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Today in My History

2001:   Sorry, Linda Jean
2002:  The Grass Is Always Greener
2003:  When System Crash
2004:  Another Opening, Another Show
 It Was Nice While It Lasted
2006:  Finally I Can Say It
2007:   Hot Pink

2008:  I Hate Myself

2009:  Virtual Refrigerator Door
2010:  The Quest for Sush

Bitter Hack
Twelfth Night

Books Read in 2011
Updated: 1/16
"Listening to Van Gogh"

Recipes for Cousins Day Drinks
(updated 1/22/11)


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Joan's 80th

Mirror Site for RSS Feed
Airy Persiflage

My Compassion Kids (new 1/29)

Postcrossing Postcards (new 1/29)

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30 January 2011

My mother, in her day, was a good typist.  We must have had a portable typewriter at home before I learned to type, but I don't remember one.   But somehow I really, really wanted to learn to type.

In my high school, they didn't let you take typing until your junior year, so I had to wait until my third year before I got entrance into that hallowed hall, the typing class.

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Sister Anne was the teacher and, since she taught business classes and was the supervisor for the sports program (and I hated sports), I never really knew her until the typing class.  Ironically she went on to be my lifelong friend, until her death, a couple of months before Ned & Marta married.

typewriter2.PNG (417374 bytes)My friend Anne Micheletti and I sat at the front table, right in front of Sister Anne's desk and we began learning to touch type.  All the keys were covered so we couldn't see the letters even if we tried to look.  Instead we referred to a big chart on the wall.

Every two weeks we had to move to a different seat, but Anne and I liked our seats so much that when we had to move we just switched places and then two weeks later, we switched back again.

I took to typing right away.  I loved it.  When we had finally learned all the letters and numbers and started having speed trials, I was always in the top typists, which gave me an advantage because the classroom had four electric typewriters and about halfway through the year, we were allowed to use the electric typewriters--and the fastest typists were the first to have that opportunity.

It was probably Christmas of that year when my parents gave me my own typewriter, a little Olivetti (manual) portable that had its own case.  I was thrilled.

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My first "real" job, with the Physics Department at UC Berkeley came with an IBM typewriter--not a Selectric, but just a regular electric typewriter.  I was working in the billing department and within a year, I had moved to the brand new Birge Hall.  I was no longer in the billing department, but was now private secretary for three professors.

I have done a bit of searching on the internet and can't find the typewriter I had.  There can't have been many of them.  It was an IBM typewriter with interchangeable keys.  It was before the Selectric, with its little ball, which permitted you to type in elite or pica typeface or to add special symbols to your text.

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I had a wooden board on which were hung a couple of dozen individual keys that I could exchange for some of the keys on the regular keyboard.  For example if I was typing something that used, for example, the symbol for "pi" (which apparently I can no longer make with ASCII codes on the computer), I exchanged the "pi" symbol for one of the keys on the typewriter...like maybe the 7 key.   I got so good at both knowing which key had been exchanged for which character and in the speed of changing the keys that it was almost as smooth as not having changed them at all.  I was very proud of that skill.

Then Selectrics came along with their little balls and that was almost less efficient because you would have one ball which had all the regular letters and numbers, and a different ball that had all the mathmatical symbols, but you couldn't mix and match them so it was a lot more work to type technical stuff that way (and I typed LOTS of technical stuff, including a whole answer manual to the textbook my boss had typed.  I would type page after page after page of equations, with maybe a sentence of text in it somewhere.

A wonderful innovation was when they replaced cloth ribbons with carbon ribbons and a correcting key, where the letter could be lifted off the paper and you didn't have to deal with erasures (unless, of course, you were making a carbon copy).   I remember one guy whose thesis I was typing, who decided he didn't like the way the letter G looked in his 200 page thesis and he wanted me to go back and remove every single G in the thesis and replace it with a different typeface.  I nearly killed him.  I did tell him he could have what I had typed thus far and get a new typist to finish it because there was no way I was going to do that.

I didn't have my very own electric typewriter until I worked for a newspaper office that went broke.  The boss couldn't afford to pay me, so he offered me the office typewriter, which I happily took.  That machine served me well for many years.

At one of the typing services for which I worked, I typed on a dedicated typewriter (I think that's what they were called), which was kind of the intermediate step between an electric typewriter and a computer and which was so complicated that I got the job because initially I was the only one who understood how the damn thing worked and I kept getting called down to the office to explain it to the other people that they finally just offered me a job.  We all eventually got pretty good on the machine.

And then when I first went to work for Women's Health, they had a memory typewriter which would store phrases which you could insert at certain points, though most of the typing was like on a regular typewriter.  I got very good at that machine too.  I always loved the challenge of figuring out how to do very complicated things simply using the functions of whatever typewriter I was working on.

With the advent of computers, my fingers have lost the ability to type with the kind of pressure that I used in the days of my typing class.  I don't know if I could type anything with one of those old upright typewriters nowadays, but back then, I could type 80-90 wpm on one.  (My top speed on an electric, I think, was 135 wpm).

My father didn't want me to be "just a secretary."  He wanted me to be a teacher, but I hated teaching and was lousy at it.  I loved typing from day 1 and to this day, I am better with a keyboard under my hands than I am talking to most people face to face. And I have fond memories of all of the typewriters I've worked on over the years.



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Taken last night in Old Sacramento,
looking at Tower Bridge, with its lights
shining up into the fog.



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