It’s a Mixed Bag by (1 Story)

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My first typing experience was on an old Royal manual.  I could go like a bat outta hell on that thing, typing 80 words a minute with maybe one typo.  The other people in the office where I worked would sometimes stand around my desk and just watch me.  My boss bragged about his secretary’s amazing typing skills.  Eventually, I was rewarded with a promotion — and a new electric typewriter, with expectation that I could type even faster.

Wel-l-l-l-l, no.  My eye-hand coordination was fine-tuned to almost punching the keys with my fingers as I read from my shorthand pad and typed.  This newfangled machine required a much lighter touch.  The keys were closer together so my fingers ended up touching the wrong keys.  I had to learn to type all over again.  My boss, great guy that he was, patiently put up with my bumbling till I finally got it right.  Just when I did, the IBM Magnetic Tape Selectric Typewriter (MT/ST) flooded the market like a tidal wave, sweeping up my office.  Back to typing class!  The barrage of blinking and flashing lights were a major distraction. (A little accompanying music would have been a nice touch.) The upshot was that everything I typed, in including boilerplate sentences and paragraphs, was stored in the machine. In a matter of seconds, a clean, mistake-free document was produced by merely pressing a few buttons.

However, the MT/ST was soon eclipsed.  Without elaborating on the various phases of the evolutionary process of the computer, a state-of-the-art one was eventually at my disposal.  Every single iota of information, from newspaper articles to recipes to fashion to the photos of naked ladies my co-worker, “Bob” I’ll call him, spent his afternoons staring at was easy to trace.  You can listen to music, play games, gamble, buy anything, find a spouse, and the list goes on and on.  Bob got fired.  His replacement was interviewed via Skype then hired and processed in by Human Resources.  All she had to do was show up.

Computers are wonderful things when used to good intent. You can do practically anything with one, including opening Pandora’s box.  Just watch/listen to the news.  Or read the news on the computer.

What ever happened to shorthand?

Profile photo of Jude46 jjjersey

Characterizations: been there, right on!, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Great observation that one becomes adept at what one is trained on. With all the new technology comes change. Change is a mixed bag. It doesn’t always bring great speed to someone proficient in the older ways. Pandora’s Box, indeed.

  2. Suzy says:

    So true, JJ. Being a great typist on a manual didn’t necessarily translate to an electric, and each new advance required retraining. Not necessarily such a great thing. And I’m sure “Bob” who got fired because he didn’t know his search history was traceable thought it was a terrible thing!

    Thanks for sharing these memories, and welcome to Retrospect!

  3. Welcome to Retrospect JJ!

    I remember the sounds of the old typewriters – the bells and the thunks of the carriage. Have you heard the classical music composition that features a guy on a typewriter?

    I’ve never worked as a professional typist as you have, but I am grateful for having been taught to type back in junior high. Like riding a bike, you never lose the skill!

  4. Marian says:

    Welcome to Retrospect! I can relate to this story. It was a relief to type on an electric typewriter because I guess I have weak fingers and always felt as if I had to pound the keys on the manual models. I skipped the MT/ST and went right to a computer, thankfully. Enjoyed the memories in your story.

  5. jjjersey says:

    Thank you for your warm welcome Suzy. It’s hard to believe that all this time has passed! Who knows what will be trending years from now. We were surprised to learn that “Bob” was fired and we were shocked at the reason. It never happened again in my office.

    I look forward to reading and commending on what other writers say about life with before computers..

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    I really enjoyed your story, JJ. It’s so true that there is a learning curve that accompanies every advancement in technology. Thanks for dharing your journey with typing/word processing. Brought back many memories for me.

    Welcome to Retrospect!

  7. I found the reference to “opening Pandora’s box” especially intriguing! Maybe a future story will tell us more about your experience with that activity. Meanwhile, i enjoyed your maiden contribution very much.

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