Keep­ing up those short­hand/typ­ing skills

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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

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