Did you ever type on a manual typewriter?

Dear Readers,

My latest viewing of French movies on Netflix was about a young woman who became a speed-typist international champion.  Set in 1959, she typed on a manual typewriter.  Remember manual typewriters?

This film, POPULAIRE, struck me as a little sappy, but it brought back memories of learning to type on my mom’s black manual Underwood in our basement in Cramer Hill.  I wasn’t very good, but I plugged away  with asdf  jkl;  for weeks in the summer.   Did you learn to type like that?  It took a lot of willpower to keep at it.  My mom felt that typing would be a useful skill and how right she was.  However, it wasn’t much fun for a junior high girl in the summer.

 Later, in college, my aunt lent me her Sears manual with the ball which was a little easier to use. However, making an error was still a nightmare.  I’d spring for the onion paper, the easy to erase paper, but typing long papers without a mistake was almost impossible.  And, typing with carbons?  Hell.

When I got my first electric typewriter, a Royal, I thought I was in heaven.  It was much easier than pounding on a manual.

I never thought that I’d type well, but when I was in my early thirties, I practiced hard for a week to get a job with Western Union Telegraph Company, the Moorestown, New Jersey, Central Telegraph Bureau.  I passed the typing test and the intensive five or six weeks of training.  After almost eight years of typing telegrams, Mailgrams and money orders, my typing improved immensely and I never had to glance at my fingers on the keyboard again.  We typed on keyboards in front of CRTs (I think it’s a kind of computer with a cathode ray tube?) and we probably absorbed a lot of radiation.  ?

When Western Union laid off the telegraph operators (receiving and transmitting operators) in Moorestown, I was almost happy because my hands, arms and shoulders ached from typing from four p.m. to twelve-thirty a.m. for so many years.  Most operators suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome, some enough to have to have surgery.

Then, I taught ESL to adults for six years and \I got a word processor.  I loved the tack-tack-tack as it printed out what I typed.  However, the green screen showed you only a few lines. 

Next, I went on to teach ESL to children for more than nineteen years.  My hands no longer ached unless I did a lot of typing or some repetitive motions.  My word processor became a dinosaur and my family got an IBM Aptiva–a desktop–sometime in the middle of the 1990’s.  It was wonderful to type on that keyboard. When we made that expensive purchase, I never dreamed that the Aptiva would become obsolete.

As years passed, we bought better and better computers and my laptop is my daily buddy.

Whenever I would type examples of schoolwork or stories for the children in ESL that would show up on the Smartboard, they would laugh in surprise to see that I did not look at my fingers and that I typed easily.  “Many people can type much, much faster than I can, but the reason that I can type this fast is that I did it every night for many years sending telegrams.  Practice is everything.  I typed so many telegrams that I got fast,” I explained.


I explained telegrams and realized how I was a part of history.  Ancient history?

Now people “type” (text) on phones and it is amazing to see how fast they do it.  Little kids who have computers at home are fast on the keyboard, too.  Technology races so fast that it is a big blur to me.  As soon as I learn one thing about computers, it’s obsolete and there’s something new. 

Okay, technology, keep advancing, please.  I’m not complaining.  I’m glad that we don’t use those manual typewriters anymore!


Written on my “light” laptop, not my old, heavy one that fell on my foot…

Marguerite Ferra, Cramer Hill










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