Stenographic court reporters and CART captioners are highly trained in the art of stenography. They use a specialized machine called a stenotype or a stenowriter which has a keyboard of 22 keys. Instead of hitting one key at a time like on a laptop's keyboard, a stenographer hits multiple keys at once like a chord on a piano to create phonetic combinations. The left hand presses the consonants at the beginning of a syllable, the right hand presses the ending consonants, and the thumbs press the vowels. So the English word "cat" is written initial K in the left hand, vowel short-A with the left thumb, and consonant final T in the right hand.
To graduate court reporting school a stenographer must pass a five-minute speed test at 225 words per minute with 95% accuracy in their final transcription. The speed contest given at the National Court Reporters Association annual convention is 280 words per minute for five minutes. The five-minute speed world record is 300 words per minute, a record that has remained unbroken since Dominick Tursi achieved it.
Even though stenographic court reporters and captioners use the same stenotype device to do their jobs, the differences are huge. Court reporters make verbatim transcripts of court hearings and depositions. CART captioners provide instant realtime text on a screen for either an individual to watch or a whole audience. In addition to being fast, a captioner must know how to write their stenographic outlines so that they translate in English. For example, the outline W-S could stand for "William Shakespeare" in an English literature class and "Wall Street" in a finance class.