It’s a “type” of living

Way back when I was a schoolgirl, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, not too many people typed.  Now everyone types, so being a “typist” is nothing special.

But it didn’t always used to be that way.

I can remember vividly my first day in typing class, in high school.  I had a teacher called Mrs. Doliber.  She was ancient then.  My mother had her for a business class teacher back when SHE went to the same high school.  That’s the way it was in our town.  Your parents had all the same teachers you had.  Or else they went to school with your teachers. 

Anyway, I can remember exactly where I sat in typing class.  As usual, way in the back row.  I always picked the back row (when I had the opportunity to choose where to sit) because I was very shy and didn’t want to stick out.  I didn’t want anyone to call on my, either.  So I “hid” in the back row.

We had those ancient typewriters, like you see now in museums – the black clunky kind, manual typewriters, with white keys.  Each depression of a letter or number was quite an effort – and by the end of class, my fingers ached with all the exercise they were getting.  You developed finger muscles in those days. 

I still have good finger muscles, but they are a different type of muscle.  They don’t so much exert brute force onto the keys now, but they do go very fast over them but with a much lighter touch than they did back in the stone-age.  Back then, you really had to punch those suckers down hard to get a letter or number of print on the paper.

There was no such thing (yet) as correct-a-tape, let alone white-out.  If we made a mistake, we had to take out the page and erase it to the best of our abilities.  I got good at erasing things very neatly and cleanly.  Later, when I got more into typing specific things, we always used carbon paper to make copies.  There was no such thing as a copy machine back then.  You made copies by inserting carbon paper in front of however many pieces of paper you wanted for copies.  Sometimes if 10 copies were needed, the ones way in the back were quite blurred.

And if you made a mistake on multiple copy typing, oh my, it took FOR-EVER to erase every single copy… and of course, as you can imagine, erasing a carbon copy was definitely messy!  I always went home with black fingers and hands, and even black smudges on my blouses.

I remember the first day in typing class like it was yesterday, too.  Mrs. Doliber stood up there at the front of the class and told all of us non-believers that, whether or not we knew it now, some day our fingers would be flying over those keys!  Little did she know what was to come in the future.  Fingers flying over the keys of an old manual typewriter was quite a different story than it is today. 

A lot different.

Of course, when you came to the end of a row of typing, you had to manually shift it up a row with your left hand.  That meant you were always taking your left hand up off the “home row” of keys and having to hunt them up again.  And, one of the most important things to know was just WHERE to end the row of words.  You had to know how to hyphenate words back in those days.  Because you wanted to squeeze every possible word onto a line, and if there were only room for four characters left, and you had an 8-character word, well — you’d better look it up (or know it in your head) as to where the hyphen went. 

So that’s how I learned how to type.  The old fashioned way.  Without looking at the keys.  I am amazed at the people today who type with two fingers, looking down at the keys the whole time.  They do an incredible job getting so many words, lines, pages of manuscript typed up that way.  I often wonder if anyone learns touch typing anymore.  I’ve been out of school for so long, that I just don’t know. 

I do love the way a computer makes life for a typist so much easier.  I can remember the first time I discovered “word-wrap” at the ends of sentences.  Oh what a joy!  Not to have to decide where to break up a word anymore.

I have no idea how I got onto this subject.  Typing is usually up in the front of my brain, most days, though.  Since that’s all I do most every day.   Type.  Type. Type.  And type some more.

I’m sitting here, at 8:35 in the evening, still typing.  I began typing here in this very same spot at 7 this morning and here it is 13.5 hours later, and I’m still at it.  Oh, I did take a few breaks, in fact, a few long breaks – to go to the office, and to prepare dinner, etc. 

I guess I’ll just be typing til I’m in my grave.  I can’t imagine living without typing. It’s like breathing in and breathing out to me. 






15 thoughts on “It’s a “type” of living

  1. I loved hearing all your stories about learning to type and the old style of typewriters. Thanks! I also learned on a typewriter like the one above!


  2. Boy does that bring back memories. That’s the kind of typewriter I learned to type on–and was the fastest typist in my class, too. When I went to work, we had electric typewriters, but it was the pre-selectric years. I worked for the Physics Department at UC Berkeley and I typed a physics textbook THREE TIMES (three different edits) plus the answer manual (which was all equations), using interchangeable keys. I’m very proud of that accomplishment!


  3. Oh yes, I remember Katie Gibbs. Unfortunately, my family didn’t send me to any school. It was the School of Hard Knocks for me. I had to get a job within 2 weeks of my graduating high school, and start paying rent to my parents. That was the deal if I wanted to continue living at home. I only stayed another 9 mos and then headed out into the big world (of Boston) into my first apartment. But everything I can do now I learned by doing, not from a school. I’m not polished like the ladies from Katie Gibbs, but I did learn things the hard way. I had to get things right or be fired, for real! I taught myself medical transcription by trial and error, and a lot of hours with my nose stuck in a medical dictionary.


