wrong words and verb tenses, improper capitalization, and punctuation errors. Really, it’s a wonder that a program like this even works at all, let alone is accurate. And in many cases, entire sentences went off without a hitch. But errors were harder to spot than typos, which stick out like a sore thumb. These errors were real words, just not the right ones!

I did the entire Introduction to Chronicles 1999 using Point & Speak, then corrected the errors (later I learned that I missed several errors). Total elapsed time was 40 minutes. Then I opened a new blank document and manually typed in all the information. I corrected errors as I went along. Total elapsed time was 24 minutes, and the document was error-free!

I called AOL Shop Direct, from whom I purchased the software. They said I could return it for a full refund.

I uninstalled the software, gaining 150 megabytes of disk space in the process. I’ll send it back tomorrow.

At work tonight, I talked to a co-worker who told me that his brother tried the same software. He also had no luck with it, and he returned his also.
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That was it. Love you all. See you later.
Charlie