Saturday, March 23, 2013

Help! Linear Type Has Grabbed My Kid And She Can't Get Up.


Here's something that my science teachers would probably hate to hear, but...

The most useful class I ever took in high school was....


I was 14 at the time, in grade 9.

And I was the only boy in the class.

Man, did my non-geek friends ever give me a hard time about that.

Which was kind of scary because it was a bit of slip-up that allowed them to peek in at the real me momentarily.

Because, truth be told, back then I used to lay my life out like a variegated set of dichotomous keys wherein I always kept the geek part of my life completely separate from the jock part by making an endless series of very carefully selected 'yes/no' choices pretty much every single day.

Which wasn't easy, let me tell you.

But I was pretty good at it.

So much so that, even in my late teens, most of the kids that I played lacrosse with had no idea that I was going to university and that, worse, I actually liked to spend hours on end in the library.

But I'll tell you about that, and how I finally learned to deal with it, another time...


Littler e. turned 14 a couple of weeks ago.

And sometime back in the New Year, I think, she got it in her head that she wanted a typewriter for her birthday.


I'm ashamed to say it but I was the skeptical one on this deal.

Not because e. doesn't write.

Because she does....In (real) notebooks, as well as on various assorted boxes, pads, and tablets that are strewn about our house.

It's just that I thought she would quickly tire of the manual nature of typing on paper with a thing that bangs a ribbon and has to have its carriage returned, with your actual hand, every 20 seconds or so.

Luckily, though, e.'s Mom, C., persevered.

And so one day in late February I noticed a suspicious-looking white van with an old guy fishing around in the back as I walked down the back alley on my way home from work in the gathering dusk.

It turned out it was Mr. Polson, he of the big typewriter store that used to be down on Broadway.

And while Mr. Polson may not have his shop anymore, he just can't quit.

Interestingly, as I'm pretty sure reader E.G. will soon confirm, most of his business these days is with lawyers - apparently because they still use big selectrics for large format legal documents.


Given all that, as you might have already suspected, Mr. Polson was pretty excited to show C. and me the difference between a carriage- and basket-based manual.

In the back alley....

Like he was showing us some kind of forbidden contraband that could get us in all kinds of trouble with pixel police if we weren't careful.

And I have to admit that it was pretty darned hard not to have Mr. P's enthusiasm rub off on you a little.

But e. didn't need any old guy nostalgia to get her going.

Because she has hardly stopped since she got the little Underwood portable shown in the image above, banging out all manner of notes, journal pages, and letters destined for friends, relatives or even just her bedroom floor.

And she is already faster than me despite the fact that she has never sweated through a bell-ringer with a class full of kids whose gender is not the same as hers.

Which is probably as it should be.


In case you missed it,  littler e. (who is not so little anymore) is the younger sister of Bigger E who, as far as I know, only bangs away on an electrified pixel box these days when she's not doing.....This.
Now here's a funny thing....The kids in the lab can always tell when I'm in my office late, say, on a Sunday night...Not because of the lights or even the music (which I only blast outside of regular business hours - honest)...But rather because they can hear me banging away, hard, on my box all the way down the hall....Why?...Well, because I still treat the keyboard like the little blue Smith-Corona my Mom and Dad got me back when I was a teenager...



Hugh said...

I also took Typing in grade 9. We used the old manual typewriters. It was good to learn on those because now I can tykpe really well.

Anonymous said...

Proper keyboarding is a skill that saves time and coupled with decent grammar can make you look almost intelligent...

Anonymous said...

Hear! Hear! Should have kept my two old t-writers. But two very long sessions in Europe meant selling. But typing/shorthand in the 50's one got to meet many young ladies. As mentioned typing skill have been a major asset through university and two careers.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Dude - I took typing the same year you did. Only class I ever failed. Wanted to drop it entirely but the teacher made me hang in there and at least type out my other classwork until I was finally handed an "I", "F" or whatever it is people who cannot type to save their lives get. There were lots of other guys in my class - we were always on the lookout for anything that looked like it might be an easy grade. I still type how I learned in those days: against the rules, eyes glued to the keyboard, slumped sideways in my chair - a style which works just fine with today's computers.

Polson's did the only fix I ever needed to my high end Smith Corona word processor. It still works fine and comes in handy when I feel the need to type a letter.

Anonymous said...

Love little e's head of hair... such a lovely color!

Chris said...

Hey, you know what that little typewriter needs? A sticker on it that says:

"This machine kills fascists."

Which is what the sticker said that my first city editor put on my first typewriter.

It was a Smith Corona, which were known in the newsroom as Smith & Wessons.

The first time I went on strike (by which time we had moved on to computers), my only suggestion was that we demand a tape be played on a repeater loop in the newsroom that sounded like old typewriters being used, rattled, bells rung etc. And that maybe every now and then, you'd hear the sound of someone yelling "copy".

I think we settled for three per cent instead.

