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Monday, April 23, 2018

THE TYPEWRITER

THE TYPEWRITER
A cranky re-run from April 2014

Does anyone remember typing?  I took typing in high school.  Do they still teach that? It probably comes right before Latin and after Home Economics.  Maybe not.  Hell, I understand they don’t even teach longhand anymore.  How about that? Longhand? Longhand became script, which became cursive, which became extinct.  I’m so friggin old that I refer to an extinct writing technique three generations before its demise.

Typing.

I learned to type on a manual machine.  Why did they put the “a” so flipping far away?  I had to whack that thing with my pinky, the weakest of all fingers.  All my “a’s” were two shades lighter than the rest of my letters. 

At home we had an old Remington from the 1930’s.  The keys used to stick together if you hit them too rapidly: clack…clack…clackclack…”Fuck.”  You had to stop and flick those letters back manually.  Usually happened with “the” damn I could type “the” fast.

Typing 60 words a minute was the standard of excellence.  I got up to 40 not counting errors.  They took away 5 words for errors.  Counting errors I typed about -12 words a minute. 

My mom could type about 65 a minute counting errors which she made none.  That was on the old Remington.  A real typist did not make errors in those days.  If you made an error, erasures looked crappy, and white-out was still a snow storm.  Even white-out was not acceptable for a formal letter.  And don’t even get me started on carbon copies.  If you made one mistake you actually made three errors when you were using carbon copies. 

By the way young people, that is what the cc stands for when you cc someone.

Then there was the ink ribbon.  My mom couldn’t change the film in a camera, but she could change a typewriter ribbon in minutes and never even smudge her hand. 

I remember when my pops brought home an IBM Selectric he got from work.  Damn that thing could fly, and no locked up keys, the letters were all on one ball.  You could change the ball and type with a different font…Imagine that! Mom did not like that typewriter.  She preferred the old Remington.  I think she felt the IBM was cheating; it diminished the value of her skill.

Mom could “carriage return line feed” like you would not believe.  It was a thing of beauty. Left hand up, flick of the wrist, and back down into perfect QWERTY position without losing any of that clack…clack rhythm.  The IBM took a single electric key touch to create the same effect.  Mom preferred the wrist flick…“That new return thing throws my timing all off!”

The typing skill was so marginalized by IBM electrics, white-out, and finally computers that can simply back up and retype or even auto correct that it is now completely gone the way of longhand.  They even took away the keyboard clack. 

Early computers made the keys clack.  I think all the really good typists needed the clack to find their rhythm.  When the typists became obsolete, they took the clack away.

Why am I writing about all this?

I don’t know. 

Why did you read it?

20 comments:

  1. I learned at school, too, and on an old Smith Corona at home, which got me through college. When I first got an IBM Selectric I found it so sensitive I'd rest my fingers on the home keys and in an instant I'd type asdfjkl;weouoisxcm. I'm not sure that IBM should have been considered an upgrade.

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  2. Yes I took typing in high school. Great class for me as I'm pretty good to this day. I started out on a manual and moved on through the latest technology. Do you think kids could type today? I mean without just using their thumbs.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  3. Learned on a manual, typed college papers on either a Royal from 1915 (with glass windows to see the inner workings) or a portable Remington from 1944 that dad bought in an Army-Navy surplus store. I could do, on a good day 30 wpm clean, mostly 25 wpm.

    When I tested for an office job, using a computer, I was at 67 wpm (including back-deleting and correcting my work.) Okay, sold me on using word processors.

    But there was a certain elegance and precision to using a typewriter that is lacking in today's keyboarding. Something about having to actually think of what you are writing and the permanence and lack of it compared to today's electronic world where even your mistakes are tracked by someone somewhere.

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  4. Life is funny; I've read about old timer writers that can not write except with an old typewriter, they need the click clack rhythm or something...I don't think I could write with anything but my computer.

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    1. My cell phone can make that clicky sound when I text with one finger! I made Genius turn it off. No need for everybody to know how slow an old lady is texting.

