Posted by: David Stewart | June 26, 2010

John Henry 2010 vs the cyber steel driving machine

John Henry was a “steel driving man” which means he constructed railroads by hammering the rails into the ground. In the folk song, John Henry competed for supremacy against a steam-powered hammering machine. In the conclusion of the song, man triumphed over machine, but the effort was such that it killed him.

This is a pervasive part of the American myth. Which will win? Will humans retain their dignity over their creation?

Months ago, I sat with my dad and recorded some of his memories of the Second World War on an M-Audio digital recorded that I borrowed from a friend. But Dad asked if he could have a written transcript of the sessions, so he could edit them.

But I have been bedeviled by this little task for months. I bought a copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking, which failed to translate the text to speech. I got the suggestion of training the software with the recorder, so I need to attempt this as well.

But Dad has a little urgency here, and asked about it on the phone when I chatted with him on Father’s Day. Maybe I could just pay someone to transcribe them.

Someone at work used to run an outsourced transcription service with folks in India doing the typing. They put me in touch with the transcribers, who are getting me a quote on doing the work.

Aha! It’s a John Henry versus the steel driving machine challenge, 2010 style! Which will triumph?


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