  4. Oh, yes, I had a high school typing class like that. In my first job, we had some machines that were old even then. When you pressed the shift, instead of the basket of keys lowering, the entire carriage was raised – and this was the machine for the weekly report, because it was the one with the long carriage. *** Before it was common practice, I insisted that all of my kids learn to type; I knew computers were coming. You might find this post interesting:
    *** Blueprints were at least as difficult as carbons (you scraped the blue off the back of the paper), and after I had carefully done one, the engineer made corrections – with a ballpoint – on the whole stack.


  5. So many memories. I took one year of typing in high-school, and then another typing class one quarter in college. When computers came along, it’s so different (as in you barely touch the keys instead of pounding them) that I have to keep my eyes on the keyboard. Sigh!!!!!


  6. Good grief you brought back so many memories! I too took typing class and “hid” in the back row. It didnt work. She always found me, hahaha.


  7. Oh yes, I remember centering the page! And the teacher cruising the rows looking for slovenly posture, mustn’t be slouched! I think “our” generation has really undergone the biggest changes in technology ever. My Dad was born in 1902, the year the first automobile was here, and just 105 years later (though he’s not alive, there ARE some who are at that age) it’s hard to imagine all the changes that have taken place.

    That typewriter above in the picture looks just like the ones we learned to type on! Or should I say, “..on which we learned to type.”


  8. I learned on a Royal, typing to classical music. Our teacher had no compunction about slapping our hands if we did not sit properly, feet at a certain angle, etc. Do you remember Stewart’s Rule about how to divide x by y to figure out how to centre your letter given the number of words and the margins you would use? And, we had one font and one size per typewriter, although we did later have 2 sizes–Pica and Elite.

    I still have an old electric typewriter. I also have one that has memory. What dinosaurs they seem to be now. I watched my nephew type to his friend online last night. He can type faster with two fingers than I can with one. He is very literate, but he types in teenspeak in messages. I am amazed at how fast a typing conversation can be carried on using teenpseak shortforms.

    Have you ever used voice recognition software? I have used Dragon Naturally Medical. Even though I am able to spell the words and make the corrections and train the prgram, I still find it faster to type. I do know that speech recognition software is touted as a threat to the MT industry, but I also read that quite a few who have tried it have given it up. I think that young doctors using assisatanst with laptops are far more threatening. VR (SR) just is not going to cut it with ESLs. Some docs are so used to dictating in partial sentences and expecting the MT to “fix it up” that they would find SR too difficult to use.

    Gosh, when I was a 12 year old cowering from Miss Smith in typing class as she wandered the rows looking for victims who were not properly seated or who could not keep up to the Minute Waltz, I did not dream that one day it would be possible to speak into a machine that would spit your words back on a screen and then print them to order. The future for those of us who make all (or in my case, part) of our living with the keyboard is exciting toc contemplate!


  9. I took the Pitman course way back when I were a lad — shorthand and typing for aspiring journalists. Hated the shorthand, and forgot it as soon as I could. The typing stuck, though, and I still touch-type at a good rate on days when my hands permit… Good memories, Bex, thanks! 🙂


  10. Boy do I ever feel ancient. The typewriters in my class were more or less modern, they would be classed as boat-anchors now I guess.
    I spent the war years at a railroad freight house using an old Underwood open-frame machine.
    I still have to look at numbers and such, but otherwise don’t have to look.
    Gee, Jim, the bouncing ball in class ? Buck Rogers stuff that was then.


  11. Thank you for writing (and typing) this entry. It brought back memories of the touch typing class I took in summer school between seventh and eighth grades. (A pathetic way to spend your thirteenth summer, when you think about it.) We learned to the tune of the “American Patrol” march, to which I mentally sang the lyrics: “A-S-D-F, J-K-L-semicolon.”


  12. Gee, we had electric machines in my high school — I took summer school course called “personal typing” — and oh, how difficult it was to switch from those big powerful wonderful office professional electric typewriters to my inexpensive manual portable typewriter at home.

    Then toward the end of the class they brought something all new into one of the typing classrooms and for an hour or so they let us into that room to try them — Brand new IBM Selectric typewriters — the “bouncing ball” typewriters — I don’t think they were even on the market yet — I lived in Kingston NY and part of the Kingston IBM plant was in the IBM Typewriter division and they were giving the high school two classrooms worth of these futuristic machines (probably some extra stress testing?) — wow — going from them back to the regular office electrics was like going from the electrics down to my little manual machine.


  13. I took a typing class in high school but I never did become a very fast typist. I still have to look at the keys too. I remember those manual typewriters, the keys were hard to push. In class we had little cars on a road posted on the board and they moved forward by wpm rather than mph. My little car didn’t move as fast as some but it moved. Anyway, I am glad I took the class, your entry brought back memories.


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