on the cheap and sleazy side (www.cheapandsleazy.net)

By Norma Miller, CCP, CBC; Edited by G.D. Warner (HMFIC, Cheap and Sleazy)

The Luminex: "Love at First Write"

In which captioning goddess Norma Miller tells you about her new toy -- er, tool


As you know, I try to get folks to talk write about their writers for my readers here at the Cheap and Sleazy Labs.

I ask them to talk about their writer, how they compare/differ from writers they've had before, and, of course, take pictures ... lots of 'em.

This one took a while to get going, but it is now here, for your reading pleasure!

And now, without further ado ...


TL;DR: I have owned four Luminexes. They have changed my writing and traveling life exponentially for the better, and I have loved them all.

Luminex Black Tie Edition

Luminex: Black Tie Edition

Why does a person need FOUR Luminexes, you ask? Read on!


Begin at the Beginning.

Let's just say that I've been around a day decade or two  three  four -- oh, never mind.

I started out in the year *mumble-mumble-probably-before-you-were-born* on a manual avocado green student's model Stenograph. Okay, I'm just going to say it: It was 1977. (That is not a typo.)

I passed the RPR on that thing before I graduated from court reporting school. Well, in actual fact, I did not get the results until after graduation, but the exam was before graduation. Hilariously, this was also before I had passed any 225 takes at school. But that's a story for another day.

This is all to say, I loved my avocado-green little student model. I loved the feeling I got when I carried it around campus in its hard plastic case, the feeling of being one of the elites (the court reporting students) at the junior college I attended.

And a short time later, I loved the beige (for more sophistication, dontcha know) professional model (also a manual machine) I bought when I got my first job as an official reporter in the Vermont courts. I worked a lot of hours and wrote a lot of pages on that baby.

I loved the smell of the ink that went in it.

I loved the danger of getting the indelible ink on my hands or my clothes and needing to keep rubbing alcohol close by to clean my hands and my machine!

One time I rose for the jury to leave after a long trial, only to realize I had somehow gotten a huge pool of indelible ink all over my beautiful pale green linen suit.

I loved putting drops of oil into the side of the platen and other movable parts. I loved the feel of shuffling the steno paper in my hands before loading it in the paper tray.

I loved putting drops of oil into the side of the platen and other movable parts.

I loved the feel of shuffling the steno paper in my hands before loading it in the paper tray.

But I was young. After day after day turned into year after year in court, my body started to hurt.

So, a few years later, I hit the MSE -- the Modern Steno Era -- and bought myself a Steno-Lectric. THIS WAS SO MODERN and a HUGE STEP UP! Much less stress, less pain to write on it.

But ... the world keeps on moving, doesn't it?

Next came the Smartwriter.

Smartwriter Description

Smartwriter Description and Picture (from stenograph.com)

THAT WAS A MARVEL. A solid, reliable workhorse. It had digital cassettes and everything, because by then we had dipped our toe into the Computer Age. (A "digital cassette" is ... oh, maybe you should just check it out on Wikipedia. And while you're there, maybe give them a donation for all the free info they provide.)

I now can only laugh at the thought that we were "in the Computer Age" then.

"And ugh."

Next came a Mira.

Elan Mira

Elan Mira

I can barely type the word without PTSD. That was the worst machine I'd ever had. It not only was incredibly inaccurate, it killed my body. I still struggled with that thing for many years until I had left the field of court reporting behind, and transitioned into a full-time CART provider. At that point, an extremely wise woman who worked at a steno machine repair place suggested that I try the Wave, because I was no longer a court reporter, so I did not need any memory or any bells and whistles.

The Wave

The Wave

A Wave of Relief

I must admit, I was skeptical. But I ended up loving that Wave to pieces. It was solid. It was reliable. It was accurate as heck, and most importantly, it DID NOT HURT MY BODY TO WRITE ON IT. My chronic tendinitis healed. Life was beautiful.

I was stuck on the Wave and I was not interested in any silly new frivolous machine. I'm not a person to gush or to lust over things. The Wave was a perfectly good and serviceable machine and it was going to be the last machine (well, I had two -- one for backup) I was ever going to buy.

Norma Writing on the Wave

Norma Writing on the Wave

And then ...

