My Tech: Susie Dent on AirPods, Alexa and the online dictionary

Susie Dent is a well-known face on British TV screens, having appeared on Channel 4’s Countdown every year since 1992.

Aside from her TV work she is also an author and, in 2019, launched the podcast Something Rhymes with Purple.

Here, she talks to us about her relationship with technology and what she’s used to help get through lockdown.

We also get her thoughts on the shift to an online dictionary for Countdown.

What’s your earliest tech memory?

This is going back a long way but the cassette player on which I would religiously record the top 40 every Sunday evening.

How would you describe your relationship with technology?

I’m selective with it. Almost all the data needed for my job is online. In print the Oxford English Dictionary is about 20 volumes but online it’s just there, continuously being updated. I say ‘selective’ because I’m not at smart lights and heating yet but I use Alexa on my Echo. I’m halfway there!

What piece of tech have you found yourself relying on?

I have an old iPod Touch. I spend most of my time in lockdown watching box sets on that. It’s a tiny screen but I find it an intimate experience to get lost in.

What tech is helping you work from home?

For my podcast with Gyles Brandreth, Something Rhymes With Purple, Somethin’ Else productions sent us a Blue Yeti microphone and Reaper audio software. Both of those have produced really astonishing results. We’ve had lovely feedback from listeners.

How are you keeping fit during lockdown?

I was cycling in the first lockdown but recently I’ve been walking a lot more and I’ve got my Apple AirPods for that, which are great. I’m so tired of wires and cables so the AirPods have been a revelation for me.

How do you feel about the move from printed dictionary to online on Countdown?

I know a lot of people miss the printed dictionary and the little pen cam, as we call it, but printed dictionaries are not updated nearly as often as online dictionaries. We had a word not too long ago — fracking — which wasn’t in the printed dictionary but was in the online version.

Have you ever used tech to learn a language?

I’ve been using the Rosetta Stone app. During lockdown I’ve decided I want to learn Welsh and Spanish. I haven’t yet started on Welsh but Rosetta Stone is super immersive and shows you the words, helps you make out their shape and form. I really like it.

Has any tech wowed you lately?

I did some work with Alexa on regional dialects and got to see under the hood a bit, and am fascinated by the language part. The people behind Alexa are always improving and evolving it, and that mirrors what language itself does.

Susie’s work with Amazon can be enjoyed on their Echo line, available on amazon.co.uk from £49.99, while her latest book, Word Perfect, is available to buy now

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