Did you know that on this day in history, the first portable typewriter received a U.S. patent in 1892? And writers everywhere are eternally grateful. While it is true that many writers, including me, do some of our best writing using a pen and a yellow notepad, transferring the words from my messy handwriting to the keyboard is what brings my words to life in this blog.
Learning to Touch Type
I remember taking a typing class in high school. After learning where to position our fingers on the keyboard to punch in the right letters, we moved on to more advanced skills like numbers, punctuation marks, and other symbols. At the end of the week, we were tested for accuracy and speed. And every student had a bottle of white-out by their side to fix their mistakes. Throughout the year, we also learned typewriter maintenance, like how to adjust the spools, change the ribbon, or fix it when it was tangled.
I don’t remember anything about my typing teacher, but I do remember having to type “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” over and over again. If you took a similar class, you know that particular sentence includes every letter of the alphabet. I think I used to dream about that silly dog.
As a side note, I spent all that time in class typing two spaces after each period. And then, years later, with the invention of word processing, we all had to retrain our brains to only type one space. Not an easy task!
“You type really fast!”
I don’t remember how fast I typed in high school, but I know I improved dramatically in college. I learned to type on a deadline at the student newspaper. Nothing makes you type faster than an angry editor breathing down your neck. After graduation, I worked in a newsroom as a reporter for about a year and had to make nightly deadlines before the presses ran. My colleagues marveled at how fast they could hear me type. Some asked me to type their articles for them as they dictated to me. It was how I made friends. (Just kidding!)
To answer your question, I can type about 75-80 words per minute with 95% accuracy – as long as my fingers are in the right position on the keyboard. I guess it’s a hidden talent because I still see people my age (and older or younger) use the hunt-and-peck method or only two fingers to type. I don’t judge, but I admit it’s entertaining to watch. I’m sure it’s the same entertainment my kids get when they see how slow I text on my iPhone.
Why are Typewriters Still Cool?
Tom Hanks has made no secret of his love for typewriters. He has a collection of over 250 vintage machines. So, if he thinks their cool and Tom Hanks is cool… there you go.
Here is what he had to say about typewriters, and I wholeheartedly agree.
“Everything you type on a typewriter sounds grand, the words forming in mini-explosions of SHOOK SHOOK SHOOK. A thank-you note resonates with the same heft as a literary masterpiece”. – Tom Hanks
MarilynApril 24, 2023 at 3:43 pm (1 month ago)
My high school typing teacher walked up and down the rows of desks shouting commands then pausing to stand behind one unlucky student to watch their technique. Typing class was the only time in my high school career when I got thrown out of class for being disruptive. I was smacking gum and blowing bubbles while I typed. Was I trying to prove I could type and chew gum at the same time? Who knows. I am grateful I learned how to type.
Thank you for your post on marking the typewriter patent and for sharing your talent for typing over the years.
Carol NewmanApril 15, 2023 at 8:09 pm (2 months ago)
I had to drop typing in 10th grade because it kept me off the Honor Roll. I used to stare at the keys instead of the wall chart. The teacher assigned me a typewriter with blank keys. I still stared at them. Now I stare at my keyboard.😀
Kebba Buckley ButtonApril 13, 2023 at 8:03 pm (2 months ago)
Elisa, what a fun post! I had the chance to take typing in summer school, maybe between 7th and 8th grades. I jumped at the chance. I did not imagine keyboards of the computer future, but I just knew this would be a really important skill set for future. I made it up to 26 WPM. But I was right. Sometime in an upcoming school year, everyone was required to take typing. I was ahead of the game and whipped up to 60 WPM quickly. Now, who knows? But remember the sound of the typewriter keys?? The sound of the whole typing classroom– oh my! And I had no idea Tom Hanks was into typewriters. So thanks for that also!
Victoria+JusterApril 13, 2023 at 8:11 am (2 months ago)
I was a dismal failure in typing class, never imagining how important it would be later in life. Thankfully I’m doing okay now. I may sail away on the keyboard but like you, texting is still a work in progress.
TamaraApril 13, 2023 at 1:58 am (2 months ago)
Tom Hanks collects typewriters in real life? In the movie “You’ve got Mail” his opponent Frank was a writer and typewriter lover as well.
I had classes as well. During final exams I was sick and had to I had to make up for the test. Imagine me, sitting in this large room, timidly typing away, listening to my every key stroke….
BTW we were never allowed to have correction tape, white-out or anything. Our mistakes were there to see for everyone.