Sunday, June 7, 2009

My Life in Corrections

In junior high school, I took a typing class.  I never planned to be a secretary or typist.  That’s a good thing since I was not good.  My fingers are fast but I make many errors.  You know how it goes: you type x words a minute but then subtract from your score some penalty for the typos.  I knew from the start that I wanted to compose on the keyboard, as I am doing now.  I did not have text that I wanted to copy.  My score was low and with the penalty subtraction, I sometimes got a negative speed.  I made a note to myself to forget about typing and just write in longhand.
I am a male and so did not practice my handwriting any more than I had to.  I did not write anything like “Mrs. William Xxxxx” over and over as beautifully as I could.  I figured that if people could make out what symbols I had attempted, that was sufficient.  However, people often could not make out my symbols.  Mind you, I graduated with a degree in elementary education and I taught the 5th grade for 4 years.  That means I was responsible for teaching handwriting to the children.  I held very few handwriting lessons.  Basically, I could read their writing, they could read mine, and we were satisfied with each other.
I began teaching college in 1968.  There were many handouts in those pre-internet, pre-email days.  I wrote the text and gave the handwritten copy to the department secretary.  She could usually understand what I had written.  I usually looked over the typing before it was printed.  Between the two of us, we often caught typos and omissions in time.
In the late 70’s, our department acquired an Atari computer.  It had a word-processing cartridge which enabled us to compose on a keyboard and read the work on a “tv” screen.  Corrections and changes could take place on the screen quickly and cleanly before anything was put on paper.  It was slick.  The trouble was I still felt that my fingers were slow and error-prone.
One day, a new faculty member stopped the chair of the department outside my door and asked to have a typewriter delivered to her office.  I was impressed that she clearly felt she would be more productive with the machine.  I wondered if there was something the matter with me.  I realized that over the years, my handwriting had certainly not improved and probably was worse than it once was.  I wondered if typing the letters, which would certainly make them clear and uniform, would help the secretary.
I decided to test my speed on a keyboard against my handwriting speed.  I was quite surprised to find I was about twice as long writing by hand.  I was impressed at how my fingers knew the keyboard and how easy the monitor made not looking at the keyboard.  Furthermore, I found that monitor technology enabled me to see what I was writing and make chances changes as they were needed.  From then to now, I have looked for ways to type instead of write.  I am still slow and error-prone, even worse with lots of Capital Letters and 1 or 2 numbers and punctuation marks thrown in ! 
But I followed my daughter’s advice and tried to see how my speed and error rate is now.  I tried 4 times and typed between 45 and 55 words a minute before correction and between 23 and 45 wpm after correction.  As my great grandson grows up, he and I are going to continue using the keyboard but probably not aim for typing jobs.

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