I attended the NCRA Convention the first year the Luminex came out. I happened to be walking past the exhibitors' hall, and I swear to you, those damned Luminexes! Sitting there like sirens singing to me! The tractor beams pulled me into the empty hall (where, it turned out later, I was not supposed to be yet, but that's also a story for another day). They sucked me in and over to their sweet, delicious buttery keyboards. In 30 seconds I was a goner.

Before I left the convention, I had bought one and also bought about a hundred tickets to win another (I didn't win).


When I got my first Luminex, I had to make some minor key adjustments on the first day because I was stacking or splitting or something. I can't remember which. It even required a phone call to support, because I was misinterpreting the categories on the adjustments.

This happens a lot with me, this misinterpretation of universal symbols or instructions with computers. I seem to think backwards of whoever names things in computer programs, so "less" means "more" and "up" means "down" and "internal" means "external."

Love Blossoms

I have been drunkenly in love and head over heels about the Luminex since Day One. After decades of trying to write in the one recommended position (90-degree-angle everything: feet flat on floor, knees, elbows 90 degrees from keyboard, back straight), in less than a heartbeat I was placing my machine low between my knees and tilted far, far forward, and it seemed as natural as if I'd been doing that forever. So much less stressful.

Norma Tilts

Norma Tilts The Tilt of The Luminex, a new musical -- at a theater near you!

This positioning would not have worked very well back in the day when I wore business skirt suits, pumps, and pantyhose. Hallelujah those days are over.

Norma Back in the Day

Norma Back in the Day

This positioning would not have worked very well back in the day when I wore business skirt suits, pumps, and pantyhose. Hallelujah those days are over.

I am no longer a court reporter. I am exclusively a CART provider and captioner. So I can't speak to any of the bells and whistles on the machine, such as storage or audio or any of those things.

I also am a believer in wires for my work. So I don't use Bluetooth and I can't speak to that.

What I can speak to is this: On the Luminex I write impeccably cleanly and without effort. All my writing fatigue has melted away. I can write 8- or 10-hour days. Let's be honest ... a day that long is not easy, and other parts of my body start to ache after about six, but it's DOABLE. It was not doable before. It was "not doable" but I did it anyway, for many many years, in court and beyond. But now it is truly doable.

And it's light and thin and sleek and packable. It has been a godsend for travel. I travel a lot and I never go anywhere without my backup. So ... I would bring my Luminex and also bring my Wave as my backup.

This grew old fast.

With a skinny, light little lovely thing and a (also lovely) heavier and bulkier Wave to lug around ... things never quite fitted into my bags correctly. Also, they both required different tripods.

It was the tripod situation that turned the lightbulb on in my head. That was what I used as my final justification to buy another Luminex within a few months of the first: I could carry two Luminexes, ONE tripod (because it could work on both machines), ONE charger (ditto), and all the other accessories, including TWO laptops, they all fit in my carry-ons, without straining my back. SOLD!

fraternal twins

Fraternal Twins

I did a thing I'd never done before with the order of the second Luminex (the one on the left in the photo): I ordered it with wide asterisk and -DZ keys.

This was not a good move for me. I am a standard-keys person. End of story. I managed with the wide keys, but I was quite miserable with them, and I planned to send that machine back to have the keys changed back to standard.

And then, tragedy struck.

All my equipment -- ALL. My. Equipment -- from my two Luminexes to my tripod to my two stacked cases to my two laptops to my ethernet dongles to my noise-canceling headset, to -- you name it -- was all stolen on a work trip to San Francisco. Someone just walked away with my entire kit from immediately behind me in a restaurant.

He was caught on the security camera, but by the time I noticed it, 20 minutes had gone by and he was long gone. The police were not terribly interested. I was in shock. Literal clinical shock, I'm quite sure.

Long story short:

Thank goodness for insurance with replacement value coverage.

fraternal twins take two

The second set of fraternal twins. My pretties.

Butter. Even more buttery.

It's become a bit of a thing to have your Luminex's universal bar disengaged. So I decided to do that with my all-white machine (pictured on the right). When it first came back, I didn't think I discerned any difference, but lemme tell ya: If it wrote like butter before, it's EVEN MORE BUTTERIER now! I am anxiously awaiting an opportunity to send in the tuxedo one to get that bar disengaged as well.

So in conclusion ...

I could pull out the thesaurus to find more synonyms for love, but this review has gone on so long I've probably lost 90 percent of Cheap and Sleazy's fine readers. If you're still here, I trust you get it.

I've owned four Luminexes. I would own four more if I had the need.


Thank you, Norma!