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The speakwrite made its appearance in Chapter 4 of George Orwell's classic dystopian novel, 1984, published in 1949.

Winston, the protagonist of 1984, reported to the Records section of the Ministry of Truth and settled into his cubicle. He "pulled the speakwrite towards him, blew the dust from its mouthpiece, and put on his spectacles," then started his day's work with three apparently routine tasks, and "an intricate and responsible job" that he decided to put off until he had completed the other three tasks.

Across the "long, windowless hall" from Winston's cubicle was a corresponding cubicle in which a "small, precise-looking, dark-chinned man named Tillotson was working steadily away" with his own "speakwrite." He looked to Winston like he was "trying to keep what he was saying a secret between himself and the telescreen."

The "speakwrite" was a machine, a kind of recording device, which converted speech into text which appeared on a telescreen, which is a sort of computer monitor screen. In his job, Winston used his speakwrite to update, shall we say, Party records, and clarify, if you will, Big Brother's orders so they conform to new developments.

The large, two-way telescreen with facial recognition capability and the speakwrite machine that Orwell wrote about in 1984 didn't exist at the time the novel was published in 1949.

Over seventy years later, two-way telescreens of all shapes and sizes, with or without facial recognition capability, and speakwrite-like machines—computers and even smartphones capable of automatic transcription of voice-to-text and text-to-voice—are ubiquitous in our everyday lives.

Ever-present, too, is 24/7 surveillance from traffic cameras, red light cameras, and security cameras on every street corner, in our workplaces, in our homes, and even in our doorbells—which is remarkably, eerily reminiscent of 1984.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

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