Recording A Life

For the Not-so-Computer Savvy

By Penelope Folsom

You’ve lived all these years. You’ve had all those wonderful and maybe not so wonderful experiences. You’ve tried to share your history and your stories, but they don’t seem that interested – yet.

In the 1950s I had the opportunity to visit my grandparents in Europe. WWII was just 10 years behind them. They had lost two sons in the battle on the Russian front. The Russians then invaded and took over their home in Dresden and the only way to escape was to run in the dark of night. They relocated to southern Germany. That’s it. That’s as much as I learned during that Summer of my European adventure. I was a child and I didn’t know to ask more questions — the who, what, when, where and why. How had they managed to escape? What had their lives been like before the war? Where had my uncles been buried? Did they recover any of the treasures that had been lost?

So many questions. So few answers. While we were young and had the opportunity to delve into this “ancient history” of our elders, we had little interest. Now we’re at that advanced age where the history of our beginnings and those who came before us is of great interest. But there are no recordings other than birth, marriage and death.

My friend Anna has lived a most interesting 80-plus years, which covers a good deal of history of her developing town. There are stories from long deceased family members that only she knows. When Anna is no longer here, who’s going to remember these pieces of history?

But how, other than to hire a personal secretary? Well, now it just may be easier than ever before. There are a few options available other than chatting around the fire on a cold Winter’s evening.

One not very appealing option is to record the past in long hand, but at this point in life it seems laborious and there’s the possibility that no one is going to be able to read it. If you choose to write it in cursive, be aware they no longer teach that in public schools.

Typing could work, if you had taken that secretarial course when it was offered in your high school. If only we knew way back then, how a mastery of the keyboard would be one of the most beneficial, timesaving courses we could take.

One other method and perhaps the easiest is to speak words into a computer, which will then turn your words into text. Easier than you may think. Programs are available in one form or another on most computers, but for an Apple computer it’s as easy as:

•Click on the document (such as a blank page in Word) where you would like the words typed.

•Press the fn (function) key twice. A microphone appears on the screen.

•Begin speaking.

•When finished, press the fn key once.

•Your words should appear on the document.

Assistance available at

If you have an iPhone, download the app Dragon. It’s free. Once it is downloaded speak and it will type the text. If you have a connection to your printer, it can then be printed. If not, ask for help from a grandkid as to how it can be done.

With an older computer, type in “speech to text” and determine which will work on your device. There are also easy-to-navigate programs available on the Web such as but be aware there’s a cost if you download it onto a computer.

And then there’s Google. If you have Google Chrome, it’s easy. If you don’t have Google Chrome, maybe it’s time because it’s free. Download through Chrome and follow simple but specific directions, and there it is.

When completed and what’s completed you ask? You decide. Do you start with, “It was a dark and stormy night when I entered this world,” or maybe you begin at high school graduation, what you imagined as the kickoff day to freedom! Flashbacks are acceptable. It is after all, your book.

When completed to your satisfaction, it can be as easy as pushing the command “print.” Review the completed pages and put it in a three-ring binder with pictures of your choice. Be sure to label those photos, as chances are good others won’t recognize those smiling faces from your past.

Another option is to use www.TaskRabbit It’s a source of outside help that will transcribe your words onto paper, lay it out and edit. Yes, there is a fee, but it’s negotiable.

When ready for a more professional look go to or any other office supply store and have it printed and bound to your specifications. Order as many copies as you would like. The cost is minimal – often as low as 25 cents per page.

Holidays are coming. Wouldn’t this be a unique gift for those kids who have everything? The help you need is there and it’s easier than you think. Isn’t it time to begin?


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