A computer-aided transcription system is transporting the centuries-old court system into the 21st century, a Michigan judge has told the Idaho Trial Lawyers Association.

Computer-aided transcription, or CAT, which is providing instant transcripts of court testimony to attorneys, judges and jurors, could be in Idaho's courtrooms by 1989.The system is being used in several states, and a Washington state corporation has offered to bring CAT to Idaho on a trial basis.

"I think this is the future - this is where we're going," said Michigan Circuit Court Judge Robert Colombo, who was the first judge to use CAT in 1984.

Colombo spoke to a seminar sponsored by the Idaho Trial Lawyers Association. As he spoke, a court reporter typed his comments which appeared on a screen for the audience.

"We have been really excited for this is really a sweeping pendulum that is starting to happen," Gambee said.

A computer-compatible stenotype machine, a computer, a printer and three computer terminals - one for each attorney and the judge - are installed in the courtroom.

As the court reporters type, the information is stored on a disk and on a traditional paper tape.

A computer with a dictionary program translates the reporters' symbols into English as they type. Three to five seconds after someone speaks, it appears in English on the computer terminals.

Colombo, who presides over many lengthy product liability and medical malpractice cases, said the computers are invaluable. As an appellate judge, he does not like to review cases using video tape and questions the reliability of tape-recorded testimony.

In addition to seeing an immediate transcript of court proceedings, attorneys can bring their own disks to court with research material they plan to use during the trial.