Whatever happened to …

… typing?

Imagine two years of:

“Feet flat on the floor, hands on the home row, eyes on your copy —- begin”

That was how I spend 1/8th of every day in Grade 9 and 10.

Going into high school, we had to pick a stream for study and I chose Business.  I wanted to learn how to run a business and learn accounting.  I wanted to be able to do my own taxes and maybe even consider advertising.  In order to do all this, I also had to learn how to type.

We even had educational typewriters.  If you ever took typing as a course, you probably know the type.  Big heavy machines and, instead of having the letters printed on the keys, they were blank.  It was to encourage you not to look at the keyboard and your fingers but to look at the copy.

I really struggled.  I remember the fall report card and getting a mark of 65 or something.  My parents felt my pain and I got a used typewriter for Christmas.  My life changed.  I used to bring home all my notes and type them.  My typing skills increased; my academic skills increased; my teachers appreciated being able to read my projects and … I started to bulk up.  I used to bench press that heavy sucker in the evenings.  It was so heavy.

By the end of Grade 9, I was typing beyond the passing standard and got even better in Grade 10.  By the time I took programming in Grade 11, I was a whiz at the keypunch which fortunately had the keys in the same place!  At university, it was great to be able to speed through things.  I’ve said many times that my COBOL course was a breeze because I could type.  It was no place for those whose fingers didn’t work well!

I read an article once about alternative keyboard layouts that would let you type quicker than the standard QWERTY that was based upon the arrangement of letters to stop your typewriter from jamming.  On my Radio Shack Model 100 computer, I used a Dvorak keyboard and it really was quicker.  The only problem with my self-taught skill was that I’d have to switch settings every time I sat at a new computer.  (and then remember to set it back for the next person)  My Dvorak experience died but it was fun and definitely much quicker since you could type so many words without ever leaving the home row.  Things they don’t teach you in school.

Dvorak Keyboard Layout

I’ve gone through a number of keyboards over the years.  Some, I’ve liked, and some I’ve tolerated.  If you’ve ever switched to a PC to a Macintosh, you’ll know that there’s learning about the CTRL, ALT, OPTION, COMMAND, and WINDOWS keys and the various functions.  And then, there’s always the Chromebook keyboard.  My current keyboard is a wireless HP one.  It’s gives me so much flexibility when using it.  My most favourite one I enjoyed years ago was an IBM PS/2 keyboard.  Nice, metal, heavy, and definitely stable on the desktop.

As a teachable subject, Business educators also had to learn how to teach typing and we learned the secrets of the clock, the big keyboard banner on the wall, and encouraged mathematics across the curriculum as we showed students how to calculate words per minute on speed tests.  And, importantly, we learned that there were two spaces after a period.  Typewriters had proportional type and it was important to show a complete break between sentences.


This is sentence number one.  This is sentence number two.


This is sentence number one.  This is sentence number two.

Notice the difference between the Courier example above – mono-spaced font compared to Arial – proportional font.  We are so accustomed to Arial or the like these days and many current styles espouse the use of one space after the period, presumably to save space.  But, old habits die hard.  If you look carefully at my work, I continue to use two spaces.  After all, for two years in high school, I lost marks if both spaces weren’t there.  If you need to develop an opinion, check out this article.

Typing, as a discipline, fell to the computer.  We learned to call it keyboarding instead since we weren’t actually typing on a typewriter.  We still used the same textbooks though!  Then, keyboarding came a casualty of curriculum.  After all, students were learning to use computers at a much earlier age and so the thought was that it wasn’t worth teaching later because they’d mastered the skill already.

In reality, most never really mastered anything except becoming great hunters and peckers.  Now, with tablets and phones, they become very proficient at the one finger typing or swiping or, more recently, voice and handwriting recognition.

If you want enjoyment, just ask them to type:


Now there’s a real life skill.

What are your thoughts about typing?  I’d love to hear them this Sunday morning.

  • Did you ever formally learn how to type in school?
  • Have you ever experimented with an alternative keyboard layout?  Which one?
  • Do you glide from a Macintosh to a Windows keyboard without a hitch?
  • Are we doing a disservice to students by not teaching them formal keyboarding skills?
  • How does your computer handle voice or handwriting recognization?
  • What’s your current keyboarding speed?  Test yourself here.  I’m currently good for about 75 wpm.

I would like to hear your thoughts.  Please comment below.

If you have an idea for a future post in this series, please drop it off at this Padlet.  I enjoy writing these posts; I hope you enjoy reading them.  They can all be accessed here.

OTR Links 03/26/2017

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.