JOURNALISTS MAY NOT NEED TO JUGGLE NOTEBOOKS AND tape recorders much longer. Lisa Stifelman, a 30-year-old graduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, has merged the two in a digital audio notebook. This device eliminates the need to play back or transcribe long interviews or lectures. You simply take notes as usual, while a chip-based recorder captures the sound. When you're finished, tap an audio scroll bar next to any hard-to-read portion of your notes or touch a particular word, and the notebook will replay its recording at that spot.
Developed with support from AT&T, the National Science Foundation, and others, the notebook consists of a magazine-size wooden board fitted with a speaker and microphone. It holds a pad of 5 1/2-inch by 9-inch paper, which lies above a grid of sensors that synchronize the writing with the audio taping. Bar codes on the paper tell the chip what page you're looking at. And the digital pen tells it where you are on the page. Stifelman figures the device would also appeal to travelers who want to preserve sounds in their journals, along with their thoughts.