Friday, September 17, 2010

Old-school typing flashback ....

Yesterday two old long-time friends came to my house for our monthly tea party.  We've always called it "Tea Party" whether there was tea and crumpets or chips and dip, but the main thing about Tea Party has always been about taking time to get together, and for many, many years we have kept this appointment taking turns meeting at each others' homes.  It has truly become a celebration of friendship.  Tea Party always comes with many and varied topics of interest: how to get your son to stop dropping his pencil during lesson time,  the pros and cons of the epidural,  or reciting Halloween poems by heart.

This month's topics were every bit as interesting as the others.  One thing that came up this time was word processing.  School kids these days really think they are put upon when they must compose essays or reports or papers ON A COMPUTER with spell check and that green underline thing that tells us the sentence structure is a bit off.  Well, we older gals had something to say about that as we were explaining how we used to write papers to my DIL and the three school aged children  who were tea totalling with us.  First off, does anybody remember manual typewriters?   I was so thrilled to receive my very own Smith Corona portable (manual) typewriter as a high school graduation from my grandma.  It gave me freedom from having to always  find a typewriter on campus to write my papers.  With my portable, I could just sit in the  hullabaloo peace and quite of my dorm room and type as long or as late at night as I desired.  And it was pretty easy to press the keys down -- almost as easy as using the electric typewriters in the typing classroom!  (Remember the electric typewriter with the letter ball instead of the individual key arms that popped up at the strike of each letter?)  I'm not sure how fast I could type on that manual typewriter, but I got up to 80 wpm on the electric.  Yeah, I completed Typing II.  Straight A's.  But puh leeeease......don't make me text on a cell phone.  I'm all thumbs!  (pun!)  Now for a typing flashback.....Do you remember all those old typewriter terms?

70's Smith  Corona Typewriter (mine was tan, not groovy aqua like this)

Ten Typewriter Terms or Methods for People Over 45.
1.  Pica versus elite
2.  Backspace, insert correct-o-tape, type letter, backspace and type correct letter.
3. Wrists up.
4.  asdfjkl;
5. Everyone typing in sync as the drill sergeant teacher quipped, "Eyes on the book and....." fff (space) fff (space) f (space) f (space) fff (space), g (space) g (space) ggg (space)!"
6.  Someone getting off sync with the rest of the class.
7.   Five minute warm-ups. Hands at home position and..... type!  Count your words, divide by 5 to get your words per minute.

 8.  Centering a heading by first dividing the number of characters between the margins by 2 (to find the center point) and then backspacing once for every 2 characters in the heading.
9.  Changing the ribbon.
10.  Carriage return.

I can't leave the typewriter topic yet without mentioning my Grandma H.  She always, always wrote her letters to us on a typewriter with an italic font so for the longest time I had the impression that she had perfect penmanship.  She would change the ribbon now and then from black to green to a purple-blue color which furthered my hunch that she also wrote with varicolored pens.  What a surprise I had when our family went to visit her in Iowa and I discovered her sitting at the kitchen table typing letters and cards on her little portable typewriter.  How I loved to watch her fingers fly over the keys.

Back to Tea Party......
After discussing the evolution of typing into keyboarding, we talked about making copies.  Do you remember when everything was a Xerox?  "Please  make a xerox of this test.  Thirty copies."  But let's go back even further.  Can you?  Does the word mimeograph conjure up any old school memories?  I could remember back to grade school, somewhere around 4th or 5th grade, when teachers made mimeograph copies.  First the original had to be typed on some sort of paper that was similar to a carbon copy (another flash back) and then it was attached to the mimeograph machine where it was   If you could become the teacher's pet, you might even get to learn how to run the mimeograph machine and make copies for Teacher.  We old girls racked our brains trying to remember the name of that machine until at last our memory chips brought it up.  Here's an explanation of how the mimeograph machine worked, told much better than I could:
The image transfer medium is a stencil made from waxed mulberry paper. This flexible waxed sheet is backed by a sheet of stiff card stock, with the sheets bound at the top.
Once prepared, the stencil is wrapped around the ink-filled drum of the rotary machine. When a blank sheet of paper is drawn between the rotating drum and a pressure roller, ink is forced through the holes on the stencil onto the paper. Early flatbed machines used a kind of squeegee.
Didn't you just love the smell of a freshly mimeographed copy?  Oh, and the school newspaper was mimeographed too.  Do you have any old-school typing memories to share?  Please do.


