Monday, November 01, 2010
I started thinking about typewriters the other day - who knows why. I must have already been fascinated by the age of 2.
When I was a freshman in junior high, I was attending a very large school in Minnesota. I was only there for that one year, then sophomore year in a really large high school, before moving to Nebraska and finishing my last two years in a very small school. One of my favorite classes that year was simply called "Typing." We used something similar to this:
We had a very creative teacher - she challenged us to a speed and accuracy contest. Every five words per minute that we increased in our timed tests put us closer to Miami from Minnesota. If I remember right, 75 wpm got you there.
For the life of me, I can't remember her name, but I had a rival in this contest - she and I were neck and neck the whole way. The competition really motivated us, and I believe we arrived in Miami the same day. Interestingly enough, she and I were also rivals in choir for the position of accompanist. I was honored to be chosen to play for the Christmas concert. I got sick with infectious mononucleosis just before Christmas and was in bed the night of the concert - very sad to miss my chance to play in that concert. It turned out that I got to accompany for the spring concert instead. It's interesting to think of the connection between these two skills, piano and typing - nimble fingers??
The only thing I wanted for high school graduation was a typewriter. I knew it would be the most practical thing I could get for college. It looks like I was very pleased to get my wish.
It turned out to be the best gift I could have received. I really never enjoyed babysitting, so used the skill I enjoyed more for spending money. I typed for alot of guys over those 4 years. I banged out many papers on that little turquoise machine. One day a guy needed a paper done more quickly than usual. He happened to have a portable electric a lot like this:
This friend had a paper due quickly and offered me the use of his typewriter so that I could type faster. He let me use it for the rest of that semester, and I did get a lot of jobs. In fact, my own work suffered because I was helping all these guys.
This typewriter had pica rather than elite "font" - a word we hadn't heard of yet. It meant that you could make less look like more on a page, and the word got around quickly that "Dawn could make your report look longer." The guys came out of the woodwork - too bad it was only for their homework!
I started out this "career" charging 15 cents per page, and supplying my own erasable bond - remember that great invention? I soon realized I was using up my prophets, and started charging 25 cents a page - with them having to supply their own paper. I learned that at the university in the big city down the road, typists charged 75 cents per page. I sure wished that somehow I could post an ad on their bulletin boards and charge 50 cents a page. I could double my prophets, and they could get a really good deal. It never worked out. I didn't have to babysit, though! And I made a lot of new friends - guys who gave me partial credit for their good grades.
I have to say that learning to type well and fast has carried me a long ways in life. I have had several great secretarial positions (now called administrative assistant, of course) because of my typing ability, without any other business course. I'll never forget when I first got to use one of these: IBM Selectric - loved it!
I never lost my speed, because weirdly enough I type everything I see in my head. When I began to use computers, I could type 90+ wpm.
I was working at a bank when I was pregnant with Kristen - I quit that job just as the word processing explosion began - the precursor to the computer explosion. I bought one of these, hoping to find some at-home typing jobs. Turns out I hated it - I wanted one of the above machines so badly.
We had three old Selectrics in our office at Colorado State University. We still had a guy who came in every few months to keep them in good running order - it was fun to watch the work study students try to figure out what in the world to do with them when we asked them to.
Do you remember how much work it was to center something? I was telling some young folks about that process the other day and they couldn't believe it. I typed so many term papers that I could judge how far down on the page to go in order to fit in all the footnotes and still have an inch left at the bottom. They don't know how easy they have it now!
I have enjoyed this journey down word processing memory lane - I hope you have, too.
Have a wonderful week!