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May 17, 2008

How Well Do You Keyboard?


Last night while chatting over snacks* with friends in their early 40s, we had a lively few minutes talking about typing: how important it was, where we learned it, and how important it is for work.

So where did you learn to keyboard?  How does this skill (or the lack thereof) affect your work?  And do you know people who never learned how to type well and who have had to adjust their careers (knowingly or not) because of this lacking?

Digression:  Here's an online typing test if you're curious: TypingTest.com.  FYI, the interface is a little odd: once you pick a test, just start typing (you don't have to click anywhere special to enter your text).  When your time runs out, it automatically grades for you.  If you finish the text before your time runs out, something else goofy happens.  Just chill out and it'll score for you.  I scored much higher than I expected: net speed 115 wpm (117 wpm with 98% accuracy).  I remembered much lower scores from when I was in high school.  Then again, maybe everybody's scores are much higher now that we have word processors that greatly reduce the penalty for mistyping: we can type like madmen and fix errors quickly for an improved net speed.

One of my friends from last night is an attorney who commented that many older lawyers are struggling because their firms no longer expect to pay someone to type up their dictations.  Younger lawyers have always expected to type their own briefs.  Older lawyers are having to adjust.  Another of our crew is the daughter of a doctor who never learned how to type, and had to struggle when he was retired and wanting to write, but without the benefit of an assistant.

I've long said that the two most important things I ever did in a classroom were B-school and typing class (9th grade, with Mrs. Shepard, on Facit-brand typewriters.).  That said, I think that a lot of people have taught themselves to type "fast enough."  But are they happy enough with the result?


*fish balls and various hot sauces, sweet popped corn, almonds, candied ginger and avocado-coconut drinks all fueled by a random-sample grocery run at Food World in Durham.  Plus some peanut-butter cookies from K.

Photo: yoinked from Sri Ramakrishna Vidyashala pre-university college.

02:50 PM in Misc.Blog 2007 | Permalink


I learned to type by playing Adventure and Zork as a youngster and by producing copious amounts of blather on bbses in my pre/early teens. My speed continued to improve dramatically when I starting using IRC 45 hours a day in 1992. My only formal training consisted of my dad's telling me early on what the "home" typing position was.

Posted by: Lenore | May 17, 2008 4:58:02 PM

I learned to keyboard in the typewriter room in 8th grade at a rural Georgia junior high. The instructor was stern and would literally rap our fingers with a ruler if we looked down at them. I learned to type very fast! (This is not an argument in favor of rapping children's fingers in school.)

This was the same year I learned to make biscuits, match my outfits, and sew pillows in home ec.

One of these classes was very useful to my later work.

Posted by: Valerie | May 17, 2008 7:18:19 PM

I'm part of the "never learned to type well" crowd. I high school my mother kept telling me I would never be a journalist if I didn't know how to type, but the two newspapers I worked at never even asked about it in the interviews. They were more concerned that I knew who was Secretary of State and such. Now that I'm a Graphic Designer people give me Word docs with just about all the necessary text and I only have to type a little.

Posted by: lisa b | May 18, 2008 10:20:58 AM

I type very oddly. I never took typing although my mother was a typing teacher in her younger years. She never taught me to type or sew because she was very modern and wanted me to end up being a doctor rather than a secretary or a housewife. (Actually, the sewing would have been very useful for a surgeon...)

So instead I have this very fast hunt-and-peck where I basically use only six fingers, ignoring my ring and pinky fingers almost entirely. When people watch me type, they're boggled at what my hands are doing, and so am I - in fact, if I pay too much attention to them, I start to screw up. I can type 70+ wpm, though. My typos have been getting worse of late as my arthritis gets worse, but I used to be fairly accurate, as well.

Considering typing is so essential to my career as a programmer, I sometimes have weird fears about losing the ability to type as I age or due to some sort of accident. That would put a major dent in my effectiveness. I don't think voice recognition software is meant for coding.

Posted by: etselec | May 18, 2008 3:18:07 PM

I have always been curious how the strategy of not teaching your kids to do household chores, expecting they will be well-paid professionals with domestic help, works in the end. I joke about home ec, but I am grateful that I can make a biscuit, truly. I see some of these things not getting passed to my kids, though... changing flat tires falls to AAA, changing oil and spark plugs and belts falls to the mechanic, washing windows (one of my "extra money" jobs growing up) goes to Mr. Squeegee, and so on. They'll still know how to mow grass and cook, though. I think they get keyboarding in elementary now, too; if not, we'll engage Mavis Beacon.

Posted by: Valerie | May 18, 2008 4:24:23 PM

I got an A+ in typing in ninth grade - although I don't type nearly as quickly or accurately as I did then. I used to have jobs where I had to do a lot of typing, but I haven't done that in a long long time. Plus, thank god for spellcheck.

Posted by: pinky | May 18, 2008 11:27:33 PM

Valerie: I agree with you there. Mom also was a very good cook who never taught me how to make anything except cookies, which is the thing I'm best at now. I've taught myself a lot of things about cooking but I never got the essentials like biscuits. If I ever have kids (which seems increasingly unlikely) I'll definitely palm them off on my friends who know how to knit and garden and sew and cook and type and fix cars. Whether the kids are male or female.

Posted by: etselec | May 19, 2008 1:34:05 PM

74wpm, 95% accuracy.

I learned in the 9th grade, on a pokey old machine (can't recall the brand). The instructor was terrifying, jabbing her stick at the pull-down chart and shrieking 'L! O! L! S! W! S!... A! S! D! F! J! K! L! Semi!'
I barely managed an A in the class, because she was adamant about not accepting any papers that had more than three errors, total. She'd hold them up to the light and check for signs of correction tape.

At the time, I thought it was chauvinistic that my dad insisted I take the class, but in retrospect, I wouldn't trade it for the world. I bargained with him that I'd take typing first semester if he'd let me take pottery in the spring. Guess which skill I still use.

Posted by: Aimee | May 21, 2008 3:22:02 PM

I have a lovely piece of pottery, probably from that semester. :)

Posted by: Valerie | May 21, 2008 8:44:03 PM

Old joke:

A young woman applying for a secretarial job is asked by her interviewer, "can you type 50 words per minute?"

"No sir, I can't".

"Can you type 30 words per minute?"

"No, sir, I'm sorry."

"Well are you just a hunt-and-pecker?"

"No, sir! I really want a job!"

I told this joke to a 27-year-old friend who didn't get it at all. She'd never heard of "hunt and peck" typing, and she'd not been exposed to the 60s-era (and earlier) concept that a woman in the workplace might be assumed to be looking for a husband rather than an income.

Posted by: Phil | Nov 2, 2009 10:46:20 PM