What Is a USB Transcription Pedal?

Wanda Marie Thibodeaux

A USB transcription pedal, or universal serial bus transcription pedal, is a technological device. It is used to provide hands-free control of digital audio or video via computer software programs. People use the device most commonly for writing down and preserving spoken monologues, conversations, speeches or a series of events.

USB transcription pedals are connected to a computer with a USB cable.
USB transcription pedals are connected to a computer with a USB cable.

A basic USB transcription pedal is actually three pedals in one. One large pedal is in the center. This usually is the pedal that controls start and stop. Two smaller pedals are on the right and left of the main pedal. The left pedal normally controls rewinding, while the right pedal controls fast-forwarding.

USB cables are used to connect devices -- such as transcription pedals -- to computers.
USB cables are used to connect devices -- such as transcription pedals -- to computers.

To use a USB transcription pedal, a transcriber plugs the pedal into any available USB port on his computer. Depending on the model of pedal, the transcriber might need to install some drivers that allow the computer to recognize and work with the pedal properly. He also might need to tell the computer program with which he has opened the audio or video file to take controls from the pedal rather than the computer's QUERTY keyboard. At that point, the pedal has been "installed" and the transcriber can begin pressing the appropriate buttons as needed with his foot.

The main advantage of using a USB transcription pedal is that, because the transcriber operates the device with his foot, he does not need to take his hands off the keyboard or interrupt hand key strokes in order to control the audio or video with which he is working. This translates to faster, more efficient work.

People use USB transcription pedals in a variety of settings. Examples of people who utilize them include copywriters and editors, court-related officers such as attorneys and paralegals, medical administrators and news reporters. Some USB transcription pedals are adaptable outside of normal transcription, however, which widens the scope of users.

A good example of a person using a USB transcription pedal outside of regular transcription is when the person does not have full use of both hands. The user could program the pedal to recognize particular keyboard commands that might be difficult with a physical disability of the hand, such as holding down two or three keys at once or reaching down with the pinky finger to capitalize letters. The large center pedal would be set to whatever commands or keys the user needed most often. The device becomes more of a typing assistant than a transcription tool.

A second non-standard use of USB transcription pedals is to enter commands when playing a video game. The complexity of some games makes it very difficult to press specific combinations of keys on the video game controller as quickly as needed. With the USB pedal, the video game player can tap his foot to play instead of using multiple fingers to initiate the same game command.

As technology advances, pedal manufacturers try to adapt their models to the operating systems and software programs available. This involves modifying the pedals produced to the current USB data transfer speeds available. The goal is always to keep the pedal compatible with as many machines and programs as possible.

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