Contrary to popular belief, Americans did not create shorthand, stenography, or the field of court reporting. The skill of writing quickly with precise, abbreviated writing was practiced by the ancient Romans and traced back to the English of Queen Elizabeth's epoch. In 1602, John Willis published a book called "The Art of Stenographie, teaching...the way of compendious Writing." And thus was born the first textbook of court reporting.
The profession of court reporting most likely began right here in the United States. The Fourth Congress for 1796 says, "He also adverted to the attempt at the last session to introduce a stenographer into the House, which failed." Washington Irving, in the next century, referred to the court reporter in an issue of the Knickerbocker, 1809: "My predecessors, who were furnished, as I am told, with the speeches of all their heroes taken down in shorthand by the most accurate stenographers of the time." In recent times, Americans coined the slang terms stenog (1906) and steno (1925) for the people who did the court reporting.
The Stenograph Machine
The stenograph machine was invented in the nineteenth century. The stenograph machine is a device for writing in shorthand. Court reporters warmly embraced the device because it eliminated the need to take dictation down by hand -- literally pencil and paper. Even in modern times -- the twentieth century -- court reporters in office environments generally took notes by hand. By the end of the century, dictating machines and computers have begun to aid the work of the court reporter -- allowing the speed of the microprocessor to quickly translate the steno language into written text on a computer screen.