RT Cunningham


Typing versus Keyboarding - The Typist is a Dying Breed

IBM Selectric II - typing Anyone can peck the keys on a keyboard. Typing is an acquired skill. There are very few real typists today compared to when I learned how to type.

I learned to type on manual typewriter when I was in high school, in 1975. Every high school student I knew learned that way back then. I don’t even think they teach “typing” in school anymore, whether it’s an elective course or not.

I didn’t use an electric typewriter for anything until I joined the military.

Typing Skill

Typing is a skill that can only get better with practice. Believe me when I tell you, I had a lot of practice in 1979. It was my first duty station and my superiors assigned me to the job of “correspondence clerk”. It was my job for almost a year and it wasn’t the job I was trained to fill when I went through my class A schools.

They sat me down at an IBM Selectric II (the non-correcting, first version) and told me I’d be typing all the letters from the command, all the fitness reports for the senior staff and all the naval messages to Headquarters Marine Corps.

The letters used regular fonts while everything else used OCR fonts. I had to switch “typeballs” hundreds of times a day. I always had spares because one or more teeth on them would inevitably break. We sent the typeballs needing repair to the base dentist for fillings once a month. Go ahead and laugh.

Serious Typing Skill

In that year, I became very good at my job. I had to retype letters many times because I didn’t have the benefit of correcting ribbon. Once I moved to another job, I was never assigned that job again. They had better uses for my talent.

I didn’t see a word processor until 1983. I didn’t even know what it was until someone explained it to me. It was such a new thing that reclaiming space on a floppy disk meant copying files from one disk to another.

At some point, one of my commands assigned me to work with classified messages. I returned to using an electric typewriter to type unclassified, confidential and secret messages in an OCR font. It was a newer IBM Selectric but I don’t remember which model.

This is why the classified e-mail fiasco with Hillary Clinton made me angry. They let her off without any kind of punishment. I would probably be in prison for life for doing only part of what she did. Compliance is far easier than non-compliance. She had to intentionally do what she did. Anyway…

I “practiced” typing so much during my military years that it became second nature. When I applied for government jobs after the military, it wasn’t a worry at all, even for 10-key tests. I never learned 10-key but I could use the number row just like it. The people who tested me were amazed at my 10-key speed before finding out I didn’t even use the 10-key keypad.

Although Maricopa County (in Phoenix, Arizona) selected me for a job, I turned it down. It wasn’t the job I applied for and I wasn’t going through that routine again.

Photo Attribution: By Etan J. Tal (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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By RT Cunningham
January 16, 2017