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ESDLCNM November 9, 2009

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

One of the best classes I ever took in my life I took in the ninth grade: typing. Cheryl and I signed up together, sat together, pounded those loud keys side by side, exercise after exercise. I can’t remember if there was homework involved in that course. Surely not everyone had a typewriter at home.

We had one at home. A manual. I think it was an old Smith-Corona. Very old-fashioned. I used to love to play with it, and I imagine I loved it even more once I learned to type. (Do you remember manual typewriters? The sound of the strike, the feel of the keys, the bell as you neared the right margin, the whack of the carriage return, the ink on your fingers when you changed the ribbon?)

I can’t remember when I got my electric typewriter. I don’t think we were required to type our papers in high school, but maybe by the end, we were. It was certainly in my possession by the time I set off for college. Now, I’m amazed that anyone could get through college without a computer.

After college, when I started working in offices, I was introduced to the IBM Selectric III, and it was practically love at first sight. I could never afford one—they cost as much as a good computer does today. In the long run, of course, it was lucky I couldn’t, as things were About to Change Quickly.

I had to take typing tests for the office jobs, and in those days, I was fairly fast. After subtracting for typos, I could still often test around 90 wpm. On a typewriter. I doubt I could do that today on a computer. The fact that correction has become so easy has had its effect on my—and I’m guessing many’s—initial accuracy.

The point is, I’m basically a touch typist. Once my fingers are on the keys, I don’t have to look at the keyboard to know where I am. Given that everyone uses keyboards today, I figure everyone is a touch typist—but no. Do people take typing courses anymore? Do they teach it in school? I have no idea. Nulliparous, I have no off-payroll, offspringy spy in the school system.

Here I am, back in Portland, on my laptop. My laptop is at least 5 years old. The letters on many of the keys have worn off; specifically E, S, D, L, C, N, and M. As well as a bit of the >. This doesn’t bother me. I know where I am.

It does bother just about anyone else who uses my laptop (usually a houseguest wanting to check e-mail, or maybe a friend in a coffee shop). I have finally ceased being surprised by this and have learned to issue a warning—not that the warning is remotely helpful to someone who needs a map at all times.

I’ve thought about marking the keys with letters, but I don’t like the idea of ink possibly transferring to the screen. Plus, what do I care? Didn’t you people take typing in ninth grade? What’s wrong with you?

Last year Tim got one of those pretty, pretty MacBook Pros with the keyboard that lights up. Those letters will never disappear. I have to admit, I have keyboard envy.

But I don’t need it. It’s icing.


1. LisaS - November 9, 2009

when Mary Dora was a kitten she broke the period (.) off my laptop, and it’s long gone. people look very confused by that, but i just go on. as you say, icing.

2. Eulalia (Lali) Benejam Cobb - November 9, 2009

Boy, you were/are a fast typist! I’m much slower, but I also type by touch–can’t imagine how anybody else manages, hunting and pecking at the computer the whole day long.

(Nulliparous, eh? I guess that makes me biparous?)

3. bridgett - November 9, 2009

Lali: that means you’ve had twins, I think (or are a mammal that usually has twins?). You and I are both multiparous.

IB: what about white out? It dries, it wouldn’t get on the screen…of course, people should know how to type.

4. helen - November 9, 2009

Wow, you’re fast. I remember a friend and I trying to get jobs through a temp agency and we both only tested at about 30 wpm. We’d go back in every day to check if there were any jobs to be had, and we could actually see the staff whispering and giving The Look to each other when we entered.

Can you buy one of those cool keyboards and plug it into your laptop?

5. indigobunting - November 9, 2009

LisaS: My sister’s cat broke a key off her laptop too!

Helen: That cool keyboard is part of HIS laptop. Someday I’ll buy a new laptop. But I’m a cheapskate/practical person that sees no reason to get something new til I have to, even if it is cool.

B: White out? Hmmm. Sounds dangerous. My keys are white, so it might not work.

Lali and Bridgett: I’d have to look up biparous. Can’t say I’ve ever seen the term, but I have seen multiparous. The type of copy I edit describes women as “gravida 3, para 2,” etc. To the best of my knowledge, I never even hit gravida 1.

Oh, and for the record, I bet I can’t type anywhere near 90 wpm anymore.

6. Dona - November 9, 2009

My daughter’s spacebar broke off her laptop and another key, don’t know which one. She now has one of those Macbooks with light up keys. (but the Dell Ijust got from work also has light up keys…)

My last Dell laptop lost some letters (but not the keys) and I used letters from a labeler to mark them.

