Keeping up those shorthand/typing skills
Reference your article about the history of printing.
When I was 16 I left Harrow County Girls School and applied for a secretarial course with Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd in south-west London.
I was assigned to learn secretarial skills in office administration at 2 Buckingham Gate, Victoria, under the supervision of the head of department’s secretary.
Each morning I would walk to the head office at Millbank for an hour’s typing lesson.
Along with other girls we sat in rows of tables each with an Imperial 60 typewriter complete with red/black fabric ribbon and metal- edged keys. We first had to rest our fingers on the home keys on the keyboard ie asdf and ;lkj which would always be our starting position.
We progressed to learning the identity of the other keys but always resting our fingers on the home keys and thumb on the space bar. Then we had to place a metal sleeve over the keyboard so that we couldn’t see the key identity.
We practised typing a sentence of ‘the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’ that uses all the letters of the alphabet. Having mastered this we repeated it to the rhythm of a record with increasing speed. This is how we learnt to touch-type without mistakes, aiming at 80 words per minute.
Then we added another hour to our training to learn Pitman’s shorthand.
I enjoyed this and practised by writing song lyrics in shorthand achieving about 110-120 wpm. It was very useful when hiding Christmas lists from daughters and grandchildren when they were small!
In 1964 I left ICI and was interviewed for a secretary’s job with IBM Office Products Division. It was the worst interview I have ever done! I sat down with a dictating machine and an IBM Model C Electric typewriter but had never used electric machines before!
I couldn’t tune the dictating machine in and as soon as I touched the typewriter keys the carriage flew all over the place. I confessed to the interviewer that the letter was a mess but he gave me the job.
IBM then introduced the Model D Executive typewriter with proportional spacing, the typed characters showing a very professional presentation.
After this the Golfball or IBM 72 was introduced. This had a rotating ball ( golfball size) of characters in place of a basket of bars that eliminated the use of a moving carriage.
It enabled the operator to type faster as well as having a futuristic keyboard to become the forerunner of computer keyboards plus its attractive colours.
This concept was then incorporated into the MT72 ( Magnetic Tape Typewriter) and was a word processor. The machine was located in a desk with two magnetic tape cartridges, one either side, which facilitated mail merge and made it suitable for publishers and printers, including for telephone directories and electoral roles.
These ‘inventions’ occurred whilst I was a secretary in the IBM OP Division and I enjoyed being a demonstrator of the MT72 to prospective buyers.
Some years later when my two daughters were growing up and we had a computer, I cut a cereal box into a cardboard sleeve, placed it over the computer keyboard and taught them how to touch type. The advance of technology!
I still use my typing and shorthand skills mostly on behalf of my church but also for recipes and messages.
Sometimes I forget and lapse into shorthand whilst writing a message for someone else.
ELAINE KEIRLE BISHOP By email