      Glad for another chance to brag that my best typing test was 42 words per minute. That's after adjusting for a couple errors. I'm hoping that I'm faster now on a keyboard. My students used to turn around to gawk at me when I was typing in the classroom, while they were finishing their assignment and waiting for the bell. They seemed to think I was fast. Heh, heh! I just typed that as "fat." That too, probably!

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  5. Remember when detectives could solve a case by looking at the typewritten letter and then finding the typewriter used that had the mishappened a? Lol....my kids would never understand that!

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  6. i did not take typing in high school so my mother made me take it in summer school before I went to college. There were three electric typewriters in the classroom and a dozen manuals. I was teacher's pet so I got to use one of the electrics all the time (my a's did not show up at all). I never got very good at it, but even so i have to admit it was a very wise move on my mother's part to insist I learn how to type.

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  7. Now they call it keyboarding, and yes they teach it so the kids can type on the computer keyboard faster.

    My grandmother Mary was the second fastest typist in the world at age 17 back in 1917, she actually entered a contest. She typed 125 words a minute, i am not joking. She was a half word behind the lady who took first place. And yes, that was one of those really old Remington typewriters, too.

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  8. I took all business courses in high school. I could type 110 words a minute on an electric but we had a manual at home too that I loved. I used to know shorthand and also took a course in court reporting. How in the heck did I end up in an operating room for over 40 years? The answer is probably somewhere with your question of why your wrote this post. As to why I read it, that's an easy one...I love your posts! Easy peasy!

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    1. That is very impressive, but Mimi's Grandma did 125 on a manual, I'm still floored by that!

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  9. Wow, she could type a full page before my quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog!

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  10. I read it because I learned on those old monsters, hated the new electrics and now I'm a lousy typist becuase it's too easy now. I had 60 words a minute...just...when I graduated. Every year Mom would rent me a portable typewriter to practice on at home...you know, the kind in the little suitcase. I loved those little guys. Remember the 'onion skin' copies? They were a brute to correct on.

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  11. I read it because it revived memories.... 71 years ago and onwards. I failed a speed test because of one mistake but 125 a minute wasn't bad. I still have the speed but hitting the right keys gets harder...lol.

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  12. I read it because it was interesting to me and because I'm jealous of people who can type. I never learned in school, back then our curriculum was divided into a general study course or a commercial study course for those who wanted to be secretaries. My dad didn't want me to be a secretary and have to sit on the knees of some lecherous old boss, so I took the general course and learned not much of different things.

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  13. Ours was an old Underwood that, oddly enough, I still have. i could get 30 WPM on that beast, 50 on a selectric, and about 20 now on a computer ..... the rhythm is all off .... ;-)

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  14. My dad made me take a typing class in high school, and his graduation present to me was a semi-automatic typewriter to take to college with me. I must be close to the last cohort for whom knowing how to type was actually useful. And once I got to word-processing software, I was in freakin' heaven. . .

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  15. Oh yes, you took me back. I was a dreadful typist in school. I passed first year only by helping the teacher grade papers and by promising him that I would NOT sign up for the second year and that is the truth. Oddly today I am relatively fast and accurate (more or less) on the computer.

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  16. One of the offices I worked in had a typewriter tucked away in the copy room. I hated the rare occasion when I had to use that thing! It wasn't often, just for a few forms, but I hated it. I worked out a deal with a co-worker where I used the postage machine for her and she used the typewriter for me.

    Hubby learned to type on a typewriter, and he types much harder than I do (I learned on a computer). It always sounds like he's beating the laptop to death when he types.

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  17. my hubby used typewriter when he was in his first job ,this office also has typewriter though but mostly the official work is done through computers .

    thank you for this post specially for letting us know how brilliant was your mom in typing!!!

    i agree with her that new machine was cheating to her skills

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  18. I had typing class in high school, too, on a manual typewriter at first (and right after Latin, but before Home Ec - how did you know?).

    Coincidentally, the "y" on a German typewriter is where the "z" is on an American typewriter, and vice versa. Even after living in the States and using an American typewriter, I would mess up with those two letters - but, curiously, only if I wrote in German. Luckily we have computers now, and I can even type the German umlaut, ä, ü, and ö, if I remember the correct finger acrobatics for them. :-)

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