I’m only a touch typist on the letters. I always have to search for the numbers and some symbols. I did take typing in high school — and got a manual typewriter one year for Christmas, but I never got higher than 60 wpm. I’m much slower these days.

7. Mali - November 10, 2009

I taught myself touch typing on a holiday job my first year at university (college as you would say). I had to retype the catalogue cards for every book in the local library, so the first book I found was one that would teach me to touch type. I got pretty fast , though I was never tested – though I do need to hit the backspace key quite frequently.

I’m like Dona though – I have to search for the numbers and symbols usually.

And this time last year I had a brand new Dell laptop. I was using it downstairs, on my lap, and Gershwin (the cat) objected. The lap is HIS space! He jumped on, and I pushed him off, but his claw pulled off one of the letter buttons. Fortunately my husband is handy, and managed to fix it.

8. Deloney - November 10, 2009

I got a deal on my laptop last year but I didn’t know it had a French keyboard. Hard to explain. Anyway, I type like a newspaper reporter in an old movie: real fast with two or three fingers.

9. indigo bunting - November 11, 2009

Del: I love to watch people type that way. (At least, I love to watch people type FAST that way.)

Everyone: I didn’t quite realize that the cat-ripping-a-key-off-with-its-claw thing was quite so universal.

10. Mali - November 11, 2009

Oh good, Del, that’s how I expect you to type. And maybe with a cigar or something, and a tumbler of whisky by your side!

11. laurie - November 11, 2009

i loved my typing classes. i was one of the fastest, and here’s how i learned to be fast: we had exercises where we would “free type” to music. the music helped my ideas flow, and the faster they came the faster i typed.

the last time i was tested i was at about 140 wpm but that was a long time ago.

12. helen - November 12, 2009

140??? That must be some sort of record?

13. Wayne - November 12, 2009

Oh my… I remember the horror of Junior High typing class. My teacher apparently felt that providing loud and surprising distractions was the way to gain performance from his students. The long wooden pointer would slam down between two desperately flailing students and he would claim we should be able to deal with distractions since we would need this ability in the working world.

In all the many years since I have never once had someone slam anything down next to me while I was typing. I would enjoy the opportunity now to explain to him the error of his world view.

14. Craig (Maito Sewa Yoleme) - November 12, 2009

I had a cheapo plastic manual typewriter in college. Typed on that awful erasable paper. Dreamed of a Selectric.

My parents one year got me a Major Electric Typewriter, in the hope that I’d be a writer someday. A behemoth with strange interchangeable wheels containing different fonts. Not at all like a Selectric. Those little wheels would break, and the results were never very satisfying even when it worked properly. I knew it cost an exorbitant amount of money, so it just made me feel guilty because I hated using it so much.

Two years later, the PC was born, and this time *I* paid an exorbitant amount of money to get one. I was everyone’s envy, with a mind-boggling 40 MB hard drive!

The behemoth languished in the closet until I finally gave it to Goodwill.

They didn’t want it either.

15. indigo bunting - November 12, 2009

140 wpm??!! I am in awe. And I think my coworker might be able to type that fast (although she claims accuracy is down). Hearing her type is amazing. I once tested at about 115 and was positively giddy. But 140—I bow at the feet of the master!

Holy crap, Wayne. Seriously. This sounds like a sick movie.

Craig: I can’t believe what I paid for my first computer, which didn’t even have a hard drive, but a floppy disk drive. As much as a Selectric III. It was insane. I wonder if you’d held on to the typewriter if some collector would have been interested? God knows you can’t get rid of ancient computers…

16. Adam Byrn Tritt - November 17, 2009

Until I was eighteen, my mother did all my typing for me. It was done as I read my papers to her because my handwriting was, and still in, undecipherable. Even to me. I use the written word as a reminder of what is in my head.

When I was eighteen, the first purchase we made together, my wife and I, was an Olivetti Praxis Electric Typewriter. The next purchase was a Commodor C64. The idea was, with a word processing program, I could do my own typing. It worked.

I did take typing lessons in school. I passed. Barely. No touch typing here.

17. indigo bunting - November 17, 2009

Adam: Can you type fast-ish now, now that you are clearly writing all the time?

18. Adam Byrn Tritt - November 19, 2009

Yes, actually. Around sixty words a minute. But I still look at the keyboard.

19. indigo bunting - November 20, 2009

So you would hate mine.

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