Monday, May 20, 2013

Is typing a lost art?

I took typing in high school. My teacher was a mincing version of Walter White crossed with Ned Flanders from The Simpsons. Maybe it was the glasses and the mustache. And this might be wishful thinking on my part, but I'm reasonably certain he wore plaid pants, and a yellow button-down with a green pullover sweater vest every single day. That's probably not true, but that's how I remember him. I also remember the way he would march up and down the classroom shouting out the home keys—"F! F! F! G! G! G!"—we were to strike without looking down at our hands. The sound of 20 typewriters typing at once; it was kind of awesome, like thunder. The faint tap-tap of touch-typing on a computer could never be so operatic.

I peaked at 70 words per minute, which is pretty damn good but when you consider that I was in a typing class every day, five days a week, for my entire junior year, maybe I should've been even better. Still, it was good enough to get me all kinds of offers at the major book-publishing houses after I graduated college. My fancy and very expensive college degree was what got my foot in the door at Human Resources, but it was my typing, a skill acquired at my small NJ public high school, that they were really interested in. I don't know what the interview process is like now, but back then, entry-level editorial assistant positions started at $14K and they made you take a typing test and sometimes a spelling test and that's all they needed to know about you because the truth was the job was secretarial though I guess you could move up after doing your time in the glorified typing pool. I imagine it being very much like the great Rona Jaffe novel The Best of Everything, and the even greater movie version starring Joan Crawford (see trailer below, though sadly the focus is on sex, not typing). Except when I was taking typing tests at Random House and HarperCollins, it was the 1990s, not the 1950s. So maybe it wasn't like that at all.

I never found out because I was lucky enough to answer a classified ad for a job that paid $17K and required no typing whatsoever, as an actual editorial assistant at a nursing magazine. I got my own office and shared a secretary with my bosses and she typed all the business letters on a typewriter while I clackety-clacked on an early word processor that wouldn't have looked out of place on the bridge of the Enterprise.

Anyway, I was reminded of the glamorous secretaries/junior editors in The Best of Everything when I found this supercute Smith-Corona Ten-Day Touch-Typing Course, which comes with a book and a set of 45s. I love the blissed-out expression on the model's face. She loves to learn about typing! As much as I venerate typewriters, I try to resist buying them—they are bulky dust-catchers and when it comes down to it, our hands have become soft and lazy over years of typing on neat little wireless keyboards so they're just not that fun to use. And yes, there's a great market for reselling typewriters to the hipster luddites of faraway Brooklyn, but the shipping is prohibitive. So I've limited myself to my precious Super G (which I wrote about here) and maybe there are one or two vintage typewriters languishing in the garage, waiting to be tidied up for resale.

The question is, do I save the typing course for my kids, or sell it? Do they still teach typing in public schools? I mean, it is still a pretty handy skill to have. They can't go through life two-finger texting everything. Can they?

1 comment:

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