In reading through various meeting minutes and dictated letters from the 1930s in my recent research work, I found this great oddity:
Aliens confirmed. Well, aliens by metaphor only. Who is left who can read or write in shorthand?
The technology of shorthand I imagine is pretty much lost. This is clearly a secretary cleaning up her (or possibly his but it would be a rarity) notes on the transcript of the meeting recorded here. There were recording technologies, like wire recording, that were used in dictation. But typewriters were unable to keep up. I bet today you’d have a tough time on a laptop keeping up with dictation. Maybe not. But shorthand was a technology to keep up with dictation in order to type and send the letter anyway, or in this case to record and produce the minutes of a meeting.
Shorthand is one of these things that had utility when there was a gap in the ability of technology to cover time. The mechanical typewriter is too cumbersome to compose at, and was used for final copy only. With shorthand you could get verbatim anything anyone was saying.
The price for this was no joke. Many times in the archive I found discussions of budgets for these organizations, and one of the top concerns was the price of stenography services. Sometimes for the month this could be hundreds of 1930s dollars - which would be thousands today. A very significant office expense, but if you wanted to do business in a particular way and at a particular volume, you really had to have it.
I wonder what other technologies like shorthand have fallen to the side. Will laptops or swipe keyboards be like this? Emojis? I wonder.