Fundamentally, the Debates Office has been doing the same job since its establishment in 1922.
Reporters have always reported the proceedings of the Oireachtas in five or ten-minute segments called “takes”, editors have always read over and checked the completed takes and the edited takes have always been collated and published in the Official Report very shortly after the debate takes place. The way the Debates Office team goes about doing it, however, has changed completely over the years.
For a very long time, the Official Report was produced using simple tools such as pencils, pens and jotters, manual typewriters and carbon paper, scissors and glue. This was possible because, for 70 years, reporters recorded debates by taking a shorthand note of proceedings. Shorthand, a skill which is increasingly rare nowadays, is a symbolic writing method that allows people to write at high speeds and with much greater brevity than they would if using longhand. This highly valuable skill, which has existed in some form for more than 2,000 years, allowed competent practitioners to write at speeds of 170 words per minute or more, which is fast enough to record most people’s speech.