  1. I do remember all of this...and I hadn't typed since high school 68 until my daughters got me blogging. So, your previous post..are these the only ones you are interested in..if so, I won't bother you! ;D

  2. your post made me smile - I still type with my wrists up! We typed to the tick of the metronome on our trusty old Imperial typewriters - those were the days! Betty x

  3. I'm 54 years old, and I could have written this hilarious post! Thanks for the memories.

    We still have a Selectric typewriter in the factory where I work (the typewriter with the little ball). Once in a while I have to venture out to use it. When we finally use up the ribbon on that one, the company isn't buying any more.

    Do you remember White-Out and waiting for it to dry so you could continue typing (or am I the only one who used it).

    1. Yes. White out, Wite out and others are currently available in the office supply stores. Using it with my typewriters to send letters to friends. Much more fun than Email or printers!

  4. My grandpa bought me an Olivetti Valentine portable typewriter for high school graduation. It was so light weight and cute (RED!) I was a slow typist then. I got a C in freshman year typing and my neighbor (the football coach) was my teacher. I am SO appreciative of our big fancy copier at school. I can order up my copies from my classroom and then go downstairs, scoop them up and sometimes they are still warm when the students come in! Bill has a fancy printer here and I am VERY thankful for that, too. We used to go to the print shop. I do not know what happened to my little red typewriter. I'm sure I gave it away in the middle of one of our moves. Great post, Jody.

  5. My first large purchase ever after getting a job in high school was a typewriter. Our house got robbed not to long after and the thieves took many things but not my brand new typewriter!

    I remember the smell of mimeographs. The teacher would pass out the worksheet and it would have this wet feel to it and I always held it up to my nose. Hmmm...I wonder if that was bad for me somehow? :)

    Love picturing you having tea with friends, Jody. Sounds like lots of fun!

  6. Oh yes this post takes me back. I was in typing classes like that. Sure wish I had the foresight to take photos back then. I still say Xerox :0)
    When I was teaching I remember being in the workroom mimeographing lesson sheets :0) Those rooms were never well ventilated!
    Thanks for the memories...

  7. oh Memories! I can still smell the mimeographed sheets.

    And timed writings were always my most favorite. I took a business course in the '90s and at that time typing was still in vogue over computers. I was so proud of my 85wpm score at the end of the year.

    BTW I was an 'older' student at that time, in my 30's and word processing was 'new' to our tech schools then.

    This year, in my 50's, I learned to use Word Office and do Power Point. I can't say I prefer it over the old Smith Corona electrics...

  8. I learned to type on an IBM Selectric. I loved that machine! I never learned manual, but a few years ago while taking a writing course by correspondence, I bought an old manual to type my papers on. It was so gratifying to feel the keys give way under my touch and hear it quietly strike the paper.

    Alas, my instructor told me I needed to type them on a computer. Having never done so, (this was only a few years ago), I switched and saw how much better my papers looked typed on a computer.

    Just the other day my hard drive crashed and I needed to type out my schedule for school, so I hauled out the old manual and typed my list. It sure felt good.

    And typing a mimeograph? What a pain, but they sure did smell good! Those of us of a certain age (you know who you are) probably have brain damage from sniffing ink.

    And what about shorthand? I still mentally write out all road signs in shorthand as I drive down the road. Old habits die hard!

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. It was fun!

  9. What a cute post. OK I failed at typing...not actually failed. I think I ended up with a C in the class. My typing teacher scared me to death. She was hardcore. I remember tying to music as one of our excercises. And.....I was one of the only ones that had to keep their keys covered nearly all year so as not to look at the keyboard. Drats. I still type with my wrists up. And I still love the typing sound the olds ones made...but have to say, spell check is wonderful!!!
    I remember in early grade school cutting paper with one of those big block things with a huge sharp slicer thing on the end..sorry for bad descripition. Anyway that was always a highlight if you were picked to go to the book room and cut paper. Now days I am sure that would be way to dangerous for the little children to do....we never never had anyone cut themselves..but you know how folks are today.

  10. Very nostalgic, Jody! I like the specificity of your post; it skillfully recreates an atmosphere of recent obsoleteness ;-). (Is obsoletion a word? I like it better.)

