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A new voice for the digital set;Hardware

hree hundred pounds may seem an extraordinary sum to pay for what looks like a simple dictaphone, but the Olympus D1000 Digital Voice Recorder is really a whole lot more. It not only fits into your pocket but also lets you send voice emails, as well as create letters and other documents without recourse to the keyboard.

The D1000 makes recording, editing, transcribing and communicating messages quick and easy. For departmental heads, school managers and others who need to record memos, letters, interviews and other information while on the move, it could well prove to be a godsend.

Digital Voice Recorder uses a removable, miniature, flash-memory card. When combined with the special version of IBM ViaVoice transcription speech recognition software included with the D1000, speech files are compressed 13 to 27 times in DSS format, then converted into WAV files - WAV is a standard format for playing speech files on a computer - so that it can be converted into text. The D1000 is able to connect with a laptop or desktop PC for downloading, recognising and transmitting digital voice files.

The D1000's controls are very much like a standard dictaphone but with additional functions to let you skip forward, backwards and search for recordings. Being digital, erasure is quick and there's even an editing system so you can cut and paste pre-recorded passages. Like the Psion palmtop, a lithium battery holds all the information intact, even when the two AA cells are flat.

The 2Mb flash-memory card permits 15 minutes of recording time in standard play, and 33 minutes in long play modes. It's when the D1000 is used with ViaVoice that it really comes into its own. ViaVoice must be trained to recognise and relate each user's individual speech patterns in order to make accurate transcriptions. "Enrolment", as it is termed, does take time and requires a a lengthy list of statements to be read into the D1000. Once this is done, accuracy progressively improves, provided you take time to correct its errors. Olympus claims that it is very accurate after about two to three weeks' use.

This training procedure might preclude its operation by pupils with learning difficulties, who might look to the D1000 as an alternative to writing, because of the level of reading required in the training procedure. That apart, the Olympus D1000 Voice Recorder is an excellent system, and the more I use it the more impressed I become.

It may soon become indispensable!

Chris Drage

Olympus D1000 Voice Recorder with IBM ViaVoice is available from Olympus stockists. Price: pound;299.99 inc. For PCs equipped with Pentium 166MMX (or better) with Windows 95 (or better).

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