Big mistake.

Danneau said...

Something of the contrarian, I got a trumpet instead of a bicycle at eight, and a Royal portable typewriter at fourteen instead of a watch. I never learned proper keyboarding, but made money typing for others at UBC these many years ago. Had a conversation with my Dad earlier in the computer age while he was stil with us: Do I need a computer? Do you want to do your accounts? No, I have an accountant. Do you want to do CAD (he was an architect)? No, I like pencils. Do you want to keep your correspondence? No, I have my Smith Corona (c. 1933). Dad, don't bother. My old Royal is long gone, dropped in one of the many moves, replaced by an office Royal from, you guessed it, Polson's, and eventually by an Atari ST and a succession on Macs and DOS/Windows boxes. I don't know what it feels like to write things out longhand any longer, but I'm getting a bit of a re-education as my grandkids discover the joys of forming their own characters. Thanks so much for stirring up all these reflections.

West End Bob said...

Right there with you in the 9th grade typing class, RossK. As I recall, a pretty gender-equal group tho.

No IBM Selectrics for us back in northern Wisconsin - Manual Smith-Coronas were the machines supplied. Man, those carriages were made of real metal, weren't they?!?

Thanx for the memories and the shot of littler e's head, too . . . . ;-)

paul said...

My first real newsroom job involved an Underwood 5 typewriter, bought secondhand by my frugal employer, that still had the Property of Edmonton School District stickers on it. When we change to computers - a system that included a 56-megabyte hard drive that served the whole newspaper, ads and editorial - I grabbed a couple of the typewriters and lugged them around for years.
Little E should explore their use in art, too. A typewriter adds a great graphic element to works on paper.

Eleanor Gregory said...

Being a litigator-type lawyer and not a solicitor-type lawyer (aka scribbler), my firm doesn't have a manual or electric typewriter, although we did have an old electric until a few years. They were useful for filling in forms and typing envelopes (especially when the complexities of printing envelopes on the high-tech printer/scanner were overwhelming).

I too took typing in grade 9. I also took typing in grade 10. I often tell people that grade 10 typing was one of the best courses I ever took because I was able to increase my accuracy and speed to 90+wpm on a good day.

My typing skills served me well in my early lawyer days as a legal editor and writer. Someone who shared office space with a group I was working with in the early 90s jokingly complained that I made too much noise typing because I typed so quickly and so loudly. Learning to type on a manual typewriter required really hitting the keys hard.

Unfortunately, my typing skills have not transferred so well to my smart (makes me feel dumb) phone.

Kim said...

I learned on my grandmother's Underwood #4. I loved that typewriter so much I still have it, along with her mother's mantel clock. I agree with Paul about the artistic element of the old familiar font. Like Beer, I sucked in grade 9 typing, never achieving more than 15 words a minute and still type with my eyes on the keyboard. It was never about speed for me, but the process, just like drawing or painting or carving in wood.

Dana said...

From 1960 to 1965, in Regina, Saskatchewan, I was not allowed to take typing because it was a girl's class. I asked them what they thought I should do when I got to university and had to write papers. They hemmed and hawed and told me it was a girl's class. I hated high school for a lot of very good reasons.

Anonymous said...

Like SHOP was a 'boy's class. I got 'Home Ec' (Ick!).

paul said...

I also note that partner Jody Paterson won the Grade 9 Victor Business Machine award in Courtenay for her blinding typing speed, a skill that has served her well in a writing career and also helped convinced her CASM co-workers that she could be useful even when her Spanish was not so good.

RossK said...

Oh Boy.

Look what this little story has wrought.

Thanks Everyone!


Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Kim - 15 words per minute! I wish! When tested I never got out of negative territory. Too many mistakes which can now be fixed up so easily. I reckon I am in the 30 - 40 wpm range now - higher if I have drank enough coffee or just before the beer begins to slow me down. Not bad for a sawmill worker.

the salamander said...

Wanting to play goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs, then become a photo journalist, I saved money I made working on neighboring farms and bought .. a turntable so I could play Red Rubber Ball by The Monkees.. I also bought a Beatles wig ..

In hindsight I shoulda considered a manual typewriter. It woulda helped pass the time while the water troughs filled in the barn.. and while watching and waiting for new calves to arrive.

Stellar post....

Be sure to buy lotsa ribbons for e. !!
You'll be haunting stores for parchment and onionskin ..
and flawless white archival rag

motorcycleguy said...

Hey, me too. Typing 9, but my buddies Alfredo and Kevin took it with me. Only 3 boys in the class...but sure met a lot of girls. It was a great plan. I say exactly what you are saying here Ross K....not sure how our teacher taught us, but after 20 years away from a keyboard it all came back...kind of like some kind of sci-fi brainwashing did our teacher manage to do such a good job embedding signals in our brains?.....governments should study Typing 9 to find ways of subliminally training the elecotrate to accept method without thinking...or have they already done that??