    I admit I always thought "Xerox" was one of those Southern words. Thanks for setting me straight!

    I learned to spell using a very old Underwood that my father had discarded. I liked sticking and unsticking the long keys, and purposely typing on my fingers.

    But as for the accuracy required to type well, I'm with Ranch Wife--I also had to type with the keys covered (the covers were green--ask me how I know!), and I dreaded term papers because I knew they'd take days to type and retype. As much as I like old ways, and as much as hate the generic-sounding name "word processor," I confess I am *very* grateful for my computer's delete key.

    Oh, yes, and I'll cast one more vote for that mimeograph smell. What is it about that smell? And the smell of shiny, new, plastic book bags? And erasers, especially those shaped like little animals? And glue--both Elmer's and the older clear kind in the glass bottles with the little rubber tips (that always got glued shut)? Oh, dear!

  11. My beloved typewriter looked something like this
    but I didn't love typing. That was the class I didn't excel in, because it required something besides intellect. :-(
    I never got very good at typing until I could type at the easy-touch computer keyboard.

    I can still picture my odd typing teacher, though, who stood in front of the class constantly doing some kind of heel-lifting stretches.
    Thank you for this fun trip back to memories I hadn't retrieved on my own.

  12. Ha! I remember those highschool days! Great pictures, great memories. I was a good little typer. I miss my typewriter.


  13. My mom had a Smith-Corona exactly like the one pictured here. I loved messing around with it, but I could never figure out the ribbon and sometimes would play with it and mess it up.

    My dad made me take typing in high school. So boring, but perhaps one of the most useful classes I took, in retrospect.

    As someone who writes a lot, I miss the clickety-clack of typewriters. It's a great sound.

    I bought Jack an electric typewriter off eBay many years ago. I need to get it out of the attic and have a go!

    Great post, Jody. It definitely brought back memories!


  14. Oh, I loved remembering those days of typing class in high school. And just the other day I was recalling the semester I took Shorthand in high school.

  15. Great Post! I hated typing class in high school. I was not good at it at all. I took a "business machines class" in trade school and all the machines were outdated by about 5 to 10 years. They made us learn how to use a "10 key calculator" and this huge square metal machine with hundreds of keys (exaggeration!) on it and a pull handle on the side. I can't even remember what that was for! I took the Electric Typing Class with the awesome little Selectric balls dancing around, very distracting, and passed, barely. My teacher at this trade school felt sorry for me and got me a job interview at an Insurance company. I interviewed and then was led to the MANUAL Typewriter for a timed typing test! I was mortified. I could not type a thing. Then when I explained that I had spent 9 months typing on a Selectric type of machine they had me take a test on the only electric typewriter in the office. I still did bad! I got the job anyway and they put me on the old PBX (Public Board Exchange) telephone switchboard, you know, the one that Lilly Tomlin would use when she snorted and said, "is this the party to whom you are calling?" on Laugh In???? Thanks for the funny post and the memories.

  16. Oh, I've so enjoyed reading all your comments about typing class and sniffing mimeographs. Thank YOU for the memories too.


  17. Oh this is too funny! I’ve never used a typewriter, and I'm well under 45, but some things sure haven’t changed. Leastways, not as far as keyboarding classes go. I can definitely identify with rules 3-7 in my current typing class. :)

  18. And don't look at your fingers! I hit 100 words a minute watching my fingers the whole time. The teacher used to tape a piece of paper across the front of my typewriter.

    I learned on one of of those electric machines with the metal ball, and remember slowing down to wait for my first word processor to catch up with my typing speed.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  19. Can someone please give me some of the rules of thumb for old school typing? For example: I know there use to be double spaces after a period. What are some others? I am taking an important typing test in 2 days and I just found out it is the old school version and no matter how fast one types, the only people who really pass this test are one who took old school tying in school. Because if you do not know/follow rules, each incorrect stroke will count against the correct wpm strokes.

    1. I took the old-school typing class and I can tell you a few things. You're right, two spaces after each period or ending punctuation. Single one space after commas, two spaces after a colon.

      Double space (enter twice) between paragraphs. If it is a letter, triple space after the return address, Double space after the salutation. Double space between paragraph and closing, then triple space after closing to leave space for the author to "sign" in his own handwriting.

      Triple space between a Title and the first paragraph.

      I hope this helps.


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