I’m Not the Type…. by
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I realize others have also referenced the evolution from typewriters in their stories, but my own experience is so indelible (play on words intended), I felt I had to write about it here, especially given the time constraints.

Like all good boomers (especially Jewish ones), I still blame my mother for my own failings; in this case, my lack of typing skills.

The single greatest breakthrough in my college thesis had nothing to do with its subject or substance — the Culture of Poverty, if you must know — but when notification from On High in the Anthropology Department came out that we could type it on Eaton’s Corrasable Bond paper.  You remember; that easily erasable paper that allowed for the correction of a multitude of typographical errors without the need to use White Out or that clunky white tape that always unspooled or — most dreaded — having to re-type the whole damn thing.  You see, I was, and still am, a hunt-and-peck typist, and the idea of churning out about 100 pages of perfect text was my greatest cause for anxiety.  One can bullshit one’s way through any paper (as we all know), but this sort of problem could not be so avoided unless I wanted to convince the professors that I had created a new language and/or punctuation system along the way.

Like all good boomers (especially Jewish ones), I still blame my mother for my own failings; in this case, my lack of typing skills.  In junior high, she urged me to take an art course rather than the elective typing course, convinced that I had untapped aesthetic qualities and equally sure I could teach myself to type with one of those DIY books.   Wrong on both counts, Mom.  She also wrongly figured, in what is particularly ironic (if understandable) for a very liberated feminist for her time, that, if I did go into business, I would have my secretary do my typing for me.  Strike three, Mom.

Of course, if I or my mother had been truly visionary, not only would I have learned to type, but I would have learned how to do it with my thumbs.

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Characterizations: been there


  1. Suzy says:

    John, you’re right, Corrasable Bond was certainly the greatest possible boon to thesis writers, even those who knew how to touch type. I feel like I still ended up doing a lot of retyping, but that was because of major revisions, as opposed to typos. Some edits are too big for Corrasable Bond to handle.

    Pretty amazing that you are still a hunt-and-peck typist. I can’t imagine doing the amount of emailing and online chatting that I do if I couldn’t touch type.

    • John Shutkin says:

      At this point, Suzy, I am not sure I could touch type any faster. I long ago memorized QWERTY and, of course, you can still only type one letter at a time — other than when auto-correct presumes (often wrongly) on your behalf. So for me there is a lot of pecking but very little hunting.

  2. John Zussman says:

    I sympathize, John. As my story explains, I did learn to touch-type from one of those books, motivated by emulating my father and the orderliness of a typewritten page. Still, I painfully remember typing college papers as a series of stops, starts, and corrections. I prided myself on being able to write any paper in one fitful draft—but fortunately I was wise enough not to write my thesis that way. So, touch-type or no, I ended up retyping it multiple times. Someday we can swap typing memories over drinks.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Sorry John, I took typing in 10th grade. AND it counted toward my GPA, which made me a bit crazy (being neurotic about that anyway). My Jewish mother made me neurotic about all sorts of other things (as I’ve already written about).

    But I do love your ode to the new, special paper. It was already in vouge by the time I came along, and, as a theatre major, I never did a thesis. I stage managed the most difficult play of the school year (which went on the Wilbur Theater later in the year).

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