Thursday, June 08, 2006

Learning to type

I'll admit that this particular post is an outgrowth of a response I made to this post[^] over on the Sarsparilla blog[^]. By the way, if any of you need confirmation that I'm male I'll provide it by noting that the young lady in the photo is one sexy babe! The fact that she'd be about as old as my grandmother in no way invalidates that observation! :-)

I remember with pleasure my first ever typewriter purchased at a flea market in Flemington Road Melbourne for 20 bucks in 1971. An ancient Royal with all the idiosyncracies that go with age. That typewriter had at least as much personality as any 50 year old! It dropped it's aitches with a regularity that would have shamed a cockney stereotype. It also had a problem with apostrophes as I recall; that key was a trifle bent and one got only the right hand half of the character.

But I reckon it was one of the best expenditures of 20 bucks I ever made if you consider that these days I'm a software developer. It amazes me to this day that so few developers can touch type. The keyboard is our most fundamental tool after the brain; why does no one think it a reasonable skill to aquire?

I sat down with my Royal and my sisters typing textbook in October of 1971 and spent a couple of months doing the exercises. I think I've already blogged about that but what the hey.

I'm only an average typist; I don't aspire to the hundreds of words a minute sphere but I certainly don't need to look at the keyboard even if I'm stabbing at ~ which is way over there <-----

I can certainly type as fast as I think :-)

Later I graduated to an IBM selectric; easily the best keyboard I've ever used. I spent an obscene (for 1976) sum of money on a secondhand model including an italic font typeball. It would sit there humming happily away (obviously it knew the tune but not the words boom boom) waiting for someone to type. It had a way of kicking back on the key when the typeball hit that's hard to describe but very satisfying. You 'knew' that you'd typed a word from the physical feedback.

I was so happy with the selectric that I even purchased a repair manual for the machine just so I could understand how it worked. The mechanics (long since forgotten) were as impressive as the machine itself was. One of 1957's best products in my not so humble opinion.

The move to the PC keyboard happened in gradual stages and, given that it happened in the very early 1980's when one was more concerned with the 'new' technology than the ergonomics of a keyboard it was an easy seduction. But I've never ever had a computer keyboard that could compare to that selectric!

I have no memory whatsoever of what happened to either typewriter. Did I give them away? Did I sell them? I honestly don't remember.

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