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What is a Microcassette Transcriber?

By Erika C.
Updated May 16, 2024
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A microcassette transcriber is a machine that is used to help listeners transcribe audio from small audiotapes called microcassette tapes. The machine plays microcassette tapes at variable speeds and typically includes headphones and a foot pedal that can be used to stop and start the playback. The foot pedal also can be used to “backspace” the tape. When a transcriptionist removes his or her foot from the pedal, the tape automatically rewinds, or backspaces, by a specified number of seconds. The number of seconds the tape backspaces is usually variable.

Functions and Settings

Many microcassette transcribers also have built-in recording functions so that they can be used to record dictation, meetings and interviews. Some microcassette transcribers can record phone conversations. The recordings can be played back on the microcassette transcriber machine and transcribed using the variable playback options and the foot pedal.

Some microcassette transcriber machines have variable playback tones in addition to variable speeds. Playback can be set to a higher or lower pitch so it can be more easily heard and understood. This can be useful when the recording includes background noise or when the speaker’s pitch makes it difficult for the transcriptionist to hear enunciation.

Tape Counter

A microcassette transcriber usually includes a counter that indicates the playback position of the tape. Counters are useful for marking the specific spot at which something was said. Some annotated transcription projects require the transcriptionist to document the tape position at which certain things are said.

Foot Pedal

The foot pedal is a critical component of a microcassette transcriber. This feature enables users to transcribe tapes without ever removing their hands from the keyboard. During transcription, the transcriptionist usually is unable to type at the same speed at which the recording is played back, so the tape must frequently be stopped or rewound by a few seconds. The foot pedal enables the transcriptionist to set it to either stop the tape or backspace it by about one to three seconds, so when the transcriptionist loses pace with the tape, he or she can simply stop pressing the foot pedal, catch up, and then depress the foot pedal to start again.

Many Purposes

A microcassette transcriber can be used for a variety of purposes. It might be used by journalists to record and transcribe in-depth interviews or by researchers for projects that require lengthy interviews. The machines are often used to record business meetings so that the things said at the meetings can be transcribed and used to document meeting minutes and create other reports. Medical transcriptionists also use microcassette transcribers to create medical reports and administrative documents based on dictation taken from doctors and other healthcare professionals.

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