Confessions of a keyboard addict

Cat with a manual typewriter.I learned to type on my mom’s Easter pink Smith-Corona Silent-Super typewriter. I was ten years old, when Mom decided that I since I couldn’t keep my hands off it, she should teach me the proper way to use it. So she set me up with her old How to Type book it wasn’t long before I was whizzing along, hitting about 60 words per minute on the little mechanical wonder.

When I was twelve, my paternal grandmother gave me her 1952 Remington Letter-Riter. It was a much heavier typewriter than the Silent-Super in every way. Pushing the keys took more effort, and the typewriter was built like a tank. It also had a slightly different keyboard arrangement, more traditional than the Silent-Super. Older mechanical typewriters didn’t have a 1 (one) key. If you needed to type a 1, you’d use a lowercase l (el) instead. There also wasn’t an exclamation point. To type !, you would type a period, then backspace and type an apostrophe. There was no + (plus) sign or = (equals) sign, though it did have a key for ½ (half) and ¼ (quarter).

This is the 1952 Remington that once belonged to my grandmother, and then has been mine since about 1973 (click to embiggen).
This is the 1952 Remington that once belonged to my grandmother, and then has been mine since about 1973 (click to embiggen).
If you click on the image, you might also notice that the symbols on the top of the number keys are different than a modern computer keyboard, as well. You got quotation marks by pressing shift-2 instead of being on its own key, while the apostrophe was shift-8, and underscore was shift-6. The @ symbol and ¢ (cents) sign were on their own key, over where modern computer keyboards usually put the quotation and apostrophe key.

This is not the Silent-Super I learned on, as Mom’s was lost under less than pleasant circumstances. This is one my hubby bought me for my birthday that I’m still restoring. (Click to embiggen)
This is not the Silent-Super I learned on, as Mom’s was lost under less than pleasant circumstances. This is one my hubby bought me for my birthday that I’m still restoring. (Click to embiggen)
The Silent-Super had a 1-key and exclamation point. The arrangement was otherwise the same, though the size and shapes of the keys—particularly the tab, backspace, and shift—were different. My grandmother had a newer typewriter that had a lot of special keys, such as a £ (pound currency) symbol, a ÷ (division) symbol, + and =, (greater-than) and even a \ (backslash). She was an accountant and that typewriter was aimed at financial offices. Anyway, I also occasionally typed on her machine, with its own slightly different layout, and I could got just as fast on any of them.

In high school I finally took an actual typing class, which was the first time I typed on an IBM Selectric keyboard. It wasn’t a manual typewrite. It was still mechanical in that a physical object had to strike an inked ribbon and sheet of paper to make the letters, but the force was delivered by an electric motor instead of my fingers. It was much more like a computer keyboard in that way. The amount of force to press the key was practically nothing compared to the manual typewriter. It is still the funniest thing to see when I run a Writers Round Robin event at a convention: people too young to have used a typewriter really freak out at how hard you have to press the keys to make the letters appear.

I didn’t need the typing class to learn to type, I was already proficient at touch typing, but back in the 70s you actually had to have passed a typing class to get into some journalism programs and the like when you moved on to university, so I took the class for the credit. The teacher was a little shocked with I did more than 100 words per minute on the first speed test. Since it was early in the course, I wasn’t typing real words, I was just typing groups of four letters from the home row from a slide she was showing us, something like: “jfjfj kkkk dddd jkjkj fdfd jkl; fdsa”

I told her I already knew how to type, so she grabbed a sample letter to copy and made me take the test again, this time reading the letter and transcribing it. I still was over 100 words per minute.

Over the years I’ve gotten used to various computer keyboards. The old clack-clack IBM Model M that many people still love, being just one of many. And many of them have some keys in unusual places. Some have keys that others don’t. And I take to all of them pretty quickly. I would be slightly surprised when some people complained about a couple of moved keys. It usually took me only a few minutes to acclimate to a new layout.

I was a little surprised, when my husband finally got me to use an iPod Touch, at how quickly I adapted to thumb-typing on a small keyboard where I couldn’t feel the keys at all. My favorite app for a long time was WriteRoom for iOS (it had its own automatic cloud sync back before services like Dropbox were around), and I would write scenes on the bus on my way to work each morning. One time while I was doing that, a bunch of the bus passengers all started turning around and staring at me. So much that I noticed and looked up.

It took me a couple of minutes to figure out what had happened. Somehow the settings had changed, and the iPod was making key noises through its speaker. I had my headphones on playing musc (also from the iPod), and couldn’t hear the keyclicks. I found the setting and turned it off. I said, “Sorry about that” sheepishly. One of the other passengers chuckled and said, “I just never heard anyone text that fast and that long before!” So I explained that I was actually writing a book. “On your phone?” And then I had to explain that it wasn’t even a phone.

It shouldn’t have surprised me, some years later, at how quickly I took to the iPad’s virtual keyboard. When Michael and I bought our first iPad (the iPad 2, we waited for the second model), we weren’t certain we would actually use it and not treat it as a temporary toy. So we only bought one to share. I would take it to work one day, he would take it the next, and so on. It wasn’t long before it was clear that both of us needed our own.

At the time, my employer-provided Dell laptop had become a faux laptop. The battery wouldn’t hold a charge for more than about 10 minutes (we never did get new batteries as promised, of course). So it was useless for taking to meetings. And I frequently need to take notes at meetings or look things up to answer questions, so that was a bummer. Except I started taking the iPad, instead, and I could look up some work things without even logging in a VM. But the part that surprised me was how easy I switched to typing long, detailed notes during the meeting on the virtual keyboard. I do find it slightly annoying switching between numbers, other symbols, and back to letters. Mostly because the key to move from numbers to symbols is not in the same location as the key to move from letters to numbers. But otherwise, I’m okay typing on the virtual keyboard.

I do have a bluetooth keyboard that I use if I know I’m going to do a really long typing session. My hubby gave me a nice solar-powered one a few years ago. It is really nice, but it requires me carrying around a bag, since it is bigger than the iPad.

So I’ve been looking at keyboard cases off and on. My husband has had a couple of them. I think his favorite is a fairly high end Logitech. I’ve tried his, and they’re pretty good.

My new keyboard case. Yes, the fact that the backlight could be set to purple was a selling point.
My new keyboard case. Yes, the fact that the backlight could be set to purple was a selling point.
But I wasn’t convinced that I should spend the money on one for myself. But I keep wishing when I’m at conventions and similar events, that I had a more portable version of my Bluetooth keyboard. Then last week, I noticed that one of the models I’ve had in my private wishlist had come down in price a bit, and NorWesCon is coming up, so I bought it. It isn’t bad. Several reviews of it complained about the backspace being so tiny and the placement of a few other keys, but it only took me three tweets before I was hitting it correctly.

The keyboard itself feels fairly solid, but the case as a whole is a little flimsy. I suspect that if I carried it back and forth to the office in my backpack with this case that the keyboard would get enough wear and tear to account for the small number of reviews complaining about the keyboard dying after only a few months. I don’t currently plan to carry the iPad in the case most of the time. I can do the type of typing/note taking I do on the iPad at work just as easily with the virtual keyboard. It is definitely easier to type on than the virtual keyboard, and the keys feel nice enough. Not as good as my solar Logitech, but perfectly usuable.

It’s not as if I don’t already have multiple keyboards for just about every device. Because I am a keyboard addict.

2 thoughts on “Confessions of a keyboard addict

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